Almost uniquely among today’s writers, late starter Nell Leyshon cares about country life. She talks to Charles Spencer
(from The Telegraph Jan 2007)
In my job, one of the greatest thrills is discovering a new writer of fresh and manifest talent, so I am unlikely to forget my first encounter with the work of Nell Leyshon. It was 2001, the year of the foot and mouth crisis, and I received a press release about a play called The Farm that was doing a tour of the West Country.
It was the time of the great countryside marches and the feeling was growing that the Labour government didn’t give a stuff about the troubles of rural England. I’d never heard of the Strode Theatre Company or most of the venues The Farm was playing, and when I turned up at a dilapidated converted cinema in Minehead my expectations were low.
But in her account of the problems facing a small Somerset farm, and the pressures on the family trying to keep it going, it was clear that Leyshon was a writer of skill and passion, ploughing a highly original furrow in a new writing landscape entirely dominated by urban drama.
The play transferred to the Southwark Playhouse, but it wasn’t until 2005 that Leyshon’s next play, Comfort Me With Apples, opened at the Hampstead Theatre, where she was Pearson playwright in residence. Once again, this concentrated on the plight of a farm, but naturalism had given way to far richer and more poetic writing, creating an extraordinary drama of long suppressed family secrets, potent folk myths and an air of autumnal melancholy and decay at a dying cider farm. The stage was covered with apples, whose aroma permeated the whole auditorium. (read full interview)