JANET PLATER INTERVIEW
Hull playwright Janet Plater has written an extraordinary variety of plays over the years. “The Gaul,” her latest, seems poised to make her even more well-known than she already is, not least because the play is based around real-life events. Here, in an exclusive interview with “Pulse” author Steve Rudd, Janet talks about what inspired her to write “The Gaul”…
So you’ve written a play called “The Gaul,” which is going to be performed at Hull Truck in October. When did you write the play, and how long did it take to do so?
I started writing it in 2011, and I’ve worked on it on and off since then.
What was it that first sparked your interest in the Gaul? Given that you hail from Hull, do you personally know anybody who has been directly affected by the tragedy?
I’d written when I was much younger, but then my life took a different path, and I’d not written for a while. I returned to my writing ambitions in 2010, and I felt that I wanted to write something about my hometown of Hull. I’d always known about the loss of the Gaul, and I remember the event at the time that it happened, along with the talk about it at my school. When the idea for the story first sparked, I was also contemplating loss and bereavement, and how to deal with that. Since I started writing the play, I’ve been able to talk to some relatives of the men on the Gaul. Through doing that, I found the heart of the play.
I take it that you knew early on in the writing of the play that the story would work best if it revolved around a tight-knit group of characters…
I knew that a family needed to be at the centre of it.
So how do you tackle the fine art of character development when you’re writing a play?
I think about people I know, or who I have spoken with, or who I have read about… usually a combination of those things. Then I write, and rewrite, and rewrite, and rewrite!
What level of research did you undertake in order to get your facts straight in relation to the Gaul?
I read books and listened to interviews. I read blogs, transcripts of the inquiries and newspaper articles. I also had a look around a trawler, and talked to some ex-trawlermen and their families.
So what has your research led you to believe? Do you think the trawler was lost in a storm, or do you think it was “lost” as a result of Cold War hostilities?
I think the Gaul went down in a storm, but quite why remains a mystery. So many trawlers were in the same storm and came home.
How much involvement have you had with the stage adaptation of your work? Have you maintained constant “dialogue” with play director Mark Babych, or have you left him to it, trusting that what he’ll produce will do your story full justice?
We’ve worked closely together, and we will continue to do so, I’m sure.
Have you been involved with the casting to any degree?
Yes, I’ve been consulted throughout the process. We have a fine cast.
What do you think audiences are likely to make of the story?
I think audiences will take different things from it. It’s certainly an incredible and moving story. I hope that the play reflects the humanity and humour of the families so that audiences will relate to them. I want to make sure that these men and their families are not forgotten.
How does the nature of “The Gaul” compare to other plays that you’ve written?
It’s the most emotional, and the one that I feel the greatest sense of responsibility about.
Given that 2017 is destined to be Hull’s year in the limelight as the UK City of Culture, are you planning to write any more Hull-based plays to further pay testament to the city’s unique spirit?
I’ll be back in Hull in December with “Hull’s Angel” at Kardomah. “Hull’s Angel” is a Christmas show about what would happen if a new Saviour of the World was born right now, in Hull. It’s a comedy, with songs. I will always want to write about Hull; it’s my hometown.
For more information about Janet, “Follow” her on Twitter @magpieonbridge
Visit www.hulltruck.co.uk for more information about “The Gaul” and for tickets