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Broadchurch writer talks about his new play
WRITER Chris Chibnall is hot property at the moment.
The author penned last year's hit crime thriller Broadchurch, starring David Tennant and Olivia Colman, which pulled in nine million viewers and kept them on the edge of their seats.
But despite being hard at work on series two, he has also found time to write a new play - which he has chosen to premiere at Salisbury Playhouse.
Worst Wedding Ever is set, like Broadchurch, in Chibnall's home county of Dorset, and revolves around an overbearing mother and her efforts to stage her daughter's dream wedding in the family's back garden.
“I wanted to write a rollicking good comedy about a wedding,” says the author. “There are plenty of films and TV shows about weddings, but not many plays.
“I was thrilled to find there was that gap there waiting to be filled.”
He decided on Salisbury Playhouse because he has worked with artistic director Gareth Machin before, and because the venue is his nearest producing theatre.
“I come to see plays here all the time, and I love it,” he says. “When Gareth suggested I write the play for Salisbury, I jumped at the chance. I love the feel of the theatre and the way it's connected to the community."
And he is also eager to support the theatre's drive to encourage new local writers and to stage original works by up-and-coming playwrights.
“To have plays set in the south west and written by writers from the south west is very important,” he stresses. “I hope this is just the first. What the Playhouse is doing is exciting and important, and it deserves support.”
Chibnall, 43, came to full-time writing relatively late, leaving his job as a theatre administrator to concentrate on his writing career in 1999.
In 2005, he was appointed head writer and co-producer on the BBC's ground-breaking Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood.
“I felt very lucky just to get asked,” he says. “The great thing about Torchwood was that we were telling these great sci-fi stories, but set in contemporary Cardiff, just around the corner.
“It is really a workplace drama, but the work is saving the world from extinction.”
He has also written for Doctor Who and says he would love to do more, but is too busy at the moment, with Worst Wedding Ever opening in a couple of weeks, and the second series of Broadchurch due to start filming in the summer.
Everyone involved in the latter has been sworn to secrecy. “Even my dad doesn't know what happens, although he asks me about it all the time!” says Chibnall.
He says he had no idea how successful the first series would be, and was taken completely by surprise.
“You would have to be really arrogant to sit around thinking 'this is going to be huge',” he says. “We all felt very proud of it before it went out, but then the audience gave it life and took ownership of it, and I will always be shocked, humbled and grateful for that.”
The pressure is on to make the second series live up to the first, but Chibnall says he feels that no more than he does for anything else he works on, including Worst Wedding Ever.
“People are coming for a night out and they should be entertained,” he explains.
“They are paying for tickets, a programme, parking and drinks in the interval. I want them to laugh and to be interested and, ultimately, to be moved by what they see.
“Everybody has a family, everybody has been to a wedding and everybody has a wedding disaster story. I wanted to write a play that is accessible, entertaining, funny, and connects with people's lives.
“The audience can relate to the characters, and that's really important to me."
* Interview with actor Carolyn Pickles here.
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