Simon Stephens, 44, is a playwright whose productions include a highly acclaimed adaptation of Mark Haddon’s ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’. His play ‘Song from far Away’ is set in Amsterdam with Lloyd Hotel written in as the chosen location of the principal character Willem.
You immersed yourself in Amsterdam for the play and here we are chuffed that you included the hotel in it. How did you go about building a Dutchman as the play’s character, Willem? Or is he not particularly different from an Englishman?
“I research my plays in any different ways. The writer Russell Shorto’s AMSTERDAM was an important book for me. But I was also inspired by many different sources. The films of Ozu or the British Film Director Terence Davies and the stories of Richard Ford were important. Much of Willem was inspired by a series of interviews that I carried out with the songwriter Mark Eitzel when we started work on the play in 2013. Willem crystalises an interest we both have in finding the humanity in the the financial traders whose work so often denies human compassion. But he is also drawn from Mark’s sense of self. And from mine.”
Each of your plays has a song attached to it. Often this is an existing one, what made you ask Mark Eitzel to write one especially?
“I’ve written with Mark before. We wrote a play about Brighton together. And we wanted to write together again. We may write more. We go to cities. Visit the cities. Wander round. Stay in the hotels. Drink in the bars. Meet the people. Write stories that make sense of what we find.”