Interview: Playwright Rachel Feeny-Williams

OnInMyCity interviewed playwright Rachel Feeny-Williams to get a perspective from the other side of the stage. Rachel has written many plays, spanning multiple genres.

Rachel currently has a number of books available on her Etsy shop here

What made you want to start writing plays?  Had you anything else in mind (i.e. novel etc.) 

My first year at university I had a creative writing module and once of my assignments was to write a collection of four monologues. In creating the story for that character I wanted to tell the full story but realised it needed more than just the monologues, so I set about turning it into a play and I’ve been hooked on the writing style ever since. I did have a stint with short stories and poetry when I was around fifteen but it wasn’t until I started writing plays that the writing just seemed to flow naturally.

Where do your ideas stem from?

Honestly, they stem from all over the place but a lot of the time I start by asking myself a question and the play is the answer. For example my piece “Final Whistle” was my answer to the question “What if someone was so obsessed with football their life was narrated in the same way?” Although, when I started to take on ‘play a day’ challenges, they came with their own inspiration of an image or a word, which in some cases made writing the play easier but in some cases harder.

You have written several different genres.  What is your favourite?

I love writing in the crime genre and I think it shows in my writing. “Believe Me” was a piece I wrote about a sisters decision whether or not to protect her brother from a crime he may or may not have committed. It started out as an 11 page short play and was then expanded to 25 pages. That version was performed at the Exmouth One Act Play Festival by a local group (Broadclyst Theatre Group) and it won ‘Best Original Script’. I then expanded it to a full length play and self-produced it as a four part audio series, currently available on my YouTube channel. While it hasn’t had a live production as a full length play yet, I believe the history it has so far proves its quality as a piece and my enjoyment of writing in that particular genre.

Are you someone you carries a notepad around in case an idea sparks?

Frustratingly, I find most of my ideas come when I’m walking too or from work (which makes the use of a notebook impractical) so I invested in a voice recorder and that goes everywhere with me.

After  you have completed a work, where do you go to test it out (friends, family etc.) 

Prior to Lockdown my productivity was closer to one play a year which I’d then take to my Am Dram society (Exton Drama Club) to read and gather their thoughts. In one circumstance we discovered a few weeks into rehearsal that we couldn’t have the licence for the play we wanted to do. The call informing of this came in on a Friday and by the time we met the following Tuesday I’d written a new play for the group (based around the cast we had). When Lockdown started, a fellow writer, director and actor (Katie Jones of Broadclyst Theatre Group) banded together to start a weekly play reading on Zoom where we only read plays written by members called ‘The Literary and Discourse Society’. The group started out as a small collection of local writers but now we have been running every Sunday for over two years and we have writers and readers from all over the world join us. Its a great place to hear your work read and get feedback.

The short one-act plays are they difficult to write, insofar as you have to get a whole plot out, characters developed and a natural conclusion in such a short space?

For me the trick with short plays is to create a situation that you know you can resolve in five pages or less and remember that it doesn’t always have to be complicated. One of my favourite short plays I’ve ever written is called “Bing” and tells the story of a clown who awakes, discovers he is missing his nose and searches the boxes around him for it. Its one character, minimal props and only one word said (‘Bing’) and yet the story comes across completely.

You recent set yourself a words-per-day challenge,  how was that? 

Well the word count was set as part of a ‘play a day’ challenge, which I had done before but having the word count added did give a bit of extra pressure, especially when you have two days in a row where the inspiration just isn’t striking and you are behind to hit your target. On those days it was very easy to just think ‘oh well I’ll just give up, no one set the challenge for me, its just for me’ but it was days like that when my boyfriend knows just how to rally me around and keep me going, he is another wealth of inspiration for me.

What would your advice be to someone who is setting out and wants to write plays?

Write because you love it and chase every opportunity. The more you write and the more you send your work out there the better your chances. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. New Play Exchange is a great website where you can pay up to £16 a year to put all your work online and have it read and recommended by fellow playwrights across the world. I myself have had two plays produced through New Play Exchange by school groups in the USA. Crucially though, don’t give up! Writing is a difficult world to break into professionally but if you want it then never stop chasing it.

How difficult is its to get your work produced onstage with the COVID downtime meaning sadly we have lost some theatre groups

Well, while all live performances were stopped during COVID, the increase in virtual performances on Zoom and other platforms became very popular. A lot of societies I have had work produced by started as virtual productions and then when they re-opened they came back because they already knew about my work. That’s why its crucial for anyone breaking into playwriting to build you social media presence and collection of contacts. The more people who know about you the better your chances. My own local drama society (Exton Drama Club) had their first live production since 2019 on 20th and 21st of October and it was four of my plays, because they knew about the quality of my work. Once again, it goes back to chasing every opportunity.

You can find Rachel’s work here on the following links: