Sebastian Faulks reveals he is working on 'Pinteresque' play

Novelist says he is hoping he can succeed where others have failed in switch to stage

The novelist Sebastian Faulks is turning his attention to the stage with a play that will have no interval and will feature a good deal of repetition and nudity.

Faulks said he was well aware he could fall flat on his face but he enjoyed theatre and had seen enough of it to know what he thought worked.

“Part of me feels it is a very arrogant thing; how can I suddenly slide into something where very clever, very talented people have spent years working out their technique and how to do it?” he said at the Cheltenham literature festival. “Part of me thinks … what’s to lose?”

Faulks, the award-winning writer of novels including Birdsong and Charlotte Gray, pointed to the success of Michael Frayn, who went to the theatre every week for two years to figure out how it was done.

“I go to the theatre a lot … and I’m very aware of what plays I like and what I don’t. What I don’t like is the theatre heated to 110 degrees.” Or paying inflated prices “for a bottle of Paraguayan shiraz”, he said.

He cited Harold Pinter’s Betrayal as a play he admired. “I like plays that can only work in the theatre; I can’t see the point of doing something on stage which might be a film, or might be a book, or might be something else. I like plays which use the theatre.”

A novel is a novel and is a contract between the writer and the reader, a pact to spend four or five hours together, he said.

Faulks, 65, said the project was still in its early days but that he had an idea in his head. “It is about memory, it is about things that you miss. It is a bit Pinteresque I suppose. It is all a bit mechanical. A lot of people walking round the stage in different directions.”

He recalled seeing the Royal Ballet’s production of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis with Edward Watson and being mesmerised. He particularly liked the first 20 minutes where Watson’s character is going through the routine of daily life over and again.

“I love things like that, repetition in the theatre was very popular in the 1970s, so quite a lot of that. And then a lot of nudity.”

There is a long tradition of novelists trying to write plays, but not many have been very successful. One of the most famous failures was Henry James, whose play Guy Domville was jeered at its London premiere in 1895.

Faulks joked: “As David Cameron said when someone said ‘it looks like you’e going to be prime minister, David’ … how hard can it be?”


Mark Brown Arts correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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