‘It’s like rearing a child’: Manchester writers to stage four plays in one night at Three Minute Theatre

You’re in the pub grabbing a pint and a quick bit of lunch when your mate turns round to you and says, ‘why don’t we do our own fringe theatre night?’

Most of us would freak out but Paul Thompson couldn’t think of a reason why not to.

An avid scriptwriter, he specialises in parallel universes and ‘subtexts of frustration’.

“I’m interested in people’s desperation and frustration,” he told MM.

“And I try to write characters that have got frustration about life behind everything they say and everything they do.”

FOURPLAY: Paul and Phil bring together two new plays each

On April 14 he and a fellow writer Phil Pearson host Fourplay, the pair’s first production at the Northern Quarter’s Three Minute Theatre. 

His two plays, Swap and Melted will feature alongside Phil’s To You, The Son I Never Had and Four Decembers Ago.

Paul’s plays have been performed at events such as the Irlam Film Festival and the Claremorris Drama Festival in Ireland.

It was at the Claremorris festival that he met journalist Phil who subsequently moved to the BBC at MediaCity.

The pair quickly began plotting their own theatre night, something Paul said he never imagined doing.

“I’ve never really kind of wanted to get into that control freak thing of doing everything yourself,” he told MM.

“It’s something that’s just kind of happened through a little bit of serendipity really.”

Paul’s Melted and Swap, are both very different.

Swap is about a university reunion derailing and plunging towards a husband swap with a difference.

It’s a dark comedy themed around revenge, dangerous games, and how far you can push yourself under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

His other play Melted is slightly more light-hearted – a more pleasant and comic look at what happens when Cupid’s arrow flies towards people in a German discount supermarket.

The playwright said he deliberately tries to distance himself from the characters at the time of scripting but admits that a bit of each character usually has an aspect of the writer.

“With Swap there’s a character Dani played by Sophie Lund and I kind of had in mind this brassy, northern, powerhouse of a personality, really intimidating and overwhelming,” he said. 

Sophie did something different with it that had so many more layers than that.

“She kind of stripped out any potential stereotype in there and just kind of made it this very nice nuanced character that was in turn bumbling and funny and nasty and sniping.

“And when I saw this character bumbling around it was then I thought – ‘oh yeah it’s me’.

“In my play Melted I think there’s a lot of me in the part of Theo and his obsession with German discount, you know brands and things.

“I’m a bit slightly OCD about that as well and I am the kind of person that will complain about things – not because I’m necessarily hacked off about the fact that they don’t do the salt and pepper spare ribs anymore there’s more to it than that.

“It’s because I’m having a bad day or a bad month or a bad year and we see a lot of that in Theo as well.

Phil’s play To You, The Son I Never Had studies human fragility and a heartbeat change from love to tragedy.

His other tale, Four Decembers Ago, is about how a man’s life collapsed around him while he was making other plans.

Paul – although exhausted – said that this has been an incredibly positive experience, worth it because of the feeling he gets from seeing a play come to life.

“I don’t think I’ve laughed as much in a concentrated amount of time as I have in rehearsals, you know compared to the last twenty years of my life.

Although he is slightly worried about the post-show blues, comparing it to a ‘drug addict having their drug supply cut off’, he’s looking forward to Friday when he plans to go to a Travelodge and collapse.

“I can’t pretend that I’m not looking forward to that moment where I can sort of say, for better or worse, now it’s done,” he said.

“It’s like rearing a child, putting a show on.

“It puts you through the mill, it takes up so much more of your time than you expected it to, it was the same with my daughter as well.

“When anyone first finds out they’re going be a parent, probably their first predominant feeling is one of excitement – you might be a bit scared and a bit nervous – but it’s mainly excitement.

“Hopefully on Friday I can say it feels like dropping off your kid at college – job done.

Fourplay will take place at 7pm from April 14-15 at The Three Minute Theatre, for more information click here.

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