GIVING IT THE (GREEN) FINGER: Is gardening the new rock and roll? Hugo Fluendy speaks to the writer of new drama Flight Path with a new take on teenage rebellion

He finds happiness through gardening underneath the flight path at Heathrow

Feature by Hugo Fluendy | 07 Nov 2007
You know the kind of day, week, month, or in this case year, you get when you're just not going to take anymore and the only escape left is a spot of gardening? No? You're young and think gardening is strictly for dusty geriatrics whiling away their retirements in the potting shed and that rebellion is a dish best served with three key ingredients: sex, drugs and rock and roll? Well think again; and while you're doing it catch Flight Path at The Traverse this month.

Flight Path is the second play from the pen of 22 year old theatre wunderkind David Watson. His first was staged as part of the Royal Court Young Writers Festival when he was just 17. Co-produced by pioneering new writing theatre companies Out of Joint and The Bush Theatre, the play follows exactly a year in the life of Jonathan, an alienated 18 year old whose father has just left the family home and whose social worker mother is too busy helping other people's families to pay much heed to her own. His father's departure coincides with the arrival of his twin brother who has Down Syndrome.

Watson takes up the story: "Initially, it's the story of Jonathan's rebellion against these constraints he suddenly finds himself under. He's being pressurised into concentrating on his A levels but he's not sure which path he wants to take. In the end, it actually turns into quite a positive story. He wants to do good by his brother and wants to care for him in a way that his parents are not caring for him so it becomes quite a different story in the end.

"There's 12 scenes covering 12 months from January to December and well, he buys an allotment. He returns home from this residential unit where he hasn't been very happy and the only thing that he's got from this residential place is a love of gardening. He finally finds happiness through gardening underneath the flight path at Heathrow."

The play opened in September in London and while the reviews have veered between hands-in-the-air, full on rave to the distinctly sniffy they are almost unanimous in their prediction of a bright future for this graduate of the Birmingham Rep Transmission and Royal Court young writers groups. Certainly he is busy. Birmingham Rep has commissioned a piece for May 2008 which is currently in development under the working title Green Belt and he has been invited back to the prestigious Royal Court in the New Year as a writer in residence under its Detachments scheme. It's a lot of pressure to put on a young writer but Watson has his own mechanisms to deal with the weight of expectation.

"I think there is an element of terror when you finish something," he explains. "You're used to thinking about something which is very fully formed, being in rehearsals and what not and suddenly you're back to square one. I suppose the key is not to rush into anything new and not to write a play for the sake of writing a play. I think you know deep down when you're ready to embark on a new draft. Actually, I spend a lot of time procrastinating, but in a healthy way, making lots of notes and thinking about ideas. Then writing a draft doesn't take a huge amount of time."

Watson speaks with the calm authority and confident maturity of a writer twice his age, a writer whose characters eschew clichéd teenage rebellion in favour of the quieter pleasures of hardy perennials. He name checks Pinter and Mamet for their razor sharp dialogue as particular inspirations but it's clear that his time at Birmingham Rep and the Royal Court stood him in good stead. "Out of modern playwrights, my biggest influence is Simon Stephens who tutored me at the Royal Court and is really a fantastic teacher. The main thing is to keep writing and cultivate a core belief in your self. These days there are so many young writers' schemes, there's a real infrastructure that there wasn't ten or fifteen years ago. The opportunities are definitely there: it's just about keeping at it!"

Flight Path, The Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, 6 - 10 Nov

The Traverse Young Writers Group for 18 to 25 year olds meets fortnightly. Contact Louise Stephens on (0131) 228 3223 or for more info