Playwright's Podcast: Transcript of Series 6 Episode 3 - Nazareth Hassan talks to Omar Elerian
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This is the transcript of the recorded conversation between Nazareth Hassan (NH) and Omar Elerian (OE), recorded for Series 6 of the Royal Court Playwright’s Podcast. This conversation was recorded in March 2022. The following content may contain strong language.
OE Welcome to series 6 of the Playwrights Podcast with me, Omar Elerian. This series will have a special focus on the international writers the Royal Court theatre works with.
OE So, today I’m with Nazareth Hassan. Nazareth Hassan is an interdisciplinary artist working in writing, performance, music, sound, video & photography based in Brooklyn, New York. His performance score ‘Untitled (1–5)’ was performed at The Shed this past June and is being published this Spring. He has just sound designed the play ‘A song of songs’ by Agnes Borinsky at the Bushwick Starr in Brooklyn, and he has released 3 singles since 2021.
OE Good afternoon, Nazareth.
OE How’s it going?
NH It’s good. It’s very sunny, very bright here in Brooklyn.
The thing I like to ask at the beginning of our podcast to the playwrights is what do they see outside the window of the room?
NH So I’m in the back of the building. And I have a little fire escape, that’s black. And then I have a tree right next to the fire escape that bangs on it at night. And it’s super loud. She’s very aggressive. She’s a very aggressive tree. But she’s bald right now. She doesn’t have any leaves. And then outside, beyond the tree there is this huge hospital that’s kind of scary looking, in the distance.
OE Right. And is Brooklyn home?
NH Brooklyn is home at the moment. I actually will be moving to London in June, which is exciting. But Brooklyn is home. I’ve been in New York for about eight years.
OE Right. So new chapter ahead.
So I wanted to start with a question about theatre making and theatre in general, just because I was reading a few of your plays earlier this week or last week. And I think in one of them, you offer quite a scathing analysis of theatre and its role. So my first question is, why theatre? What brought you to choose theatre as one of the mediums of your work, because as we’ve heard you’re quite the polymath.
NH Theatre is one of the few media that can hold all those interests. I can work in sound, I can work in video, I can write, I can choreograph, and it is still all part of the same work. And I think that is definitely a part of it. The dynamism of it. But I have a very emotional connection to theatre. I think that theatre was a place for me when I was growing up, both to rest and also to expunge and release things. To create the world as I saw it, but also create the world as I wanted it to be. And I think it was a place where I felt comfortable being able to simulate pain. Simulate confusion. Things that I found harder to express in daily life, for any given reason. Or shame. Shame, I think, is a big emotion I approach theatre with because it’s so social, and it’s so virtual, I guess… it’s a virtual emotion. Those kinds of emotions that are ubiquitous but also private are the things that I was using theatre to parse through.
I think theatre is not easy. It’s not easy to be a part of theatre. Theatre is not easy to make. Nothing about theatre is simple. But the reason I’ve been able to stay with theatre for so long is because it can hold so many different parts of a person, of me. There’s not much I can’t talk about in a piece of theatre, or not much I can’t parse through. So that’s why theatre has become a very turbulent lover of mine.
OE Do you have an inciting incident with theatre? Do you have a first memory or…?
NH Well, I started making music. That was probably the first piece of art or art practice that I started with. Because my dad was a musician. And my grandma was a musician. And so I was playing the piano and saxophone and all that stuff. And I started doing musical theatre through that. I remember the first time I did a musical I did ‘Seussical’. Oh my gosh! And I remember the first time I ran out on stage and saw the audience and hit whatever pose I was hitting and sang the song, and they were all applauding. I definitely think my ego felt very good. I was very validated by that moment.
But I think there’s also something about the enormity of a crowd of people having their attention focused on another crowd of people that was endlessly fascinating to me. Why is this gathering so potent?
