MB: I've written many plays for BBC Radio 4 and hope to write many more. As such, I am always trying to think of suitable topics that could make for an entertaining 45 minute drama. I invariably write about about real historical people at crucial moments in their lives and like to treat the play as an intimate snapshot of that life. Initially I had the idea to do something about a famous political speech, to dramatise the construction and writing of it, be it by the politician or their speechwriter. However, as a lifelong monarchist I'd always been very aware of the stammering issues suffered by King George VI and was surprised no one had written a play specifically about it before. So, I combined my interests in both the Royal Family and the spoken word and chose to write what became 'A King's Speech'. On paper the play is essentially about one man tirelessly preparing to deliver a speech, but, of course, it's about so much more than just that.
ETC: What research materials did you draw on?
MB: There is, of course, a wealth of biographical detail about George VI and I was also able to look at YouTube footage of him. However, very little had been written about Lionel Logue at that time so I had to take the known facts of his life and let my imagination do the rest. Online research is invaluable but one must make every effort to cross-reference and double-check all information presented as 'fact'.
ETC: When our company staged A King's Speech in front of live audiences most of the players and much of the audience were moved to tears. As a writer what brings you the most satisfaction making people laugh or cry?
MB: I'm so touched that the play moved audiences and actors alike. This would not have happened had the ETC actors not been as convincing in their rôles as they obviously were. In general terms, and if I had to choose, I probably prefer to make people laugh. Perhaps I can be allowed to say that as an actor I prefer to make people laugh and as a writer I'd rather they experienced the opposite emotion. As a side issue, I've always believed a good comedic actor has the ability to play tragedy well but it doesn't always work as successfully the other way round. I'm never quite sure about actors who can't do comedy!
ETC: As well as being a prolific playwright you have played many rôles on stage. Does the fact you are an actor help with writing a play?
MB: Yes. Without question. Obviously I write for an audience but before that it has to be for the actors. Having performed in many very different plays I know exactly what actors ideally want from a part. So even if I'm writing for a character who's not on stage much I'll still invest the part with something the actor can get their teeth into; a laugh line or important piece of plot development etc.
ETC: Finally, and on a completely different subject, I know you are a Chelsea supporter. How much are you enjoying their current success?
MB: I started supporting Chelsea during the FA Cup run that ultimately ended with their victory in 1970. Bonetti, Harris, Osgood, Hollins and Cooke. Sexton managing. I'd never have imagined it would be another 27 years before we'd win it again! Delighted with how things are going at present under Conte and am hopeful that Chelsea, as Premiership Champions, will be playing Brighton next season having lived in the city for nearly 35 years. All time favourite CFC players include Bonetti, Gullit, Hoddle, Zola, Vialli, Dixon, Petrescu, Nevin, Desailly, Osgood, Wise and Terry.