Meet an ALCS member: Linda Marshall Griffiths

In the latest in our anniversary series celebrating our members, we hear from playwright and radio writer Linda Marshall Griffiths, winner of Best Single Drama at the BBC Audio Drama Awards 2017.

Who are you?

Linda Marshall Griffiths

What do you write?

I am a playwright, and I write for theatre and radio. I have been very fortunate to write across the different radio drama slots on Radios 4 and 3, and although I always thought myself a theatre-writer, I have really become passionate about the radio play. It’s an extraordinary form that slips through walls, minds and time – my scripts have become more like scores as I try to keep up with its rhythm and musicality.

Do you have a ‘day’ job?

Fortunately for me writing is my day job, and sometimes my night job!

I didn’t know about ALCS; I had no idea how much I would receive, and so the first payment was a surprise and, I think at the time, very welcome.

How useful do you find social media and/or blogging?

Although there are many brilliant people blogging and tweeting, I try not to look at social media if I am working on anything. It’s a new way to stare out of the window all day and never start! The best space for me to try and articulate what’s going on in my head or in the world are plays – it’s personal, but in a different way. I think for all writers it’s a challenging time. What forms we use to respond to the increasingly divided world around us, and how we speak from this moment we stand in is complex – language becomes both a wall and a bridge. I am really excited at the rise of spoken word amongst young people: live, out-loud and raw whilst somehow floating ideas of beauty and compassion. It shows how community and diversity is not only possible but can become a creative act. I find that really inspiring.

How long have you been an ALCS member and how did you hear about us?

Around ten years. I think a fellow writer told me about ALCS; I was amazed that I had earned money I didn’t know about.

For what sort of uses of your work do you receive royalties from ALCS?

For my radio plays.

What is your most surprising source of ALCS income?

The first one. I didn’t know about ALCS; I had no idea how much I would receive, and so the first payment was a surprise and, I think at the time, very welcome.

How important are your ALCS payments to you as a writer?

The timing is brilliant for me. After Christmas and after the summer holidays, when cash is pretty much blown. My faithful laptop is disintegrating and there are no letters left on the keyboard (that’s also my kids playing games on it!), so my last payment will stretch to a new one.

I’m obsessed with silence. That always seems funny given I write for radio…

Are you aware of any potential threats to your ALCS income?

No – I have been really fortunate to get the radio work I have. I always work with the same director, and the process is an absolute joy. Collaborative relationships are so important for playwrights. Finding a director who understands your work and isn’t afraid for you to be in the room and be part of the process is amazing, and rare.

It’s really interesting to see how the radio play might evolve. The rise of the podcast is, I think, a clue to what is happening. Future audiences may not listen live and probably will listen on headphones. Making that leap, using the technology available (I am particularly interested in how the binaural can be used as an intervention in stories), and telling stories that speak to the audience now. The radio play is beginning to move across multiple media platforms, but I think there’s a lot of thinking to be done: sound work is finding its place amongst conceptual art and theatre (and has always been primary in film). How you propel the radio play into the future whilst not alienating its present audience is an extremely challenging but exciting question.

What does the future hold for you as a writer?

I am writing a play for the West Yorkshire Playhouse, who are at a brilliant moment in creating new work and ultimately a new writing theatre space in the next couple of years. I am also developing a piece of sci-fi, which is very surprising to me. I am adapting three of Henry James’s major novels for Radio 4 next year. I have already adapted Portrait of a Lady, which was an extraordinary experience. When we recorded it we kept stopping and saying, “Wow, look what he did!” He is such a genius; although people think his writing is very dense, I find his work somehow close to Beckett – he understands deeply the unreliability of language. I am in the final stages of completing a practice-based PhD on silence in plays. I’m obsessed with silence. That always seems funny given I write for radio, but it was silence that started eating my radio plays, which was what got me started. I have written a Typology of Silence, which is moving through poetics to performance, from noise to silence. Silence seems to me to be one of the most important tools a playwright can work with.

Linda Marshall Griffiths’s recent plays include The Sky Is Wider, winner of Best Single Drama at the BBC Audio Drama Awards 2017, and finalist at the Prix Europa and Aria Awards 2017. Her radio play Orpheus and Eurydice won the Grand Prix at the Prix Marulic 2016. Her stage-play Villette, a futuristic re-imagining of Charlotte Brontë’s novel, was at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Her radio adaptations include Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf and John Irving’s The World According to Garp and A Prayer for Owen Meany. She is from London (and Welsh) and lives in Yorkshire.