A CUP OF TEA WITH GARETH FARR
Posted on 28 March 2023.
Posted in: Interviews with cast and creatives
We caught up with writer Gareth Farr to talk writing highlights, inspiration, and his new play, Biscuits for Breakfast which opens Downstairs 5 May.
In a nutshell, what is your play Biscuits for Breakfast about?
Biscuits for Breakfast is about two people who meet, fall in love and gradually, through no fault of their own, find themselves slipping into poverty. To begin with it is a challenge that they face head-on but over time the impact of their situation becomes unbearable.
The play is set in Cornwall and deals with the reasons why so many coastal communities are facing financial hardship. By changing a couple of place names, Biscuits for Breakfast could be relocated to any fishing town in Britain.
The play also deals with various versions of hunger. The characters are hungry for lots of things - family, security, creativity, progression, and food. It is also about resilience and how we can help those who are in desperate need by being funny or tender or utterly determined.
Where did the title come from?
I often come up with a working-title for my plays before I start writing them and if the working-title still feels relevant after the play is written, then I’ll keep it. Sometimes I find that I have written a line or a phrase that sums up the entire play in just a few words, so I swap this in and use it for the title of the play. Biscuits for Breakfast is both of these things. It was the working title and as I was writing, it became the central line in the play that sums up the core message. So, it couldn’t be anything else.
What inspired you to write Biscuits for Breakfast?
Originally, I was asked by a brilliant young theatre production company called JAM to write a play that in some way involved food poverty. I started to research and began to work at a food bank near to where I live. I was utterly astounded by the sheer amount of people who needed food support and how many of them were in work. It made me wonder whether this is a recent issue or whether food poverty on this scale existed ten/fifteen/twenty years ago. It was this that made me consider the possibility of a sound scape from the past, in order to make a comment on our present.
How do you think the audience is going to feel when they leave the theatre after watching?
A little bit sad.
A little bit happy.
A lot like they’ve been told a good story.
Do you have a favourite line in the play?
One of the characters is a chef so I have tried to include food in every scene. Food is such a personal thing and really divides opinion, which offered a load of opportunity for fun in the writing. The disagreement about whether to put a boiled egg in a fish-pie seems to have caused huge debate with those who have read it so far.
What play / film / TV show have you seen recently that you’ve really enjoyed, and why?
Happy Valley – because the writing and structure are just utterly brilliant.
Succession – because the characters are so unapologetically ruthless.
I took my daughters (both eight years old) to watch Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World and they both came away feeling like that they too could change the world. That made me happy.
Where is the best place for you to write?
Anywhere that is quiet. If the house is empty, then I like to write at my kitchen table. If not, then I will find a table at Falmouth University library (I am a senior lecturer there). I live near the coast and if it’s possible I try to see the sea before I sit down and after I have finished for the day.
Who are your playwrighting heroes?
So, so many. Just a random few on my list of heroes are…
What has been your highlight as a writer so far?
Seeing any play produced is a huge highlight but winning a Bruntwood Prize with my first full length play was pretty special.
If you could have written any play what would it have been?
The Seagull by Chekhov
The Cherry Orchard by Chekhov
The Beauty Queen of Leenane by Martin McDonagh
A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth
All My Sons by Arthur Miller
Each one of them is completely perfect.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
Biscuits for Breakfast plays Downstairs from 5 May