PlayPen Writers Profile: Catrin Fflur Huws

Catrin Fflur Huws

Catrin Fflur Huws

Catrin Fflur Huws has written for Castaway Community Theatre since 2008. Catrin was selected for the Sherman Cymru Spread The Word scheme for emerging writers in English language and is currently on the Sherman Cymru Gair Ar Led for emerging writers scheme in Welsh language. Her first full length play about Alan Turing, To Kill the Machine, was produced by Scriptography Productions, it premiered at Aberystwyth Arts Centre in 2012 and toured to Swansea and Cardiff.

What is your play The Rock about?
Unlikely friendships. Prejudice. A toad and a grasshopper. It’s about different things to different people.

How did you get the idea?
Desperation. I have to write something by tomorrow. There’s this….grasshopper, and it just grew from there.

What was your favourite thing about writing the play?
Writing a children’s story using adult language. Subverting the “there are two animals who become friends despite their differences” trope from children’s books, and putting it into grown-up  (ok sweary) words.

What do you think were the challenges of writing this play?
The story arc. What is it that makes Toad change his attitude?

What were the challenges of writing a one-act play?
Trying to keep everything to one location without it getting stagnant.

For the last two showcases Beginnings and Town with No Traffic Wardens a theme or subject was given to you, how different was it writing without rules and limitations?
Good fun. A learning experience. Particularly because it has shown me “you can write about anything in the world you like” and I still write the familiar. It’s taught me that I need to be braver, that I need to confront harder stuff in terms of characterisation. Maybe even my own weaknesses and failings asa person, and write them into characters that I might or might not like very much.

How did you create the characters?
I don’t subscribe to the “find out everything about them” school of writing. Start with one word. Toad. Name a character trait of a toad. Irascible. What conflicts with irascible? Chirpy. Start writing that conflict. The characters will develop from there. You’ll get to know them as you write.

What writing tips would you offer to someone interested in writing for theatre?
Have something to say. It will be awful. As you write it, you’ll be battling with that ‘Oh God this is awful’ feeling. Keep writing through the naff dialogue and the non-existent plot and your personal  point of view. Then when you’ve written it, recognise why it’s awful. Rewrite it. Better. After you’ve written it, at least you know what you want to say. You can start writing the play properly now. It will probably still be awful. Learn the rules. Properly. Don’t say ‘but this is how I felt. I actually had this conversation.’ I don’t care. Nobody’s interested. People go to the theatre in order to be entertained. Tell your story not how you want to tell it but according to how it works in theatre. If there’s no ice cream point at the end of act 2, people aren’t going to come back for the second half even if what you’re saying really happened. Copy Shakespeare. Copy the Greeks. Copy any play you consider to be any good. Then when you know the rules. Break them. Subvert people’s expectations. But do it well. People aren’t going to be impressed if they don’t know that you’re subverting their expectations.

What difference has the writing group made to you as a writer?
It’s given me the kick up the backside to actually write stuff. You can’t be theoretically a writer. You can’t sit in your house thinking about being a writer.’ Be a writer if that’s what you want to be. Otherwise do the world a favour and save some paper. Having a reason to write makes you be a writer. Do you have any idea how much of a fool you’ll feel if you go to a writing gorup and say “well I haven’t actually written anything. I’m waiting for the muse to strike me. I’ll just be a non-writing member of a writing group.” Maybe you have your own motivation for writing – in which case you’re very lucky. I need a kick in the pants or I sit there dithering. Just say ‘fuck it’ and write something. Something awful is a start. You can make awful better. And you need people to tell you it’s awful. Otherwise you can sit there being very pleased with your twenty pages of nonsense.

Catrin Fflur Huws play for Playpen is The Rock it about a grasshopper and a toad who decide that a rock isn’t big enough for both of them. It will be performed on Friday 1st February. Information on booking tickets is available here

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