Also, I grew up in a partially mixed-religion family. Part of my family is Muslim. Part of my family if Baptist. My grandpa’s Catholic. So there were all these different religious rituals that were happening. Other forms of theatre that were happening in churches and mosques. And I think I always was sort of analysing that as theatre more than I was participating in it. And that’s sort of what led me to directing.
OE And so how did the writing, or the making come through? At what point did you start to think, ‘This is the thing I like do, this is a place I enjoy being’?
NH Well, I’m very mercurial with my attention span and my interests. And so as a kid I was writing and doing all these things, just whatever piqued my interest at any given time, but around the time I got to college I’d decided I was going to be a director. Because I was disenchanted with what it felt like to be a performer. I was feeling trapped in, not my body, but my perception of my body. And the history of being a Black person on stage in America. And how our bodies and experiences are oftentimes physically managed in a very violent way. And so I think coming out of that experience and violently turning the other way, and thinking, ‘I’m going to create my own world,’ I think I was yearning for personal investment in the work. When I got to school I was like, ‘Oh, they want me to direct, you know, fucking Eugene O’Neill. Freaking “Romeo and Juliet”…’ You know, stuff that’s important in some ways to have experience with but I didn’t have any emotional connection to it. It didn’t feel to me like the sort of catharsis they were talking about. I needed to write something that was more accurate, I guess, or more explosive, or more expository, maybe. And I remember I had a teacher who wrote a play that was completely bonkers. His name is Jordan Baum and we actually went to grad school together. But he wrote a crazy play about this turbulent relationship he had been through, and it broke something in me. And I realised you can write anything. Anything you want. After I saw that play I went home and wrote this two–pager that was really chaotic, you know?
OE Yeah, it was really fascinating to read your work, which made me want to see your work! Because there is this sense of the page becoming alive. When I was reading ‘Untitled…’ For those listening to us, these are directions, but there’s pages of pages of ‘ha’s and ‘hoo’s and laughter! Which, of course made my imagination kind of wander!
How did you find this way of writing which is as far as possible from Eugene O’Neill or ‘Romeo and Juliet’? Very performative in that way. I wanted to know, how did you develop that very specific line of inquiry? Working with actors? Working with performers?
NH Sometimes it’s just as big a mystery to me as it is to other people. I think, a lot of times, I’m writing from a place of self-reflection, or trying to see something or understand something about myself that’s alive in me but I don’t have the words for. Something that is incongruous. So, a lot of it is just gut to page and then I’m like, ‘What the fuck is this?!’
I think part of that has to do with my musical background. I think a lot of my plays, I approach from a very rhythmic place. And because of that that, the plays are harshened somewhat, because they are crafted to hit the body, or to affect the body physically, in the way that rhythm does. And so, yeah, I think there’s something about me trying to create a sensorial usage of a word or of text within the theatrical experience. A use that isn’t just sort of cognitive but is also physical or bodily. Because I think that’s how I experienced whatever it is I’m writing about. Something that is not cognitive, or is not able to be processed in that way.
OE Do you ever have any pushback in terms of how you present this work on the page? Because if you go to whatever university or playwriting course they’ll tell you, ‘Here’s a bunch of examples and here’s how you write a three–act linear play’… How was it for you?
NH Yeah, I was definitely gently and sometimes not so gently guided to use Final Draft.
But when I was an undergrad I was just writing so much. There was one summer where I wrote three or four plays of varying lengths. Just pumping that shit out. And so at a certain point I was bringing so much work in to my teachers and there was so much that I think they became a little hands off with me. Like, ‘We’re going to just let you do what you do.’ And I had some teachers who encouraged a more poetic approach to formatting a play. Because I think formatting a play has to do with the rhythm as well. Creating music on the page means creating a visual orientation that does what you want the text to do to the body, you know.
