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Bio


A Conversation with Brian Daniels

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Bio


A Conversation with Brian Daniels

 

Brian Daniels has produced more than 200 new plays and musicals since 1994. He has worked with many writers and performers including Steven Berkoff, Maureen Lipman, Richard Dreyfuss, Susannah York, Prunella Scales, Fenella Fielding, Paula Wilcox and Jerry Hall. He has also produced concert artists including Eartha Kitt, Michael Feinstein, Boy George, Ute Lemper, Elaine Stritch, Ron Moody, Chita Rivera, Alison Moyet and Michel Legrand. As a playwright, he has written ‘Where’s Your Mama Gone?’ (Leeds, London, screen play in development) and ‘A Big Day for the Goldbergs’ (Leeds, Edinburgh, UK tour.) He has also adapted the award winning play ‘The Good and the True’ (UK tour, Australia, New Zealand) which received its New York premiere in January 2014 and in September 2014 completed a successful eight-week off-Broadway season. Brian is currently working on a commission to write a play around the testimonies of those abused in childhood.

 
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Ride to Live


Ride to Live


Bio


"Writing this play has been a voyage of discovery"

 

Bio


"Writing this play has been a voyage of discovery"

 

 

A Conversation with Brian Daniels

Playwright Brian Daniels discusses Don't Leave Me Now, his career to date and future projects.

What inspired Don't Leave Me Now?

The play was inspired by the diaries of Professor Rachael Dixey who nursed her long-term partner Irene through early onset dementia and wrote about her experiences. Rachael asked me to read her journal to see if I thought there was a possibility of bringing the story to life on the stage. She wrote so beautifully about the impact on her, her career, their family and friends. I was gripped by the rawness and read the whole journal in one day. It raised so many questions. How could someone who had been so vital and vibrant be reduced to an almost vegetative state by this cruel illness? How could Rachael continue to love someone who was so reduced? Does love ever die and duty begin? I wanted to explore these questions. If not to find answers, then to at least give the carer a voice.

In Irene’s care home was Chris Toulman whose wife Cindy visited him daily for the last seven years of his life. I fused the stories of Rachel and Irene, Chris and Cindy together to create the play. I gave the Chris and Cindy characters one adult child - an only child - because the burden of duty falls more heavily on an only child. Does she/he put their own life on hold to help care for the person they have already lost?

Has your understanding of dementia changed since writing the play?

It’s been a real voyage of discovery, and the feedback I’ve had from family, carers and mental and health care practitioners has been invaluable. I had no personal experience of either living with or working with dementia, but it became obvious through my research that it is a life-limiting illness with a debilitating impact on family life; the devastating effects on memory and behaviour, the vulnerability of the person diagnosed. But there’s also love, acceptance and humour, and I wanted to balance the two, by portraying this journey into the unknown, how people comprehend and cope. Two very different families, seemingly worlds apart. Anger, confusion and denial giving way to acceptance, resolution and friendship.

What do you want the audience to take away from seeing the play?

I hope people will leave the production with a feeling that all families have elements of functionality and dysfunctionality; that every family has difficulties and copes with challenges like dementia in different ways. When you stage any kind of a play, all the characters should fulfil a ‘journey’ from start to finish. It's my hope that audience members will identify with one or more of those journeys. And the play's not just about dementia. It’s about the obligations of family carers, the only child.

 

How did you get started as a producer?

I was a successful businessman in the 1980s and the established television writer Kay Mellor approached me to ask if I would be interested in producing a feature film that she'd written and wanted to direct. I was excited by the prospect of re-inventing myself and leapt to the challenge. Kay had a play, ‘The Passionate Woman’, opening in the West End. I was sitting with her opposite the theatre having dinner and her name was up there in lights. Watching people going in I thought, 'What an exciting life it must be to write a play and have it produced in the West End.'

The film ‘Fanny and Elvis’ was eventually released in 2000 starring Ray Winstone and Kerry Fox. In the interim period I’d started theatre producing. I was drawn to the notion of ‘theatre of life’ using theatre as a vehicle to reflect contemporary social issues.

Between 1997 and 2011 I was Artistic Director of the New End Theatre, Hampstead, an independent off-West End Theatre. I also leased the Shaw Theatre in Euston and the Players Theatre in the West End. In addition to producing new drama I also produced a number of concerts with artists ranging from Boy George to Eartha Kitt, Dionne Warwick, Elaine Stritch, Michael Feinstein and numerous others.

When did you start writing plays?

My writing career took off when I was commissioned to write short plays for the Edinburgh Festival. My first full-length play ‘Where’s Your Mama Gone’ was inspired by the Yorkshire Ripper saga. The son of Sutcliffe’s first victim wrote a book about his childhood. I worked with him and created a play from parts of that story. My second play ‘A Big Day for the Goldbergs’ has had several productions in London, Edinburgh, Leeds and other touring venues. I was commissioned by one of Prague’s leading Repertory Theatres, Svandovo Divadlo, to adapt a play about two holocaust survivors. This play ‘The Good and the True’ has won several awards, toured the UK and had a successful eight-week run in New York at the DR2 Theatre, Union Square. It is currently scheduled to be performed in Australia and New Zealand.

Do you have any projects in the pipeline?

I'm currently working on a new play 'Finishing Touches' around the adult testimonies of victims of child sexual abuse. I've also been commissioned to write a new play about the journey of a patient with pancreatic cancer through the NHS system.

Rachel's book 'Irene, Alzheimer’s and Me' will be published in May 2016 by Medina Publishing.

Director Information:

Director, Jeni Draper has worked nationally and internationally as a performer over many years. She is co-founder and Artistic Director of fingersmiths Theatre Company (www.fingersmiths.org.uk) and directed a sell out and critically acclaimed national tour of Bryony Lavery’s play ‘Frozen.’ She also directed Shenagh Govan in her one-woman show ‘War Crimes for the Home,’ by Anne Pearson. Jeni is delighted to have been on the ‘Don’t Leave Me Now’ journey since its early days as the subject is close to her heart. 

Past Interviews:

ehospice 23rd October 2015 'Don't Leave Me Now - exploring dementia through drama'

Isle of Wright County Press 9th October 2015  'Study of dementia for new Isle of Wight readings' 

Yorkshire Evening Press 7th March 2015 'Dedicated wife's decade of care inspires play on dementia struggles'

University of Huddersfield 6th February 2015 'Don't Leave Me Now - the effects of living with dementia'  

Huddersfield Daily Examiner 6th February 2015 'Exploring dementia through drama' 

Yorkshire Post 19th September 2013 'I live for seeing him, but I know there's no going back...no hope'