Playwriting supported by the Lionel Bart Foundation - Shortlisted 2014
Growing up in rural Yorkshire, Alistair McDowall was far from living an active theatre life; at school, he wanted to be a film maker. But it was his drama teacher who encouraged him to explore the endless possibilities of the stage. He cites Beckett, Pinter and Sarah Kane as his strongest teenage influences and at 16, wrote and produced his first play with his friends at school.
On graduating in 2008 from Manchester University, he worked as an attendant at an art gallery for a few years. In quiet moments, he would note ideas for the structures of his plays and develop the dialogues at home. Surrounded by paintings, it seems obvious that their narrative detail inspired his early development. Perhaps as a result of his time spent there, his recent work-in-progress, a forest, a forest, is not surprisingly, visually strong.
McDowall’s trajectory as a writer began seriously in 2009, with the independently produced eighteen stupid reasons why i love you lots and lots for the Buxton Fringe Festival, and 5:30 for the 24:7 Theatre Festival. It was followed by a 6-week attachment to the Royal Court, and soon after he was awarded a Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting for his play Brilliant Adventures. A gritty time-travel fantasy, upon premiering at the Royal Exchange, it was described as “playing by its own rules.” His next play, the bittersweet Talk Show, was produced by the Royal Court, and described as a “neon-coloured explosion of a play”. As in the previous play, it combined tenderness with aggression. McDowall’s unconventional methods of storytelling often stress the importance of the metaphorical relationship between audience and stage.