Before I begin – well, to be fair I’ve already begun – but before I begin proper, a question: why is a playwright called a playwright and not a playwrite? It doesn’t make sense. Of course it does once you discover that the word wright is an archaic English term for a craftsman or builder. But it didn’t before. “What’s in a name?” wrote William Shakespeare. “That which we will call a rose.” Shakespeare was a well good playwright, phat in fact – so phat that he’s still performed some twenty years after his death.
Many years ago, long before the advent of telly or Word for Windows, the playwright was king. People would flock to see his plays, kiss his feet and shower him with chocolates and puppies. These days we’re all staying in to watch box sets of The Wire or to update our status on sit-on-my-Facebook. This the playwright must compete with. Still, he knows that if he is good enough he will still receive the plaudits and puppies he deserves. Harold Pinter, for instance, has to employ the use of three professional dog walkers on a daily basis.
Whether you are Wilde, Beckett, Chekhov or one of the Jean Cocteau twins, you have to be able to write dialogue. Ideally you should make it realistic (ie talk about crisps and bargains) rather than overblown and pompous. Sometimes inserting silence can be just as effective as including another line – though personally I reckon you can never go wrong with a good knock-knock joke. Finally, a request: please don’t make it last too long. This ain’t such a problem if it’s good, but if it’s bad one’s B-hind don’t ‘arf ache. Thanks. I’m off now (exit stage left to make tea).