With only a few months to go before our production of Freefall: A Double Bill, we decided it was time to catch up with the writers and dig deeper into the world of the plays. Matthew Bulgo talks us through the genesis of his piece, Lacuna, via jamais vu and jammed bookshelves.
We love Lacuna‘s delicate, heartfelt exploration of the way in which grief can shake the foundations of a person’s existence. The play’s central character, Kate, wakes up in hospital one day, with no memory of how she got there, nor of who she’s left behind. What prompted you to write the play?
A number of things inspired me to write Lacuna. I’ve always been fascinated about how the human mind works and in particular memory. I read a newspaper article about ten years ago about a woman suffering from ‘jamais vu’ (which is one of the lesser-known siblings of ‘deja vu’) – she’d been in quite a traumatic accident with her daughter and following the incident she didn’t recognise her daughter at all…in fact denied ever having a daughter. It was almost as if her brain was protecting itself from thinking about the accident but cutting any ties to anything or anyone connected to it. It’s a real psychological rarity. That was a sort of starting point – the idea that each and every human being responds to stress or grief or trauma in an entirely unique way, psychologically. I kept the article, and even though I’d never written anything before at the time, I sort of knew I wanted to use the story as a starting point for writing a play.
Both the play’s characters, David and Kate, are searching for something: memories that have vanished; love that has been lost. How did you hit upon the title, Lacuna, and what does it mean?
I can’t entirely remember the moment when I hit upon it as the title for the play. I’ve never been too good with dictionary definitions but I would say it’s a gap or a missing piece to a story.
One of the lovely things about this richly poetic play is the way in which its characters take us on a journey out of the real world and into the mysterious landscape of the mind. Is the boundary between naturalism and unreality one that you are particularly interested in exploring more generally in your work?
I think I was very interested in exploring that territory at the time that I was writing it. Lacuna is one of the first things I ever wrote and I think I was still trying to work out what my voice was. I think most of my work tends to end up somewhere in the ballpark of ‘poetic realism’. But I don’t really like labelling things…so let’s just call it ‘writing’!
What are you working on currently?
I have a few pieces that are bubbling away at the moment. Right now, I’m working away at a short piece for Dirty Protest Theatre. I’m also working on a full-length piece about how we never quite shake off our childhood fears – it’s sort of an odd love story about a guy who’s afraid of everything, in a very childlike way, and a girl who’s become very cynical and jaded. I suppose they end up teaching each other a lot about ‘how to live’.
Which writers are you particularly influenced by and why?
Ooo, too many to mention. Pinter, Osborne, Albee, Wesker, Lorca. More recently, Adam Rapp, James Graham, DC Moore, Will Eno. And in terms of fiction, Raymond Carver, B. S. Johnson, J. D. Salinger, Graham Greene.
To illustrate his point, Matthew sent us a picture of his – very well-stocked – bookshelf…
Lacuna was developed at Sherman Cymru; do you see the workshop process as an important part of the development of a new script and why?
I think it’s important for a writer to hear their work and to see it realised, whether that be in a production or a reading or a workshop or whatever. I think the learning process only really started for me when I was given those sorts of opportunities.
Check back soon for an interview with Freefall‘s other playwright, Becky Prestwich, and in the meantime you can watch the trailer (see our last post) to find out more about the show.