Interview with Gabriel Gbadamosi – writer of Stop and Search
Stop and Search opens at Arcola on 9 January – we spoke to the play’s writer, award-winning Gabriel Gbadamosi about the piece.
What inspired you to write the piece?
I see Britain changing abruptly, so I’ve gone back to theatre because that’s where you can explore what’s happening in a social context, that’s what theatre as a form can allow you to do. I wasn’t inspired to write this piece, I was frightened into it.
How different is your writing process for a play compared to writing novels?
Oddly, I’ve written this play in slow motion, drop by drop, as if it were a novel, the writing of which is a process… the process has been novelistic, in that I’m writing about my society on a broad canvas, and has been like writing poetry, with compression and precision in the language, images and rhythms, and it’s been like writing a play which whispers in the ear of the actors about who they are and how they can communicate that to an audience.
How do you balance writing beautiful language and writing believable language?
If the dialogue is both beautiful and believable, I’d be doing very well! In the end there is no either/or distinction to be made for speech which moves and is felt to be beautiful through its truthfulness. An audience will believe people if they tell the truth, even if they’re lying.
Stop and Search marks your return to London as a playwright; did you always picture the text in the Arcola? Does the venue affect the writing process?
I wrote this play for the Arcola because I always intended to work with Mehmet Ergen, and became a trustee of Arcola because I believe in developing a theatre that reflects the diversity of my city – that is, a real diversity, of form, of artists, and of audiences; not split up into little ethno-cultural ‘silos’ as ACE now calls them, but as part of the broad sweep of a great city and its community of cultures in which everyone is present, and to which anyone who is present belongs. Arcola’s stage represents that for me, and the play explores the possibilities of such a theatre. I feel I am writing our great social and cultural experiment before Brexit makes Britain English again – shorn of the Irish, the Scots and the minorities as a diversity that matters.
What do you hope audiences take away from Stop and Search?
Bitter grief at what they threw away. Compassion for themselves. Greater clarity about some complex things in our hearts – given a colour, a feeling, a music.