I went to a grad programme that was super experimental. It was run by Mac Wellman and Erin Courtney. And by the time I got there they were totally on board with all the experimentation. And they actually pushed me further. That’s where I wrote ‘Untitled…’ actually, was in grad school. I actually think I get the most pushback from theatres. Especially stateside theatres that say, ‘I don’t know how long this is going to be because the formatting is all fucked up.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, I guess you’re gonna have to do the play then.’
OE And this brings me to the next question I wanted to ask you which is about the role of theatre and specifically new writing where you live and work? Because I feel, having worked in London for a long time, but also coming to New York to see shows or receiving a lot of work from the States, there is often a distinct difference in the use of form. Especially with your generation of playwrights, in the last 10 or 15 years, we see and read plays with a much more radical use of form. The plays are much more experimental compared to the new plays here, of course we have had experimental plays and radical uses of form in the UK, but not as much and not at such a push. So I was wondering, you have probably been seeing shows in London, how do you compare the two?
NH It’s so complex and I think about this all the time. I think about the mechanics of how theatre exists. What the purpose of theatre is in any given society. And how that matches up to the purpose of text in theatre, and the purpose of language versus anything else.
I feel as though here writing is taken for granted. And that’s something I’ve noticed in the UK as well. I think this is a sort of Western trait, excluding Germany. But I think that text is looked at as the anchor. The thing that will place us in a story, in a particular context, but also centre the room and collaborators. And that’s a lot for some words to do. That’s a lot of pressure. And so when you build a structure around this particular part of the art form the play suddenly needs to do so much more beyond just self-expression or experimentation. Now it needs to support the financial aspirations of a theatre and its support subscriber bases, and it needs to pull. So what happens is the play itself gets taken for granted. We need plays to be so steady and dependable that we can’t let them become slippery. We can’t let them become new or experimental or dangerous. Because literally the entire structure of a theatrical production is balancing on top of this one play. So, I think here a lot of the reason theatre is not a fashionable medium is because of that. Is because the theatre won’t allow it to be. It feels this it needs this particular form of play. Three-act structure or what have you, in order to maintain its own structural integrity.
OE How do you dismantle that? You do dismantle it in your own work, but in terms of presentation within the institutions and within the industry, as an artist, what kind of agency that you feel you have?
NH You ask some hard questions! I don’t feel I have any, honestly. That’s kind of why I don’t only work in theatre. I feel that maybe what you were referring to earlier about the essay about hopeless theatre, a lot of that is at play when I enter theatre spaces, especially in the States. There’s this tension between theatre having been greatly freeing and a great release to me, a place where I’ve seen myself in ways I’ve never seen myself and been able to see other people and pull things out of other people that they haven’t seen in themselves, and this feeling of walking into a theatre and being told that it’s too risky or this play or the way you work does not literally fit inside of our structure. It’s kept me working in places like The Shed, or going into galleries, or working across disciplines because it’s hard to continue putting all your energy into tapping on a door that just won’t open for you. Or won’t open for you in the ways that I feel like I deserve. So I think it’s a complicated dance.
And also because theatre is so small as well, there remains the possibility of making theatre with the people that I’m in community with. The show I just did Bushwick Starr was nice, because I was working with artists that I really like. It wasn’t about showing up to a roomful of strangers and having to sort of do some sort of dance. It was actually about engaging theatre as a community building experience, or as a social experiment, you know?
OE It’s interesting because especially during the last two years when a lot of theatres had to forcibly shut down and we’ve been going online or trying to distil or reproduce some of what we were doing on stage in another medium, with not necessarily always the best results, it has sharpened that need for proximity that you were talking about. The fact that actually we need to be in the room, and the audience come from within a radius of the place you’re doing it. While in New York, being kind of Broadway theatre capital for the US, people come from all over the world and the country to consume it. So, it feels to me that there is a tension between theatre with a capital T and a more immediate, genuine form that can happen in a basement or a big room, but, where the people that make up the audience are the really important element, not the bums on seats.
