Spotlight On… Writer of Acedian Pirates, Jay Taylor

The Acedian Pirates will run at Theatre503, The Latchmere, 503 Battersea Park Road, London SW11 3BW  Wednesday 26th October – Saturday 19th November 2016 Press Night: Friday 28th October, 7.45pm. Click here for more information and to book tickets:

The Acedian Pirates is the debut play from Jay Taylor (Nell Gwyn, Wolf Hall, Bring up the Bodies) which challenges our understanding of mythology and forces us to ask vital questions about military occupation.
Jacob doesn’t know why he’s here. He’s been at war for six years but nobody will tell him why.  They get asked when they sign up what they want to do for the Capital State and they reply ‘Fight. Help. Assist. Do some good.’  But they’ve been helping for thousands of years and they’re still at war.
The Acedian Pirates looks at the struggles of a unit of soldiers who are desperate to return home but new arrivals puts this in jeopardy.  Where are they, who are they and why are they even fighting?
As loyalty and friendship conflict with the military necessity for obedience, this production challenges the humanity and logic of military occupation and the jingoism and bluster that defines the armed forces.

Here is my interview with writer, Jay Taylor…

Hi Jay, thank you for talking to Break A Leg. Tell me about The Acedian Pirates and your inspiration for it.

The Acedian Pirates is a black comedy about military occupation and the moral conundrum of armed intervention. It is centred around a fictional war and incorporates reinvented aspects of classical mythology such as the abduction of Helen of Troy.

It sounds crap when I say it like that, but (I hope) it will be dark, funny, moving and provocative!

Was it easy to put down on paper?

I started writing this play in 2012 and, even though I obviously haven’t been working on it that whole time, it has felt like a lot of work to get to this point.

The initial idea came out of a desire to investigate exactly when it is deemed morally appropriate to intervene in a conflict and why. The Arab Spring had left a lot of instability across the Middle East and Northern Africa, and I felt compelled to write about the ethical/moral case for war.

The first draft came very quickly, I think I finished that in a couple of very intense days, but that version is unrecognisable from the version we are staging at Theatre 503. The drafting process has been exhausting and continues to be so…

Even though the rehearsal draft has now gone out to the actors, I am still writing new dialogue and making cuts and reserve then right to do so even on press night. They’re going to HATE me.

Is it translating well from stage to page?

Our rehearsals don’t start until October 3rd, so I am not sure how to answer this one!

We did a two-day workshop of this play at my drama school, which was a fascinating and brain-frying process. I felt emotionally drained at the end of each day! It was as if we’d spent all day trying to untangle a massive ball of string and by the end of the day, we had just about found the ends (in a good way). It was really the first time I’d ever heard those words aloud, and it was brilliant to see how specific and dynamic the writing has to be, in order to work. And a lot of it didn’t! But that’s the point of a workshop, I suppose.

How is the space lending itself to the piece?

Theatre 503 is a fantastic stage for new work. It’s a warm and intimate space, but there are obviously limitations to what you can achieve in a small theatre. That said, we have an incredible creative team.

Bobby Brook, Tara Finney and Helen Coyston (director, producer and designer, respectively) have collaborated in an amazing way to create a very ambitious staging with incredible imaginative flair. I think it’s going to be very cool and hopefully unlike anything that has been seen on the fringe for some years.

What do you hope the audience will take away from the piece?

I hope that the audience leave the theatre questioning the moral case for military intervention.

There are two cases that I often cite as being polar opposites and are therefore pertinent to my play, with the first being British decision to declare war on Germany in 1939 in order to defeat fascism. The second, by contrast, is the decision to wage an illegal and unsanctioned war in Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent uses of force in Libya, Syria and Afghanistan. Two very different outcomes, but essentially the same question at their core: should we use military aggression to protect those being persecuted in other countries?

The play is also about debunking the mythology of conflict, so I would hope that the audience will consider how much they actually know about the reality of invasion and occupation and how much of that knowledge is simply nostalgic propaganda that serves the cause of the military machine.

Any advice for budding writers?

My first piece of advice for budding writers (bearing in mind that I am still one myself) would be an old cliché that a writer friend said to me, when I told him I was having trouble getting past the 30-page mark. He said, ‘Don’t get it right, just get it written.’

Persevere with a project and attempt to get through to the end of the story rather than constantly refining the first few scenes. That way you will eventually have a lot of raw material, which is great for the drafting process. The alternative is that you have a cracking prologue, two more great scenes, one that’s ok and nothing else. So, my advice is just to try and get to the end.

My second piece of advice is write something every day; doesn’t matter if it’s a paragraph or a whole play. Try to get something down, even on days where you feel a bit uninspired. You never know what might happen.

Thanks Jay for an extremely informative interview, all the best with the production!



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