Interview: David Watson, writer, Pieces of Vincent @ Arcola Theatre

Franco Milazzo
By Franco Milazzo Last edited 102 months ago
Interview: David Watson, writer, Pieces of Vincent @ Arcola Theatre
David Watson
David Watson

David Watson
At 17, David Watson's play Just A Bloke was produced at the Royal Court Theatre. In the following eight years, he has represented the Royal Court in Athens and seen his work produced in (amongst others) the Birmingham Rep, Old Vic and Bush theatres. Last Christmas, he wrote a play for the Wormword Scrubs inmates. Never afraid to try something different, his latest play, Pieces of Vincent, is a creative tour de force which uses unusual seating, film and live acting to bring to life the story of nine characters whose lives are forever changed on one tragic day. We admired David's ambitious work and took the first opportunity to speak to David about his latest work.

Would you consider Pieces of Vincent a London play? Many of the scenes are set there but there is a very Irish flavour to it too.

There's a kind of triangular geography within the play, of Northern Ireland - Birmingham - London. But it's probably true to say that London is the anchor, it's the place where a very important off-stage event occurs, and a place that every character has a relationship with, to an extent. The piece is also I think exploring the inter-connectedness of seemingly seperate worlds, which to me is a very Londony phenenomen.

How did you choose the London sites in the play (Southwark, the City, Regent’s Park, Southgate)?

They just seemed the most right and truthful places for the characters to be living or working or visiting. I think London is so hard to pin down or to summarise, its not a city but a combination of different cities thrown together - everyone has their own personal "London." But these different worlds sort of rub up against each other in ways that they maybe don't in other cities around the world, which I think is what makes London so compelling, and occasionally bewildering.

What was it like filming on the Millenium Bridge? Was it your first choice?

It was a nightmare! Despite being the middle of August it was bitterly cold, we were down there from midnight til 6am, the director and I lying underneath this very elaborate four camera set-up shooting 360 degrees, with very difficult lighting and sound. But I think the footage is rather effective. The plan originally was to shoot along the South Bank itself but you have to pay loads of money, which of course we didn't have.

Is the bridge a symbol for the midway point between art (Tate Modern) and religion (St Paul’s)?

No, but that's very nicely put! I think we went with it partly because it's quite striking to see Vincent striding off at the end in one direction, and Rachel, more hesitantly, in the other.

How did you come up with the unique set design?

That was all down to the designer Es Devlin, who came up with this remarkable kind of theatre-in-the-round-in-reverse kind of set-up, punctuated by projections which dramatise sort of the subconscience of the play. It works I think because it alerts you to the fact that the actual "plot" in a traditional sense maybe sits underneath scenes as much as within them. And the detail of each setting completely places you in each separate world.

What are your memories of 7/7? Was 7/7 your starting point for this play?

It was definitely one starting point. I was trying to get from Highbury to Baker Street that morning so I did find myself a bit caught up in it. And the surrealness of that certainly made an impression on me, the knowledge that something enormous was happening but not knowing quite what it was. And then as a Londoner you very impressionistically compare the experience of that terrorism with that of the IRA, which was driven by much more understandable or at least clearer aims than the new lot. So its a much more frightening threat to face in some ways, although the effects of a bomb tend to be the same no matter who plants it, as the play suggests.

What are your ambitions for the play? Are you planning to transfer elsewhere at the end of your run?

Well we'll have to see how it does! The reviews have been a completely mixed bag, which is a good thing I think, and each audience will have a different reaction. But the Arcola is the perfect place for it really, because it's slightly off-beat or challenging in some ways, it feels at home there.

Pieces Of Vincent will be at the Arcola Theatre until September 25. Standard tickets are £16 (£10 concessions) but free for under-26s and on Tuesdays, its "pay what you can" (limited availability). To buy tickets or for more information, see here.


Also in East London, we saw The Alchemist at Hoxton Hall (on until Sept 10).

Until Sept 25, you can catch Oikos at the Jellyfish Theatre.

More Londonist theatre reviews here.

Last Updated 11 September 2010