NH Yeah, it’s just so crazy to me because the philosophers who developed our understanding of theatre also side by side developed our understanding of the self. It was where we learned that being a human being is about reflection and refraction of the self through others. And that is the most human thing ever. It’s so applicable. And yet, when I look at what theatre actually has to offer the world now it is so far removed from that. So far removed from its own understanding of its power. It’s also weird being interdisciplinary and working with visual artists or dancers and seeing how much their medium, for example the visual arts world, is dependent on newness to survive. It’s about trendiness, in a lot of ways. It’s about the next new thing. So it forces artists to always be thinking on the broadband of that. Whereas a lot of theatre training is, ‘Here’s how you write the arc of the play’, and, ‘This is the denouement’, and it doesn’t really line up with the way other artists approach their work. It’s very strange to me.
OE And you being a musician as well, how do you navigate that difference? Because music, again, has a different immediacy. How do you code–switch between the two? Or do you code–switch?
NH I think for me writing is writing, but writing is not theatre making. I write a lot of different things. I write songs, poems, plays, whatever. And for me theatre making is an almost entirely social art form that only happens when I get in a room and start reacting. An idea bounces at me, I create something and send it back. That to me is theatre making. And so making music is a very private practice for me. And I share it with people… I make music for plays and music for dancers, I make my own music. But I usually am inside my own bubble, inside my own body, trying to manifest a feeling or create a sound that then creates or matches the feeling that I’m feeling in that moment. In that way those practices are sometimes at odds. In a similar way writer for theatre is also very private. A lot of the time my work is about me sitting, toiling in my own body or toiling in my own mental space, and then needing to share, and the sharing being the actual theatre making. Which is similar with music. When I feel I really need to be understood or seen is when I can transition into that theatre maker brain, you know.
OE So, I was reading ‘VANTABLACK’, which I don’t know if it has already been performed?
NH Yeah, in a few different iterations.
OE And there’s many things in that play, but one that I was particularly interested in asking you about was the concept of reparations. And just because in the play it kind of gets articulated and then exposed and looked at from many different angles. Is a theme like that, which is quite big, something you feel the medium of theatre allows you to tackle in a way others don’t?
NH Yes, because it can make big things small and small things big. Theatre is about scale to me. It’s about physical scale but also internal emotional scale. I can make something that is such a tiny, tiny moment, massive and huge. And I can play out the same over for two hours if I want. That’s something that theatre in particular allows you to do that others can’t.
I think the way reparations were written about in ‘VANTABLACK’ was all about scale. Reparations is a big idea that is more a theory than a practice really. It has obviously happened in certain places but… But I think for me, I was able to take the grandiosity of reparations and ask how that plays out on an interpersonal level. And I think theatre is one of the few places where I can take something super opaque, a rambunctious idea, and make it into something liveable. I also think what that play was trying to do was imagine a world where something that won’t happen, could. Imagining how something that won’t happen could be liveable. Knowing that this is something that probably won’t happen in my lifetime but wondering how might it feel to indulge in the fantasy of that being liveable?
OE And do you imagine an audience when you write? Do you imagine how they feel? That they have expectations? Or is there a sense of just experimenting and seeing what happens?
NH You know, I don’t imagine the audience. But I don’t write cinematically either. I don’t imagine it not being in a theatre. It’s always a performance. But I think it’s because I’m the audience. So I’m writing it as if I’m watching it. Which I haven’t thought about in a long time. That’s a good question.
OE Why I’m asking, just to contextualise a bit, is because I’ve felt seeing a lot of work over the past few years coming from the States… especially work around race in American society, I felt that there is a sense that certain plays, for example Jackie Sibblies Drury’s or Jeremy O. Harris’s play, they are looking at something in the audience. And having been in that audience a few times there is this question of who is this play for? Or how many different people is this play for? And how is it interacting with different people from different experiences at the same time? And I was intrigued by how this plays out in an American context?
NH How do you experience them being different? In the way that it’s plays out in America versus the UK?
