Writer Jim Cartwright, perhaps best known for The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, has a new piece at this year’s Fringe – RAZ, which stars his son James in the solo role as a hard-partying lad out on the lash and the pull in a Northern town. We spoke to him about it.
A factory worker, booze-fuelled nights out, gyms, tans, disposable relationships – on one hand it calls to mind Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, on another TOWIE. Where on the spectrum of depictions of British youth does RAZ sit?
Somewhere between the two maybe. I suppose he carries the baton of a youth on a night out all the way through recorded history, there were no doubt gangs of youths getting off their faces in Stone Age times, not on Jager-bombs and pills, but Brontosaurus brew and herbs.
What prompted you to choose this subject matter?
We’ve all seen the scenes of packed town centres, young folk on a night out, girl with legs akimbo sitting on a kerb while her mate throws up beside her, lads in raucous packs singing or fighting or doing both at once. I was interested in what’s going on and why? Wanted to get a bit nearer the eye of the storm so to speak.
I went out on the raz as a youngster myself, and I thought we hit it hard, but it was like a night out with Noddy compared to what goes on now. It seems that they have to hit it real hard, have to push and push everything right to the extreme before it’s classed as a good night out.
I was also aware of the fact that there is a whole generation that do not have a voice. They are in the main, for want of a better term, the low paid but working young person. No one writes about them, no one is interested in them. No chance of ever getting on the housing market, little chance of bettering themselves in a diminishing job market. Still living in their bedroom at their parents house. The first generation that will not be doing better than their Mum and Dad. Everything is put just beyond their reach. They are highly qualified some of them, degrees hanging out their back pockets and a big debt around their neck, and find themselves fighting for jobs. And disenfranchised from the country they live in, a government that doesn’t care or listen as far as they are concerned. You can understand them thinking, what the hell else is there to do but party? The only ‘Party’ left for them is the one on a Friday night.
Did you write it with your son in mind? How has it worked for the two of you?
No, not with him in mind, but when we came to cast, it became very apparent that he was just right for the part, and after he auditioned, all were of the same mind. It has worked out fine, we are not a theatrical dynasty like the Redgraves or the Foxes, we are more like Steptoe and Son. If you leave your card after the show we will come and clear out your garage.
How did you go about developing the character of Shane? How did you put yourself in his shoes?
Just the imagination and talking to people and some research, which is remaining secret. Let’s just say clear a space when I get onto the dance floor.
What do you think the future is for a guy like Shane and his generation?
I don’t know. The whole order of things has broken down; kids getting a job, meeting someone, moving out, finding their own place, building their own lives. What is the future for these young ones who blow their wage packets every weekend and then begin the grind all over again on Monday, trapped in a relentless circle. These weekend millionaires are getting older and older too, many are well into their thirties and beyond these days, nothing else to do.
Is he of his place and time or do you think there’s something more universal to him?
The youth on the raz, as said, has always been, and what’s wrong with having a good time? In that way he stands universal, in all times and all countries, but there is something just a little more driven and self-destructive and desperate to get further and further out of their heads about the revellers of today. We have to ask ourselves why. They often have pictures of the end of a drunken, drug fuelled night spread all over the tabloids – “Britain’s Shame” – good easy headline fodder, but these are the country’s young people, maybe the shame should be pointing in another direction.