Q&A | Mat Burt | Playwright

To give you a sneak preview of Now We Are Three we’ve been talking to the writers about their plays and working as a playwright.

When a strange man approaches Gareth outside the fitting room of the M&S lingerie department, the appropriate response should be to run away. But in Mat Burt’s Fitting Room, this man has an offer that’s difficult to refuse: is it all just too good to be true?

What prompted you to write Fitting Room?
The strange self-conciousness of being with my girlfriend in the underwear department at Marks & Spencer. You’re okay whilst you’re walking around with company, but as soon as she went into the fitting room, suddenly I was a weird guy sitting alone on an uncomfortable chair wearing, of all the terrible choices, a trenchcoat. I sat and read a book but couldn’t help feeling ultra-creepy, and wishing there was some kind of crèche for nervous men nearby. When another fella came along, clearly in the same position, I thought about striking up a conversation – I didn’t – and the idea just kind of fell out of that.

What are you looking forward to seeing again?
Actually I’m looking forward to seeing it for the first time. I was out of the country for the performance date last time so still have no clue if the play even works, or just comes across as remarkably silly.

How did you get into writing?
Lack of team sports, really. I always wanted to be part of some kind of team, but had the physique of a nine year old girl until I was, oh, about twenty four. So I developed a dream, alongside my original dream of being the first British pro-NFL player, of writing something that other people enjoyed. I played a lot of videogames in my teens – a lot of japanese narrative-based stuff – and that actually touched more more than any reading of fiction I’d done up until that time. I realised that being able to craft a story that either revealed something, or was simply entertaining, was a really worthy thing to do, and I didn’t need to gain 300 pounds and learn to run in order to do it.

Which writers inspire you?
Too many to list; writers I come back to over and over are people like Flannery O’Connor, for the sheer conceptual oddness married with a distinctly unknowable humanity despite her menagerie of characters. David Foster Wallace’s The Broom of the System remains one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read, but more for the sheer depth and complexity of thought than the story it tells. On the other end of the scale I really enjoy short fiction, so Tobias Wolff, Ray Carver, those kind of writers, who can convey so much in such a short space. I also have a tremendous respect for ‘real’ science fiction writers – Asimov, Bradbury, Philip K Dick, George R Stewart – who wrestle with really big ideas and the social impact of change. I read a lot of comics too – Jeph Loeb and Zack Snyder are top of my reading list at the moment.

What’s your favourite play and why?
In theatre terms, Tracy Letts blew my mind with August: Osage County. I still don’t think I’ve seen a better production than that at the National a few years ago. So expansive in scope yet the characters have detail down to the micro level without becoming boring; it was a supremely stimulating experience. I have a real passion for devised shows, though – Simple8’s Moby Dick at the Arcola recently was joyous in the extreme.

Fitting Room will be performed as part of Now We Are Three from 20-24 August at Southwark PlayhouseMore info

About Mat
Mat has worked as a writer/producer with the Heritage Arts Company since 2008, creating various different theatrical experiences either independently or for festivals, venues, and other events, including the Battersea Arts Centre, HBO/Sky Atlantic, and Standon Calling. Their own festival, VAULT, in 2012 showcased over twenty different shows in a three week run in the tunnels beneath Waterloo station. Outside this capacity he’s worked variously in production roles in the West End, directed performances for Secret Cinema, and once worked in a Sushi restaurant.

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