OE Well it’s interesting because I’ve not seen these plays, for instance, in Germany or Italy where I live, or France where I’ve lived for many years. I see them only through a British lens. And it feels to me to a certain extent, of course, we live in the American psychosis. We absorb it, because we’re part of the culture, but at the same time a lot of the times the references can lose themselves or cannot match the same experience that you have in Britain. And especially with the discourse around race, there are similarities, but there are also huge differences. So I do feel there is not a qualitative difference, but a difference in terms of how the energy in the room moves around. And I was curious about whether, working in New York, you see your work shifting depending on what audience you have?
NH Well, I kind of want to push you on the question. Because I think, you know, me and Jeremy O. Harris’s work, and me and Jackie Sibblies Drury’s work are very different. We are all worried about race but we worry about race very differently. So I wonder, when you ask what kind of audience am I imagining… is the question actually, ‘What do I hope to get from an audience writing these kinds of things?’ Or, ‘Am I writing for a white audience?’ What specifically?
OE I felt when reading it, there was a sense that this is in the room with people. And thinking also about theatre spaces like The Shed, which is not a new writing venue, it is a more experimental venue. I’m always intrigued as an artist, what one expects there to be in the room when the marketing department does their job of bringing people, and whether you feel you are getting the audience that you want, or you are just happy to put the work in front of the audience that is brought to you by, say, the institution.
NH Anyone that’s doing theatre knows that a theatre audience is gonna be white and moneyed, right? There are, of course, outliers in that, and I think the UK maybe is a little bit more diverse in its audiences because the plays are cheaper. But yeah, I don’t think I’m ever writing a play for a room of Black people because that’s never been my experience. And so, honestly, I’m writing my place for myself first. The reason my plays couldn’t come out as experimentally or as differently as they do is because the theatre doesn’t have audience members like me. Forget about writers like me, they don’t have audience members like me, who experience the emotions that I experience, or who understand double consciousness or triple consciousness the way I experience it, or who approach psychology and approach our understanding of the self the way I might. And so, I think that’s why those plays come out that way. And honestly and maybe selfishly, I think, I write the plays to feel that feeling. To be able to say this is how I feel. This is it. And of course, knowing that we live in that structure can make you jaded a little bit, and make you feel, ‘Oh, I’m only writing for white people.’ But knowing that, I think there’s a part of me that also writes hoping that I’ll be able to attract people like me to come and see it, which happens. For every 100 people that come to the theatre every time a new play is out, then there’s those 10 people who are new and who read the description on the subway and wanted to come see it. And so there is a little bit of hope. But I think there is an inherent violence to being a Black person in the theatre. A Black artist. If you want to make a living as an artist and be Black, you will find there’s parts of working that are completely centred around whiteness. And I think that there’s a level of resistance to that fact sometimes, but it’s just the truth. Where money is there’s whiteness, and I think we’re maybe getting to a point where Black people have more access to the industry and more opportunity to direct where funds go. But I think at its core, art, art making, art industries are run by white people. So those are the people that are coming to see the work. There is an artist, a rapper named Noname, she’s from Chicago and she’s a great rapper. She’s fantastic. She likes theory and has an intellectual bent to her. And she’s actually kind of quiet a little bit, which I love about her. But a few years ago she quit rapping because she said her concerts were full of white people saying the N word to her, back at her, like, rapping the songs back to her. And I thought about that. And I was like, ‘Yeah, of course the main people listening to rap music are white people, because those are the main people consuming anything.’ Consuming culture. And when we think about what it means to be Black artists, especially in America but I think across the world frankly, one of the world’s pastimes is consuming blackness, and consuming Black people. And so, of course, our industry is poised and shaped in a way that supports that. Supports the consumption of blackness. But to answer your question, I write for myself, because that’s the only person there is to write for.
OE Right, thank you.
