The Lunatic was reviewed twice during its run in Edinburgh, and both reviews highlighted that it was a well-written and well-acted piece. However, both reviews also highlighted that what the play was missing was a real centre. Claire Smith in the Scotsman sarcastically noted that the “underlying themes are … that white supremacists are not very nice, and God could decide to kill us all if he liked”, whilst Duska Radosavljevic Heaney in the Stage found “the characters are underdeveloped and unconvincing”.
Both were, I think, identifying the same issue: the play was articulating my unease at having to leave education and move into the real world. This is a theme that many writers tackle and usually at the same stage in their lives, before they really have the experience to focus that unease into something tangible. The play didn’t want its audience to come to any particular conclusion, because its writer was too young to have come to any conclusion himself.
Theatre is a medium that is very much about having a voice, having something to say, especially for new young writers. What both of these reviews seem to me to be doing now is saying something that the designer of A Night on the Tiles said to me during that production: you’ve got the ability to write, and as soon as you find something to say, you’ll be really good. At the time, I didn’t notice and thought the reviews were disappointing. In truth, they are probably some of the most encouraging I have ever had.