Simon is originally from the North of Scotland, whcih was the setting for his first stage play, Rainbow Kiss, which ran in 2006 at the Royal Court directed by Richard Wilson. He has also written two plays for BBC Radio 4, Candy Floss Kisses and Elevenses with Twiggy.
Dream Me a Winter was written for the Old Vic 24 Hour Plays Celebrity Gala 2006, which saw six selected writers asked to each write a ten minute play from scratch over one night which the casts then have to learn and perform the following evening. The Old Vic production was directed by Josie Rourke and starred Tamsin Outhwaite, Patricia Hodge and Adrian Lukis.
Read below for an interview with Simon about his work.
What inspired you to write?
I seemed to have always been doing it, I used to write little stories constantly as a child, and would get terribly embarrassed when my mum brought them out to show visitors. But interestingly, they were usually my own stories about whatever tv dramas I was watching, so drama was always the way I was leaning I suppose. I was a seven year old dreaming up storylines for Doctor Who and The Sweeney!
Television was always what inspired me the most, I was lucky enough to catch the tail end of the golden age, Trevor Griffiths' Comedians, and writers like Peter McDougall, John Hopkins and Colin Welland were and still are some of my heroes.
What attracted you to The Wireless Theatre Company and audio theatre?
When I was about 11, Radio 2 used to broadcast drama in the evenings. I got hooked on an incrediubly spooky series called Space Force written by the legendary Charles Chilton, then by a series called Detective with Ray Brooks, little half hour crime stories. I recently listened again to some of those plays (one featuring a debut from Tim Roth) and I have to say they are the best radio acting I've ever heard. So naturalistic. The trouble with most radio drama now to me is that the lack of rehearsal is painfully obvious, actors are brought in simply to read, and you tend to find the plays smooth out as they go on because by the time they're recording the final scene they've got into their parts a little more, but at the start they're rather wooden. The other problem is that in recent years radio actors have started putting everything into the voice. It's awful, it sounds so unnatural. To me audio drama should sound like you're watching a movie with a blindfold on. Listen to an episode of Detective from the early 80s and you'll hear the difference.
BBC Radio was where I got my first break, and what attracted me to that was simply that there were so many slots to fill in drama with a play every day, rather like television used to have. But unlike the BBC, The Wireless Theatre stuff had the luxury of rehearsal which is always going to improve the production, and it was an outfit put together for passion not profit.
Moreover, when I was asked to submit something, Dream Me a Winter seemed a good choice because it was a ten minute play which had been staged once at a gala and wasn't likely to get another outing. The length and subject matter limited its chances on the BBC's slots, but I was very fond of it. I remember Tamzin Outhwaite at the time encouraged me to develop the idea more as she loved the character, so I have had some talks with ITV about it, but that's for developing it into a 90 minute film and bearing very little resemblance to the ten minute version.
What's your favourite play?
I couldn't name one single favourite, but ones that spring to mind are Alpha Beta by EA Whitehead, Butley by Simon Gray, Closer by Patrick Marber and Comedians by Trevor Griffith.
Who is your favourite writer?
Again I couldn't name one, although Peter McDougall, who I did a documentary about last year, has always been a hero of mine. For my money he's Scotland's finest dramatist of the last fifty years, but because all his work was for television no one gives him the credit he deserves. It's amazing the snobbery that still exists about this. I firmly believe that Tom Stoppard, David Hare and plenty others are all much better writers for television than the stage, but none of their tv work is treated with the same degree of seriousness. John Osborne's a case in point, I think he's a grossly overrated playwright but his masterpiece is a play called The Right Prospectus he wrote for the BBC in 1970. But you won't find it even mentioned in that massive thick biography of him that's come out, wheras that lousy sequel to Look Back in Anger he wrote for the stage that bombed gets a chapter to itself. Anyway, I'm wandering.
Who within the entertainment industry do you most admire?
I think one of the people I'd have to name would be Richard Wilson, who did a fabulous job of directing my first play at the Royal Court. He's a marvellous actor but as a director he's sublime. He only does new writing. He's got an extraordinary energy and thirst for the new, and great sensitivity in working on a script and with actors. He once said to me "I always know a play is good if the writer finds something in it during discussion he didn't previous realise was there." Or something like that. I hope I'm doing such fine work when I'm his age.