I wanted to ask you, what is inspiring you at the moment? And of course with you being across so many different art forms and mediums it doesn’t need to be theatre necessarily. Actually, I do find it quite refreshing when speaking about theatre to see where people look for inspiration, for ideas, for connections.
NH Well, I think I’m a real sap. I’m super, super emotional. And I think that a lot of my work, especially these days, has been centred around experiencing this new spectrum of emotions. Also accepting that I’m an emotional person and not trying to tame myself. And instead, just being present within all my moods. I’m very moody. And being present within my moodiness and all the shifting qualities of my personality and documenting that. And then also, paying attention to that in other people. I’ve been really fascinated with how validation works, and how validation within certain communities powers people. How people take it on as fuel. How I took it on as fuel as a person. And what’s there to replace it. Especially being such social creatures and needing validation to be able to function on a basic level, but also be able to push yourself and to grow. Needing validation to do that, but also rebuking the feeling that it’s something I live for. So that’s a small thing I’m thinking about. I also, you know, I think about intimacy and connection often and the nature of relationships, the nature of relating. I think lately my relationships, platonic and romantic and familial, have been a big source of inspiration for me. Just because there’s something about being able to zero in on the way someone changes you, and the way you change them, that is impressing something on me now. Seeing someone’s fingerprints on you and being able to examine how your body or your spirit or your heart has formed around those imprints. And this is a grandiose thing and also a small thing, but I think about that in terms of generational trauma, and how certain violences are imprinted into your DNA. So your genetics, your body is shaped by the experiences of your ancestors. I think about that in relationships where we might develop certain fears, fears of the heart based on how we were treated before. There’s something really special about that relationship to me, and I think I’ve been exploring that across all my work regardless of the medium. I just finished a book of poems and photographs that was about that. And I think a lot of my music is about that.
OE As your work springs from you, as you say you’re writing it for other people but also for yourself to understand yourself better, to reflect… can I ask how you protect yourself in spaces that, again as you’ve said, can be quite violent? What filter can you use? Or how do you look after yourself?
NH I think it’s about being upfront about your needs. If a theatre approaches me about doing a play, for example, and I don’t know them, I will be clear that the play means a lot to me, and ask them what their intentions are. Being clear about my own intentions and holding firm on what I need. Because I know that if I let the wrong hands hold a play of mine, it could be really detrimental emotionally. I had an experience like that abroad, where I was swept up in the glamour, and the bigness of the moment and didn’t take enough care to realise, ‘Oh, if I let the wrong person do the wrong thing with this play, I’m gonna be scarred’, and I was. And I contemplated quitting and almost dropped out of grad school at the time. I was not able to function correctly. So I think I have to be very forward. And I think also it’s about surrounding myself with people that I trust. I work more often than not in a company form. Even though I don’t have an official company I have a group of collaborators, actors, designers and artists, who I work with frequently. And those relationships have been built over years. It takes a long time for me to really trust people and feel like, ‘This is a person that can grow with me and can challenge me but also can pat me on the back and do all those things in tandem with each other.’ I had to learn that lesson pretty quickly because my career is quite fresh. So it was crash–coursing into the work. And so I understood that if I was going to be able to continue to use art for what I need it for emotionally and also have a career in it, I have to be really be strict with myself about who has access to me and how.
OE And have you found people to look up to or systems of support that were already in place or…?
NH Some. I think I can be quite indignant. And I can be sort of stubborn as well. Especially about my work. I feel I’ve made the work, I’m going to do it this way. You know what I mean? If you don’t want to do it, let’s not do it that way. But I’m going to do it this way, you know what I mean? And more often than not it’s hard to find mentors who make space for that, but I think that actually the Court have been a real support system for me in that way. Every idea I’ve posed to them, or any new work is always welcomed with open arms. And it’s not really judged. It’s trusted. It’s trusted to be of quality because it’s mine.
