Features Q&A and Interviews Published 4 December 2012

Jack Thorne

On his love of sci-fi and playwriting as a collaborative process.

Tom Wicker

“Cooper is all about bringing fantasy, or whatever you want to call it, into reality,” Thorne says. “That always got me as a kid. I was always more into that than Peter Parker.” The Fades, the story of an utterly average boy in extraordinary circumstances, was his antidote to the comic book fantasy of Spider Man. “I wanted to ask: what if you genuinely didn’t want to be a hero?”

Just as Thorne looks to the world off the page to give his work authenticity, he does the same with the actors he writes for. “All casts are authors too,” he stresses. “When I write Woody in This is England, I’m writing for Joe Gilgun.” His face lights up when he talks about actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who he knew would be in Mydidae when he started the script. “There’s a rhythm to her that’s extraordinary. We’re so lucky with this cast in general.”

For Thorne, these personal connections are a source both of creative inspiration and lasting friendships. He’s now written five roles for Joe Dempsie, starting with Chris in Skins and since including Higgy in This is England ’86 and bad guy John in The Fades. When we meet, he’s just text-congratulated Ian De Caestecker on securing a part in S.H.I.E.L.D., the TV spinoff from Joss Whedon’s blockbuster movie The Avengers.

Iain De Caestecker in The Fades

“The reason we don’t write novels,” Thorne argues, talking about playwrights and screenwriters, “is because we want to work with other people. I like working with people. Every time I try to do something on my own, others tend to get involved and become authors as well.” And they’ve sent his career in some successful if unpredictable directions.

“I wrote a play called When You Cure Me, which [Skins’ co-creator] Brian Elsley came to see and hired me as a result. It was a very hard-hitting piece about someone being a victim of rape. Brian saw it and told me I had a future in comedy drama.”

Thorne’s conversation teems with people, from actors he likes to writers he admires and envies in equal measure. He strongly believes that his generation of Royal Court Young Writers are coming into their own now, apart from Laura Wade (Posh), who he affectionately describes as “sort of a freak” because “she flew straight away.” He’s particularly impressed by James Graham and Nick Payne, whose play Constellations triumphed at the recent Evening Standard Awards.

“They’ve got a lot to write about, and they do it beautifully. It’s really exciting for me seeing the people I care about grow and suddenly just go ‘pow’.”

This is accompanied by an acute sense that these writers have strengths he lacks. Perhaps as a result, he’s been pushing himself, adapting Nick Hornby’s dark comedy A Long Way Down into a film – “that was so far out of my comfort zone it wasn’t true, but I really enjoyed it” – and turning best-selling vampire novel Let The Right One In into a play for the National Theatre of Scotland.

In a way, Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist’s update of the vampire myth to a bleak modern apartment block in which loner Oskar befriends Eli, a mysterious (and bloodthirsty) girl, is a natural fit with Thorne. “The only way I can be truthful is to put myself somewhere near a story. With Oscar, I found more of myself than I was expecting,” he says. (Later he tells me, jokingly, that Meadows cast him as Carrot Bum in This Is England ’86 because he “couldn’t find any other person lonely or weird enough to play him.”) And the story’s desolate urban setting is chillingly recognisable.

But the range of locations and different characters in Let The Right One In has challenged Thorne into broadening his theatrical horizons beyond a single room. His aim is for this to have a lasting effect on his style and approach. “With something like an adaptation, it’s a lot easier to write big. But I’m hoping that doing this will make me better when it comes to original stuff.”

Further ahead, “there might be a TV series, there might be a film.” With a BAFTA under his belt for The Fades, Thorne’s career is going well. But my observation that he’s flying pretty high these days makes him awkward. “I don’t think that’s strictly where it is,” he says hesitantly. “I mean, it’s nice, and I like it, the BAFTA thing, but I’m just really grateful, to be honest.”

Once we’ve said our goodbyes and he has headed off into the night to work on a script, two things have become clear to me. Firstly, Thorne is a hugely talented, sincerely self-deprecating writer whose concern about his creative limits demonstrates his commitment to his craft. Secondly, he could do with giving himself a bit of a break once in a while.

Mydidae is at Soho Upstairs, Soho Theatre, from 5th December – 22nd December; A Long Way Down is awaiting a release date; Let The Right One In will premiere at the Dundee Rep Theatre from 6th – 29th June 2013.


Tom Wicker

Tom is a freelance writer and editor, based in London. He has acted in the past, but the stage is undoubtedly better off without him on it. As well as regularly contributing to Exeunt and OffWestEnd.com, he reviews for Time Out, has reviewed Broadway productions for The Telegraph. He has also written for The Guardian and the online world affairs magazine openDemocracy.



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