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Milked, by Simon Longman opens on November 12 at Ludlow College
4:00pm Sunday 13th October 2013 in Latest
WHEN Simon Longman, a young writer from Ledbury, gave up his office job to make his dream of writing for the stage a reality, he couldn’t have predicted just where the decision would lead.
But this autumn, Shropshire-based theatre company Pentabus and Hereford’s Courtyard Theatre will co-produce the world premiere of Simon’s first play, Milked, and take it on tour locally.
For Simon, whose writing has also already caught the attention of London’s Royal Court Theatre, the speed with which life has changed has been dramatic.
“It’s all very overwhelming,” he says.
Because, though he’d been writing since leaving university three years ago, he’d not found the confidence to show his work to anyone.
“I was doing an office job that I didn’t like and I wanted to try and have a go at writing,” he says of the decision to send his work to Elizabeth Freestone, artistic director of Pentabus, earlier this year.
“In a move that many people thought was a bad idea, I gave up my job, because this is what I wanted to do and I made an effort to make it happen.
“I got on the Royal Court’s Young Writers’ Group and then sent Milked to Elizabeth and she really liked it.”
Simon credits award-winning playwright Tim Price’s For Once (produced by Pentabus), which, like Milked, looks at life in a small rural town, with providing the catalyst for showing his own work to someone.
“It was an inspirational play for me,”
says Simon, “because it was a really, really good story about an area I’m very familiar with. It gave me the confidence to think that maybe stories from this area need to be told, and can be told, so I sent my play to Elizabeth and she saw something in it.”
Although the story of Milked is not autobiographical, Simon admits its themes are inspired by his own experience of returning to Ledbury from Manchester. “Basically, it’s about two guys in their early 20s, one who’s been to university, and one who hasn’t. It’s definitely not my story, but it is informed by my experience of returning from Manchester and thinking ‘what do I do now?’ “I don’t think people realise what kind of effect leaving the education system can have - the frustration, desperation and hopelessness it brings. It’s a really difficult period of adjustment.”
A black comedy about friendship, unemployment, and a cow called Sandy, Milked is the story of Paul, who can’t find a job and Snowy, who can’t find himself.
“They find the cow and it becomes their life’s goal to make it better because it’s clearly not well, and that’s where the story comes from.
“I don’t want an indifferent audience,” says Simon, adding that, “as a writer, I’m consistently terrified by an audience. Hopefully it will inspire some kind of response.”
“Simon’s writing is witty and humane, honest and playful,” says Elizabeth Freestone. “Milked is a cracking new play about what it’s really like being a young adult in the countryside today.”
Grant Brisland at The Courtyard agrees: “We’re excited about working with Pentabus on this co-production.
Milked is a great piece of writing and it is a great opportunity to celebrate the work of a local writer.
The issues in the piece will resonate with many young people living in Herefordshire.”
Milked opens on Tuesday, November 12 at Ludlow College, and can then be seen at Wem Town Hall on November 13, and then goes on tour to The Courtyard, Hereford, on Thursday, November 14 and Ledbury Market Theatre Friday, November 15. Suitable for age 14+ and contains some strong language. To book for The Courtyard, call 01432 340555 or visit courtyard.org.uk. There ‘s a question and answer session after each show. Visit pentabus.co.uk for more details.