The super talented Rachel De-lahay is an award winning playwright, whose career and recognition is gathering momentum at a pace; the accolades are piling up! There are lots of new and exciting projects in the pipeline. We’re pleased as punch to have a ‘Chicks Chat’ with Rachel as she really is, one busy Chick!
We at Those London Chicks are so inspired by your achievements as a writer. But you trained as an actress what were the deciding factors in your decision?
Not enough work to do as an actor, I suppose. I felt frustrated and bored. I was away working on a play when I found the Royal Court’s application for their Young Writers programme. I wanted to be doing something more and then this website was there asking to read an example of your writing-ten pages. The deadline was the next day but I remember thinking “ten pages? Piece of piss.” And it was! I wrote it that night and got on the course a couple weeks later. What I missed was the small print that said “anyone can write ten pages, what will really test your patience is writing a full length play!” Which it did! But that was right, I was looking for a challenge and I found one! One that nearly broke me several times, but still, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Can you tell a bit about your amazing journey to this point?
It’s all been a bit of a blur really, a bit of a blag. Since my first play was programmed 5 years ago, the work has continued to tick over at a nice pace, and I’ve just been enjoying the ride. I know this has very little to do with me though. When a prestigious venue trusts you it opens up a lot of doors. I’m lucky.
You were on the Royal Court Young Playwrights Programme and have had a couple of plays produced at Royal Court Theatre. How instrumental have they been in terms of your success ?
Massively. When I applied to be on the course it was at a time when I wanted to try something different. THE WESTBRIDGE was the first thing I’d ever written and I wasn’t even able to articulate why I’d written it, I was just giving something a go. Them putting the play on was a ‘well done’, a ‘we like where you’re headed’, a ‘keep going’. I’m not sure I would have bothered without that.
Which writer inspires you and why?
I don’t have the broadest knowledge of authors and playwrights; I’m probably not as well read as I should be. And the authors and playwrights I do like I tend to keep to myself for fear that people will just be like… ‘really? That was easy!’ However there’s a whole group of young writers who, whilst their back catalogue isn’t huge, their work ethic and ability to keep writing and working inspires me daily, showing me what’s possible. From Anya Reiss balancing tele and theatre to Bola Agbaje writing films. There’s actually too many to name all of them, but they’re brilliant and keep me going.
You seem totally unafraid to tackle big social issues, in your plays by having rich easy to relate to characters. This in turn makes the subject matter more accessible for an audience. Where do find your inspirations?
Do I? Ha! That’s really not the intention. I just write what I don’t understand, I guess, which at the minute is a lot. I get inspiration from anywhere and everywhere. I can hear a song, read a headline, see an image… if I feel confused by it and have an urge to try and understand it, it’ll probably become a play. But then there’s the fear that maybe I’m just dumb, maybe everyone else already gets it, and I need to catch up already. That’s my writer’s block right there!
You’ve been described as The Queen of Urban Drama, how do you feel about that, is it a help or a hindrance?
It could be opening certain doors and closing others, but it’s not my title, so I try not to concentrate on it.
Winner of The Evening Standard Most Promising Playwright, Congratulations. Do you now feel a pressure to ‘come up with the goods’?
Yes. If only because more people might watch my future work based on that accolade and the more people that watch it, more might find it’s not for them. And probably tweet about it. And probably ruin my day. But that’s how it has to be. As long as I keep enjoying the plays and telling the stories I want to that’s all that matters. Writing wasn’t anything I’d set out to do and it’s definitely not something I hope to do forever, just for as long as I enjoy it, and right now I’m really enjoying it.
Named Screen International ‘Star of Tomorrow’ because of your film script “Pretty” which is in development with Film 4. Can you tell us what it’s about?
It’s a story about a passion crime with a bit of a difference, I think. I really like the story and all the characters, and the world. I’m in between drafts at the minute after having some friends over to read it. I’m very lucky that I have access to brilliant actors who are willing to do that for me. I don’t think I have the stamina to read through a script I’ve written myself. I get to page 4 and I’m like… “ugh! I know already! I’ve heard all this before!”
There is talk of a TV comedy you’re also getting underway. You’re covering every platform, which is your favourite medium to write and why?
I love it all! I love being sole author and creating something myself, in any medium. It’s very private my work, to make something all alone and not have to show anybody until it’s ready, that’s my favourite bit. However, to keep me sane there’s a lot of TV work I do that’s very collaborative. That gets me in a room with other people bouncing around ideas. It always amazes me how much quicker the work happens in that environment, like I should be shocked that five heads are better than one!
You really are working your socks off! What do you do to relax?
If I told you you’d probably judge me! But to be honest I don’t think I am working at all. I watch actors and directors do all the hard word, highlight my flaws and then go away and re-write the mistakes. I’m saying that now cause I’m not in production. If I was in production I think I’d think I was the hardest working person on the planet!
Finally, what advice would you give to someone who has been writing scripts, but is unsure of what to do with them?
Read them aloud, get your friends to read them and give you honest feedback, as they’re the audience. Everyone enjoys watching drama so if it doesn’t hold them it’s probably not ready. Then get the theatres or TV networks reading them. For theatre there’s lots of venues like the Royal Court that accept unsolicited scripts and offer brilliant feedback. For TV it’s harder without an agent but there are lots of competition and opportunities available. The BBC Writers Room website is probably the best place to start.
What can we expect to see from you next?
Me and a couple other writers are filming an online brand new drama with the BBC at the end of the year. And then…? Who knows? Maybe I’ll be done.