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24 September 2014

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First person
Wrong Place
The cast of Wrong Place (from left to right) Geoffrey Burton, Larrington Walker and Mark Theodore

Playwright Mark Norfolk on 18 months in the life of his new play Wrong Place - from inception to curtain up...



Wrong Place is a three-hander about cross-generational conflict in a London setting.

Trevor (Mark Theodore) is in trouble with the law – again. But this time it's serious. He faces twelve years behind bars.

Roddy (Geoffrey Burton), Trevor’s dad, came to Britain in the 60’s and did the right thing – worked seven days a week to put food on the table and a roof over his family's head.

But now things have changed.

Not only is he about to lose his son, but also his job and his marriage.

And just when things couldn’t get much worse, Trevor's uncle Monty (Larrington Walker) shows up...


Wrong Place is at the Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street W1
Box office: 020 7478 0100

Web: Soho Theatre
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Londoner Mark Norfolk was one of five playwrights on last year’s Soho Theatre Writers’ Attachment Programme. His new play, Wrong Place, was developed there and is now running off-West End.

"The call came through in 2002 when I was in the Scottish Highlands. 'Would you like to join us on the Soho Theatre Writers' Attachment programme?' Of course. And so began the journey to completing Wrong Place...

April 2002

"We're charged with delivering drafts to set deadlines, where they're discussed by the literary manager and Jonathon Lloyd, associate director and course manager, who has a keen eye for plays.

Mark Norfolk
Mark Norfolk

I've always been interested in history, but recognise the cost implications with historical dramas. So I settle on recent history.

I remember an incident I heard as a teenager from my stepfather who worked for the then British Rail.

It concerned a cleaner who had lobbied her bosses to get her shiftless 17-year-old son a job on the platform. The ungrateful teenager failed to show up on the first day, and when she admonished him - he had the temerity to call her a slave.

I feel this has a lot of resonance with today's feckless, disinterested youth and try to construct a narrative which will serve this theme.

November 2002

"Fast forward to the second draft stage where writers on the programme mount a reading of their new plays in front of an audience for the first time.

It's here that Mark Theodore distinguishes himself in the role of Trevor.

Mark Theodore
Mark Theodore

I'd first come across him while working as crew on a short by a BBC Promos director. Mark has a subtle intelligence in performance that few actors possess. I suggested him to read the part of Trevor and had to put up a bit of a fight to get him, as he wasn't that well known. I'm pleased to say I won out in the end!

On the night, although it is only a rehearsed reading, he sets the house alight along with respected actors Jeffrey Kissoon, Dona Croll and Jason Rose.

By the close of November a decision is made to write a third draft. Success! But during the rewrites, the woman's part is omitted - people feel that she tends to detract from the storyline.

March 2003

"The third draft is completed and ready to be presented to artistic director Abigail Morris and producer Mark Godfrey.

A couple of weeks later a telephone call confirms a general feeling that Soho Theatre are interested in producing my play.

August 2003

"Casting begins, a difficult task when you have older actors to find. We settle on two fine actors in Larrington Walker and Geoffrey Burton. Coupled with Mark Theodore, we are on the road in earnest.

September 2003

"Time for rehearsals to start. The early weeks are always a strange time for writers with cutting, honing and fine-tuning the order of each day until the script is deemed ready by director and actors alike.

The new dramaturg from New York, Nina Steiger, is instrumental in pushing the script onwards.

Cast of Wrong Place
During the rewrites, the woman's part was omitted, leaving just the three male principals

As an admirer of US writing, I listen intently to what she has to say. A note of caution emerges: do NOT adhere too fully to the mechanical development of plot. Which is just as well, as I have a tendency to work with character.

A couple of late nights follow as I work through till dawn to prepare the rewrites for the following morning.

And now, with the writer's job done at last, I sit back and bite my knuckles...waiting for the run to get underway while I begin work on my next project. It never stops..."

Wrong Place by Mark Norfolk is at the Soho Theatre until 25 October. Box office: 020 7478 0100

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