Interview: Ava Wong Davies writer of Graceland at Royal Court Theatre
We caught up with one-to-watch playwright Ava Wong Davies to talk about her explosive new show Graceland at Royal Court Theatre. The show premieres in Sloane Square in February and tackles issues around love as a most raw and brutal life force.
Tell us about Graceland. How did the idea come about and what should we expect?
The initial idea came during the third Covid lockdown – I was isolating alone, and, like many other people, was struck with an acute sense of loneliness. At the time, I was on the Royal Court’s writers group looking for an idea for a play, and I wanted to write something about sublimating yourself completely into someone when you’re in love, and about whether or not it’s possible to retain your sense of self when you’re seeking romantic contact so intensely. Two years later and you can expect a relatable, bruising, honest monologue about a young woman who loses herself completely, then begins to find herself again.
How does it feel to have your debut at the Royal Court Theatre after doing their writer’s programme?
It’s a complete dream to have a play at the Royal Court – so many of my favourite writers have had their work staged here.
There was a lot of support given to me by the leader and members of the writers group who encouraged me to pursue the idea, and by the Court’s associate director and literary manager, who really took this play under their wing and championed it as much as they pushed me to make it better.
Who or what inspires you to write?
Writing a play takes forever and you’re often on your own while you do it, as opposed to writing TV, so I’ve found that the only plays worth writing are the ones which feel like they’ve come from a completely honest place – that means I get ideas really slowly, because I basically just have to figure out what the scary question is inside me that I need to try and answer, which tends to be something pretty exposing and vulnerable – but that’s pretty much always the thing I feel like I need to explore the most.
What advice would you give to those starting out in writing for theatre?
For me, the absolute worst bit to write is the first draft – that’s when the idea that feels so exciting and perfect in your head starts to feel real and flawed – so you have to muscle through it as quickly as you can, so that you can do the redraft, which is where the play is actually written.
It’s much easier to work with something than with nothing, so just try to keep your head down and plough to the end of the first draft without judging yourself too much – it really is allowed to be rubbish! Then leave it for a while, read it through with fresh eyes, and start redrafting.
What are your favourite London haunts? (to eat, to watch shows, to relax)
I am Joint Editor at To Do List. I like free, cheap & offbeat London, especially: cabaret, art, theatre, pop-ups, eating out, quirky films, museums, day trips, social enterprise & much more.