James Clements remembers writing little plays that he could act out ‘with gusto’ as a small child, while forcing his ‘long-suffering sister to play the other character’. With parents who allowed the siblings to grow up doing anything they wanted as along as they were working hard and ‘not hurting anyone’, it is no surprise that James still now writes and acts, writes Michael Holland.
After growing up in Glasgow, James moved to London when he was eighteen, then, a year later, to New York to study drama, film acting and history. Seven years on he still lives there, in Brooklyn, which, he tells me, reminds him of Glasgow.
While studying, James met Ana, Jorge and Sam and the four together formed What Will The Neighbors Say (www.wwtns.org). He says: ‘We started this theatre company so we could create work that we wanted to do, about issues that mattered to us, on our terms. So, for me, it’s an amazing opportunity to do both of the things I love, [because] being an actor feels quite powerless, so I can satisfy my control-freak tendencies when I write!’
The playwright’s tendencies have recently been satisfied by The Diana Tapes, a play based on Andrew Morton’s book, ‘Princess Diana, Her True Story in Her Own Words’, which he has written and will also play the role of Morton. He is quick to defend Diana and explain why he chose this subject: ‘I love writing about incredibly complex figures. On a sort of superficial level, it’s very easy to dismiss her, to note her incredible, privileged life, her self-indulgence, but, at the end of the day, she mattered – and I think there is something very sexist and academic and high-and-mighty about dismissing her as vapid, and everyone she impacted on as an idiot. To me, she went to war with the army she had, which you have to respect.’
The Diana Tapes will first open in New York and the American cast are already workshopping the script and trying out their characters’ accents in bars and restaurants to see if they can fool the staff. ‘It gets harder after a few drinks,’ jokes Clements.
Giving James the last word he said this: ‘We are interested in unpacking this complicated icon, showing both her good and her bad side, her flaws and her virtues. It’s not some cheesy biopic – it’s a piece about a real human being who had an extraordinary life.’
The Diana Tapes is on at The Stockwell Playhouse, 208 Wandsworth Road, SW8 2JU from June 26th – July 13th. Times: Tues – Sat 7.30pm; Sat 4pm; Sun 6pm. Admission: £14, £12 concs. Phone: 0207 720 6897.