Meet The Writer – Tony Hobbs

Hobbs in holiday mode

Hobbs in holiday mode

A retired public relations manager, Tony Hobbs, who lives in Dilwyn, is one of the original members of the Writing for the Stage Group at the Courtyard Theatre and over the years has been reasonably successful in getting his plays performed. Among short plays he has had showcased are Edric the Wild, Wilfred and the Wood, and the Godmother. Other longer productions include King Offa, performed by the Courtyard Youth Theatre, and Jolly Holidays, a joint effort with the cast from the Courtyard Community Company. He has also had two plays performed at the Crown, his local pub, – Save our Pub and The Invaders and The Royal Visit at the Village Hall. At last year’s Write on Festival his play Pull the Other One was performed, which later went on tour to Ledbury, Dilwyn and Abergavenny. He has also written Elgar and the Lunatic Society which is being produced at the Coach House Theatre, Malvern on 16th, 17th and 18th May, 2013.

His other writing includes nine non-fiction books, mainly about walking and pubs, with the latest being The Pubs of Malvern.  He is currently working on a History of Dilwyn. Four years ago he gained a BA Hons degree in creative writing after studying with the Open College of the Arts.

For this year’s Festival Tony has had two plays, Einstein and the Horse Girls and Clausewitz and the Talk, accepted as a double bill on the evening of Wednesday, 3rd July. The first play is based on a true episode in Einstein’s life. On his way to America in 1933, he stayed for a short while in a remote corner of England guarded by armed horse girls protecting him against Nazi agents. His liking for young women and his dislike for America finds him having an ill-fated affair with one of the girls. Clausewitz and the Talk: When Arthur loses his wife he goes to stay with his daughter who, fed up with his fits of depression, persuades him to join the British Legion to meet other war veterans. But when he is asked to give a talk about his own war experiences, Arthur starts thinking of the bigger picture and the teachings of military philosopher Clausewitz, which gets him into deep trouble.

When asked why he enjoys writing for theatre, he answers “Good question! I suppose it’s something to do with the fact that I find writing dialogue easier than writing narrative. Once I’ve got the seed of an idea in my head, very often inspiration comes to me on the computer as I bash away. Characters certainly take shape and develop, often in contrary ways. It is satisfying when the script is finished, but even more so when it is accepted for performance and a director and actors begins working on it. Finally, that magical moment arrives when the play is actually staged and you think to yourself, ‘wow, did I actually create that?’”

As well as entertaining the masses with his Write On Festival double bill, he is also hoping that audience members take some important messages home with them.  “In Einstein and the Horse Girls I put forward the fact that geniuses are still very much human beings often with strong emotions,” he says, “a person may be able to come with up mathematical equations very few other people can understand, but they are often devoid of common sense and can act in an immodest way.  In Clausewitz the main message is that war is wrong and every effort should be made to seek out ways of resolving the problem diplomatically. Also, the question is asked why servicemen are regarded as heroes particularly when they are killed. Why not the other way round – honour them for surviving?”

Tony recognises that Herefordshire has always enjoyed an abundance of culture and the Courtyard Theatre is very much the hub for this activity, but has seen that only within recent years that new writers for the stage have been encouraged. With the introduction of the Write On Festival two years ago this is beginning to change and the opportunities for new writers is growing, and “should also be nurtured” says Tony.  “And with all the local actors, directors and stage specialists available it makes sense to combine these different factions and come up with something challenging,” he adds.

“I usually write on the computer,” he says “but I also use pen and paper as well. I usually jot things down in a pocket notebook which I always carry with me and try and capture interesting conversations and sudden thoughts and ideas. Quite often some flash of inspiration will occur to me when I’m out walking, trying to get to sleep, or at the computer. I try to be my own man, writing the way I want to (usually the only way) and not be influenced by any other playwrights.”

Upon quizzing of his favourite playwright, Tony comes up with a large list of influential names in the theatre biz. “Of course Pinter has to be up there together with Samuel Beckett, but I’m also impressed by Mamet, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Brian Friell, Chekhov, and Ibsen to name just a few” he lists.  “One of my favourite all-time plays is Waiting for Godot.”

Does Tony suffer from writer’s block?  Well, the result is mixed.  “I have sat down at the computer and knocked out a play in five days. This doesn’t happen very often. At the moment I’m really stuck on a play I really want to write because it’s personal. I’ve got lots of research material such as letters and diaries but these seem to get in the way. And I am having a problem in even starting with different options open to me and how to keep the number of characters down. So you could say that at the moment I am suffering from writer’s block. Sometimes a visit to the pub helps, but in this case all I am doing is consuming a lot of beer!”

Einstein and the Horse Girls and Clausewitz and the Talk  will be performed as a double bill in The Courtyard’s Studio Theatre on Wednesday 3 July from 7.30pm.  To book tickets for this performance, or for more information, contact The Courtyard’s Box Office on 01432 340555.