I also think sometimes it’s hard working with your idols. I have writers in my mind who I’ve worked with and felt, ‘Wow, this person is an auteur! They’re brilliant! I gotta get in the room with them!’ And then you get in the room with them and you’re like, ‘Oh my God, my heart has been broken.’ So I think I’ve just chosen not to engage that relationship type. Until it’s presented to me. Some of my friends have mentors, older artists that they’re in relationship with and I sometimes wonder what that’s like. I’ve sort of staved that off until I can find the right one, you know?
OE It’s interesting because I think sometimes with those relationships when it’s transactional it works very well, i.e. open your address book, get me in touch with these people. And I think that is very useful. And quite unemotional. ‘I like the work you do, I want to help you out and this is how I’m going to help you out.’ But then I think there’s also something interesting about demystifying the industry and all that comes with it. I guess that’s why I was asking the question in terms of where are those people that allow us as artists to be aware about how certain things can be weaponised or how certain environments can be difficult to navigate. And that’s not only about race, it might have to do with gender, it might have to do with disability, with a number of things. So I guess what I was asking is do you as an artist feel a sense of responsibility in terms of the legacy you want to build?
NH Well, I’m also a teacher. And so part of my immediate work is about being able to create a space for a younger artist to experiment and to change safely. Because change is such a turbulent process. It’s, ‘How can I make that the simplest thing for you?’ And so I hope that when I’m a bit older and have a bit more resource I’ll be able to do that on a larger scale.
But thinking about legacy is really hard for me, because I am quite young, and I am living in a world that is grim. So when I think, ‘What is the legacy I’m going to leave?’, I know that I will leave a legacy, and it will be me, and it will be mine, and other things that are important to me. But when I think about planning, or even the kind of career I might want to build, it’s hard for me to imagine.
OE Can’t see that far…
NH And I quite treasure that, I think. I treasure that just because it makes things easier. The choice becomes what’s right in front of me, which is great. I love that, but I think there’s a point where I stopped being able to imagine the future in a concrete way, or imagine my desires for the future. And so I think I’m just kind of letting that be the truth of the matter, as opposed to trying to fight that and being like, ‘Well, let me try anyway.’ If my body isn’t asking that of me, I’m not gonna do it.
OE Cool. One last question. And what is the burning question you’re grappling with at the moment?
NH Um, what’s new? And not even what is what is new now, but is it possible to be new? I know the answer to that is probably no. But you know, what is newness?
I’ve been rereading Mark Fisher and his writing on ontology. And he’s not a pessimist but he writes about culture in such a cyclical way that it’s making me question what is the next sensation? You know, what is the next vibe to ride, you know?
OE That’s a great question. And do you apply that question to your work as well, in terms of theatre and writing?
NH Well, whenever I try to write that way it always becomes convoluted. So I’ve learnt not to do that. But I think that when I write about something I don’t understand, that’s where the new thing is, that’s when the newness arrives. And so I’m trying to pay attention to more of the things I don’t understand.
OE Amazing. And since, in the conversation, you’ve already dropped a few names of artists and thinkers… This is a question I always ask at the end which is, recommend me something?
NH So my favourite book of poetry to date is called ‘Pillar of Books’ by Moon Bo Young. I forget who the translator is. But it is fantastic. It changed the way I wrote. I think I read it two or three years ago and I was like, ‘Wow, this is truly stunning.’ Mark Fisher, love him. I’m in a novel moment, which is unusual. I usually only read poems or theory, but I’m reading ‘Vladimir’ but Julia Mae Jonas, which is good.
OE Great. Well, Nazareth that was a real pleasure. Thanks so much for speaking with me.
NH Have a good one.
OE Have a good one too, bye.
OE Thanks for listening to the Royal Court Theatre’s Playwrights Podcast, if you’d like to listen to more make sure you subscribe to get the next episode. The Playwrights Podcast is brought to you by the Royal Court theatre, presented by me Omar Elerian, produced by Anoushka Warden and Emily Legg and with music by Kareem Samara.