Writing in Coffee Shops
This book, subtitled “Confessions of a playwright”, may be deceptively slight but contains much wisdom. In around 125 pages, Ryan Craig attempts to achieve a number of different goals and, for the most part, hits the target every time.
On one level, like so much in his plays, the book reveals a great deal about the Craig family history, largely made up of Jewish immigrants from Central Europe to the East End of London and, more recently, middle-class North-West London. On another track, we are able to learn much about what makes Ryan Craig tick and the life of a playwright, which is anything but 9-to-5.
Perhaps the most rewarding elements relate to the impulses that persuade someone to become a playwright in the first place and then facilitate their work.
In achieving his goals, Craig covers broad themes of finding and utilising ideas, the elements that must be put together to make up a story, the authorial voice and finishes with a chapter on where theatre might be going when we eventually escaped the ravages of coronavirus.
Seeming like rather an afterthought, possibly included at the suggestion of an editor or a publisher, there are also a handful of exercises for budding playwrights sprinkled through the volume.
Within this framework, Writing in Coffee Shops is at times a book of philosophy, it is also an excellent overview of the theatre, citing examples from the Greeks to Shakespeare and contemporary writers to make points about the ways in which plays can be created. In addition, it contains a great deal of contemporary social and political commentary to add background to the story.
Ultimately, this could be an excellent, slightly offbeat manual for those who are considering becoming playwrights or have taken the first steps in that direction. It is also a cracking read.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher