An Interview with Samson Hawkins
Hello Samson, so where ya from & where ya at, Geographically speaking?
I’m from a hamlet called Crowfield in South Northamptonshire, it’s near Silverstone race track, proper farmer country. But now I live on a canal boat in Southall aka Little India in West London.
When did you first find yourself getting into the dramatic arts?
I’m dyslexic and couldn’t read a word while the rest of my age group were smashing through Harry Potter. My mum sent me to Youth Theatre because my sister had so many hobbies that she was great at and I didn’t really have anything apart from being rubbish at football. But once I got to Youth theatre I loved it, I could be gangsters with guns that fire custard pies, victorian pick pockets or a prince of an ice kingdom, It was nuts. My mum’s plan worked though, I had to learn to read otherwise I had no idea what I had to say. It was all a ruse on her part, but I guess I’m not illiterate anymore, so well done to mum.
What for you makes a good piece of theatre
Something I haven’t seen before. When a production stays in your mind for days or weeks, or in a few cases, (Earthquakes in London) years. A production that could fail, but doesn’t. I like theatre that remembers it is story telling, and then tries to tell the story in the most interesting way possible.
When did you first realise you could write for the stage
I wasn’t a very good student at school. I was a solid C student. But the teachers always said they wish they could give my essays better marks because they where fun to read. Mr Hughs knew I was never going to get very good marks, so when my Essay on Gladstone and Disraeli took the form of a rap battle, he didn’t have a go at me, he just said it was the best F he has ever given. I started writing sketches for youtube, and once I got to East 15 they started becoming more like scenes. I was a part of Greyscales Play Development Project, where I was completely out of my depth, but Selma Dimitrijvic was inspirational and really focussed me on what theatre can be. I wrote my first play ‘Death is Wasted on the Old’ which was performed as part of Scribble at The Avondale Theatre, someone complained about its blasphemous content, it’s all right, Jesus is quite forgiving apparently.
What does Samson Hawkins like to do when he’s not being theatrical?
Making money and fucking bitches. No I’m poor and have a long term girlfriend so none of those things happen. I’m really boring these days, I’m either watching theatre, or making it, or doing admin work for plays. I do play football manager to a really high level, and I’m a connoisseur of new varieties of Kit Kats and Snickers bars.
Can you tell us about your baby, Second Sons?
My third-year housemates formed the company in out 3rd year of Italia Conti to make ‘Theatre for people who don’t like theatre’. We have had a bit of success since we started, to the surprise of everyone involved really. We run a new writing night ‘Playtime’ which has sold out Theatre N16 and The Bunker, Swan Bake got nominated for a Brighton Fringe award and our production of Dark Vanilla Jungle, by Philip Ridley got great reviews and is now being co-produced by 53two in Manchester as part of the Manchester Fringe. We take a jump off the cliff and learn to fly on your way down, and it’s working.
You will be bringing Swan Bake to Edinburgh this August, can you tell us about the play?
It’s a comedy play which uses puppetry and dance to tell the story of a drug-addicted ballerina and her relationship with a nun. It started as my dissertation project and I’ve been working on it since. I’ve always wanted to take it to Edinburgh as it just feels so much an ‘Edinburgh Show’. It doesn’t fit very well into conventional genres and it’s all the better for it. It’s a really fun show that looks at the experience of drug addiction in a new way.
How much of you is on the play?
I used to take quite a lot drugs. And I wrote the play as I wanted to stop, but didn’t really know how. There is a point when you are trying to give up when you just realise how hard being high is sometimes. I saw one of my teachers in Tesco but I was hallucinating at the time and it was really hard not to just slap him in the face and run away. He runs a venue now though, so I’m really glad I didn’t. It’s kind of about my experience at drama school, Bell, the main character, has spent her entire life wanting to be a ballet dancer, but is now told she isn’t good enough, that was kind of me with acting at Conti. The characters are all archetypes, big bold exaggerations of what they are in real life.
How did audiences respond when it was performed in Brighton?
Before Brighton, we had only done the show in front of people we knew, and obviously people you know laugh at anything. So I was worried, but when we took it to Brighton, in front of new audiences, it excelled. People actually took the script in and we got a lot more laughs for the punch lines and not just at bits like the guy in a gimp suit tap dancing. People still laughed at that as well, because everyone loves a tap dance. The new audiences also appreciated the moments of pathos a bit more. Doing a play about lost hope in front of people full of hope isn’t always great, when Swan Bake finds it’s real target market, the outsiders, the loners, the people just about clinging on, it’s wonderful. We also got some proper blokes in who loved it. Don’t really know why, but now I kind of want to make ‘theatre for proper blokes’, I’d give out John Smiths and in the interval have a meat raffle.
In one sentence can you describe the experience of performing in Edinburgh in August?
Stress, stress and more stress, after that it’s magic.
What will you be doing after the Fringe?
I would like Swan Bake to have a London run, hopefully, something will come from Edinburgh. I may be doing a MA in Theatre Directing because as much as I like to pretend otherwise I actually take this quite seriously. I’m looking for a home for a play I’ve written called Olympic Fencing, after Swan Bake that’s my next focus. I’m also trying to set up a comedy wrestling federation but that’s a story for another time.
Samson will be bringing his Swan Bake to Edinburgh
Aug 2-28 : C Venues (14.40)