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Marcus Markou - Keyword: Enthusiasm

Peter Lathan talks to the author of Age-Sex-Location.

If you had to sum up playwright Marcus Markou in just one word, that word would be "enthusiasm". As we sat and chatted in the bar at the Riverside Studios after a Saturday evening performance of Age-Sex-Location, he positively bubbled with it - enthusiasm for the play, for writing, for theatre, for his cast and collaborators, and, in short, for life.

Still a young man, he has packed quite a few careers into his lifetime: he has a BA in History and Poliics and a Master's in Legal and Political Theory; became a journalist; trained as an actor at LAMDA at the age of 27, and set up an Internet publishing business. Now he has moved into playwriting and producing.

What made him start writing plays?

"A friend of mine, Richard Redman, phoned me one day and suggested I should submit some of my journalism pieces to the Old Vic's New Voices, and that set me thinking. If we could dramatise journalistic pieces, why not emails, chat rooms and websites?

"Richard and I worked on the script together for a year, researching the Internet and developing the characters. It was a great platform for me as a writer and I had a draft upon which I could develop the play to what we now see at the Riverside Studios. The collaboration with Richard was crucial and I believe writers should collaborate more."

So how did he become a producer?

"There was no other way to get the play on. The producers I showed it to thought it wasn't commercial enough and I soon came to realise that if I wanted to see it onstage, I would have to produce it myself."

But of course producing a play is not cheap, especially in London, so where was the money to come from? As the son of Greek Cypriot immigrants he didn't have any money behind him nor, without a track record, could he get sufficient funds from a bank loan, so he re-mortgaged his house.

"With the recent rise in house prices it seemed the obvious thing to do," he says with a smile. "I know I'm not going to make it back and I'll be saddled with higher payments, but I really believe in the play and I desperately wanted to do it."

If anything sums up his unbounded enthusiasm and belief in the play, it is this willingness to take the risk, although his attitude to the risk has been tempered with caution. "We were offered one theatre for £250,000," he says, "but that just wasn't possible."

And he has loved the production side.

"It's been a fantastic experience," he says. "The people I've worked with, both the production team and the actors, have been brilliant, and they are such great people to be with. I couldn't have had a better cast. Rehearsals were great. Watching a talented cast bring the words to life was a marvellous experience.

"I've learned so much, too. We had three previews and they did help, but it would have great to have three weeks before the press night. I know what the faults are, and I know how to put them right."

More writing is on the cards for the future, as is more production, through the company he has set up, Titus Media, which he intends to develop new work for both stage and screen. If enthusiasm, hard work and a drive to succeed count for anything, then Marcus Markou will definitely be a name to watch in the future.

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©Peter Lathan 2004