Julian, could you tell us about your new play, The Blue Whale. What’s it about?
The Blue Whale is about Lewis, a loser-in-love who meets a girl online. She sets him a series of challenges as part of a game known as Blue Whale. As the challenges escalate, so do the stakes, placing Lewis in increasing conflict with those around him. The play explores issues of toxic masculinity, romantic desperation, and finding purpose in an online world.
What was your inspiration behind the idea?
The play came about as a result of an article I read about the Blue Whale phenomenon. I am very interested in how people behave and interact online, and how the personae we create for ourselves can often be very different to our real selves. The opening scene, however, came long before I had read the article. I had written a scene that I felt communicated toxic friendships between men, but had abandoned it. However, when the idea for The Blue Whale started to form in my head, I felt the scene would be a good starting point to launch the story that follows.
Can you tell us about your writing process?
It was an unusual writing process in that it was quite bitty. Normally, I like to write a play in one go over a period of a few days, but, for this one, the opening scene was written separately long before the rest of the script. Even then, I wrote maybe 2/3 of the play and let it rest for a while before finding its conclusion. It’s not the way I like to work, but it took me a while to fully unstick myself in terms of taking the story to its finish.
This is the first play performed in London by a Gibraltarian playwright by a Gibraltarian company? Can you tell us more about this – what does it mean to you?
I have had a few ten-minute plays performed in London previously, and there are other local writers out there who have had their worked staged in the capital. It has been an objective of mine to get a full-length play staged in London for a few years, and, when the opportunity presented itself, I immediately wanted to take advantage of it. The team is made up of former students of mine, and to achieve this aim with a group of people with whom I have a long history is extremely gratifying. It is an experience that no one can take from us and that will bond us for life. They are a wonderful group of young people who know full well what this opportunity means to me and are working very hard towards doing it justice.
How did Gibraltar and your experience of being from there inform or provide inspiration for the play?
The play does not really have anything to do with Gibraltar. While I have written a few plays that tackle Gibraltarian issues, I do also enjoy writing plays that are perhaps more universal in their themes. Having said that, I think that there’s a uniqueness to the fact that a Gibraltarian team will be performing this play in London. There is a large community of Gibraltarians living, working and studying in the London area and we hope they will support the production. The theatre is offering reduced price tickets to Gibraltarians and the theatre’s bar will be hosting a Gibraltar-themed night on the evening of the final performance, so the play’s connection to our home will remain strong throughout. And, of course, there is the long history I have with all the members of the company, which makes it very special.
How did you go about getting your work produced?
I staged The Blue Whale with a group of students at the Gibraltar Drama Festival and in another festival in Kent. The play won a number of awards at this Festival, and this prompted me to consider staging it in London with a group of adults as part of my aim to get a full-length play performed in London. When the window for applications to form part of the winter season at The Space opened, we applied and proposed the production and were very surprised when we were invited to a meeting with the team at the theatre, which then offered us a slot. We successfully applied for funding from the Gibraltar Government, and have been rehearsing the play in Gibraltar ahead of our trip to London.
Do you have any advice for any aspiring playwrights who want to get their work produced?
What has served me best has been to develop a network of contacts that have helped me to take the next step in my journey as a writer. I would advise playwrights in particular to establish relationships with The Space. They organise excellent events for emerging artists and are firmly committed to supporting new writing. The team is extremely supportive and make a great deal of time for those who get involved in these events. Many of these events can be accessed online, which is obviously very helpful for someone like myself. Forming links with The Space has made a big difference to this journey.
The Blue Whale will be performed from 23-25 February at 19:30.
A live-streamed performance will also be available on the 25th, and On-
Tickets are available here.
The Space is located at 269 Westferry Road, E14 3RS