As infertility play The Quiet House receives its world premiere at London’s Park Theatre, Bruntwood Prize-winning writer Gareth Farr tells us about the personal struggle to create the new comic drama:
The Quiet House was, in equal measure, and for different reasons, the easiest and hardest thing I have ever written.
I write all the time, I scribble pieces of dialogue and scene ideas down most days, but when I started The Quiet Houseand on several occasions during its development, I have asked myself whether it’s the right thing to do.
It is an extremely personal piece that has masses of my own life and experience in there and for this reason I had to walk away and turn the computer off at times. But it’s an important story that deals with an issue that affects thousands of people, often in silence. I was compelled to tell this story, to uncover a secret and show an audience the truth of what is often a very misunderstood world.
The Quiet House started when my first play (Britannia Waves The Rules) won the Bruntwood Prize for playwriting in 2011. As soon as it had been programmed by the Royal Exchange my agent issued me the challenge to have another play ready and good to go by the time it opened. As a writer I am passionate about ordinary folk in extraordinary situations and at that time I was involved in the most extraordinary and most dramatic situation I had ever known.
It may not sound too dramatic to most people but starting a family is for some the most treacherous of journeys. Full of hope, heartbreak and at times hilarity. There is a silent epidemic of infertility going on in this country and clinics both private and NHS are packed full of desperate, hopeful and embarrassed people who are doing everything they can to get the family they so desperately need.
It isn’t until you embark on the journey of fertility treatment that you realise the strength of character and faith required in a very unpredictable science. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, the odds are heavily stacked against you and at times it’s hugely, hugely tense.
I found myself living on the precipice, clinging onto tiny strands of hope, unable to breathe at times. How could I not write about it?
The writing process was tough. Starting the play was more difficult than I thought it would be. All the research had been done and the structure was clear to me. The dramatic events felt strong and exciting and the lighter moments of humour were well balanced. But the voices weren’t there. I needed to hear the characters and I needed them to feel very real to me. This was the tough bit.
I wrote 60 pages and deleted them all. I started again and got to 45 pages before pressing delete.
The problem was that it sounded either too much like me or too far away and forced. In order to tell this story it had to be truthful, it had to encapsulate the suspense and chaos of this world but above all they HAD to sound like real people. In order to do service to those affected and in order to entertain and enlighten those unaware of this world, it had to feel real.
I deleted for a third time then I set myself a challenge. The play could be as close to my own situation as it needed to be but it must contain no words that either I or my wife used during our journey. It was then that I heard the voices of Jess and Dylan and things started to fall into place.
From that moment the play took just under three weeks to write. We have done several development sessions and each one has had those involved open mouthed by the suspense. There are huge moments of love, compassion, care and joy in this play but above all the suspense will get you. It still gets me every time and I wrote it.