Meet the Writer: Anthony Jenkins

To celebrate the upcoming Write On Festival for new play writing in Herefordshire – we will be featuring each of the writers that are submitting pieces into this year’s festival. First to give us a snippet was Land of Mines director and writer, Anthony Jenkins.

ANTHONY JENKINS

Anthony Jenkins

Anthony Jenkins

Anthony Jenkins is not only a stage technician at The Courtyard, but is also a theatre graduate and enthusiast.  Having been affiliated with the organisation for 12 years and performing in past production titles such as ‘The Crucible’, ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’, ‘Dracula’, ‘Fiddler On The Roof’ and ‘Guys and Dolls’, he has seen it all, from musical theatre to psychotic drama, from the lighting desk to the principal role.

After graduating from East 15 Acting School in 2008, Anthony eagerly came back to The Courtyard ready to perform, and took on the role as the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk and has been part of the crew ever since!  Hereford born and bred, Anthony recognises “the Courtyard is a small yet gargantuan step for young performers, who like me, wanted to pursue this amazing subject.”

“I joined the Youth theatre in 2000 and it was great meeting and performing with guys and girls who were on the same page as me, Anthony says.  Whilst being involved in Youth Theatre he claims his favourite performance as “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, without a doubt!  The cast, set, the music, everything was so breathtaking.  I was immensely proud to play ‘Chief’ and to be a part of that show.”

Anthony has not only been a performer in Youth Theatre drama’s and stage adaptations, but has also had his share of tongue-in-cheek Panto performances, including the aforementioned Jack and The Beanstalk, The Emperor of China in Aladdin 2010/11, The Beasts’ double in Beauty and the Beast 2009/10 and The Dragon in Sleeping Beauty 2011/12.  He has also worked first hand on many performances at The Courtyard as part of the stage crew.   His favourite piece to work on , he says, was “the Tommy Cooper tribute show with Clive Mantel as not only was it a brilliant piece, but working alongside such an actor inspired me to pursue my dreams within this field.  It was so good, I almost missed a few cues along the way as I was that enthralled!”

In 2011, Anthony set up his own theatre company called Exit Fool Productions, a move which allowed him to explore his love of theatre and his idolisation of playwrights such as Shakespeare, Waterhouse, Steinbeck and Miller.”  When asked to elaborate on why these playwrights really strike a note, Anthony says it is because “they can switch from comedy to tragedy in the turn of page.  My favourite plays are Jeffrey Barnard is Unwell by Keith Waterhouse and The Crucible by Arthur Miller.”

 On opening in 2011, Exit Fool’s debut production was a UK premiere of Angel: A Nightmare in 2 Acts in The Courtyard’s Studio Theatre.  “I picked this play because it was a piece of writing that had never touched the English shore’s since it was written in 2004.  Even though the content was about the holocaust, which can be quite a heavy subject, I wanted to make the audience feel like they were part of the show by being the jury, and having the characters use direct address to make them feel like they were at the Belsen trials in 1945,” says Anthony.

Anthony is in fact one half of Exit Fool, the other co-founder being friend and schoolmate Pete Bird.  “Pete and I take it in turns to direct, and last year it was his turn for our 2012 production of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, where I played the lead role of Lennie.  We chose this piece because it is a classic title, and a character driven plot that we felt could reach audiences of all levels and theatre experience, such as schools.  In the end the piece even brought in theatregoers from London!”

Now  Anthony puts all of his experience and inspiration on to paper, as he debut’s his first written piece at The Courtyard’s new theatre writing festival, Write-On.   “For the past two years I’ve been the general technician for The Courtyard’s Write On Festival but this year I’ve decided to write and direct as part of the festival.  Land Of Mines is on the 5th July and is based on true events during the Bosnian War of 1992.”

The synopsis is as follows:  Set in Sarajevo 1992, four characters are trapped inside a derelict house awaiting rescue from NATO.  The U.N soldier is trying to uphold the peace agreement while the Serbian and Croatian refugees argue and taunt each other as shells constantly fall around them.  Among the refugees is severely wounded Muslim, whose secrets affect everyone around him.  Anthony says “the inspiration behind Land Of Mines came from an acting friend who lived through the war.  The idea of four characters trapped in a dilapidated house came from his personal experience.  The dialog and events that unfold is authentic as I enlisted a relative of mine who was in the British army and worked alongside the U.N at the time who has helped me develop the piece and keep the script as close to the real thing as possible.”

Land of Mines is on in The Courtyard’s Studio Theatre on Friday 5 July from 7.30pm.  It is the second part in a double bill.  To book tickets for this performance, or for more information, contact The Courtyard’s Box Office on 01432 340555.

Interview compiled by Jennifer Booton