|'The plays speak for themselves' … Caryl Churchill in 1972. Photograph: Jane Bown for the Guardian|
Her plays arrive fully formed – and she refuses to talk about what they mean. Mark Lawson talks to actors, directors and her publisher about what really makes Churchill tick
Wednesday 3 October 2012
Ah, the interviews. As I can't put the question to Churchill herself, I asked her collaborators if they knew why she refused to talk about her work. "I've never discussed her refusal to do publicity," insists Cooke. "We just accept that that will be the situation with each play." Possibly because, as a publisher, he feels this refusal most keenly, Hern has had the conversation. "Oh, yes. Back at Methuen, I would come out of editorial meetings, having been asked if I could get Caryl to do this or that to promote the books. And I discussed it with her and she said: 'I really don't like talking about my work. It makes me self-conscious when I come to write the next thing.' She said that, if she became analytical about the plays, she was worried that whatever it is that produces them will go away. It was always about creative self-consciousness. It wasn't: 'I vant to be alone.'"
Another thing Churchill's people agree on is that critics focus too much on her structural jumps. "I'm most impressed by dialogue, rather than the form," says Wandor, "which has, I think, always had uncertainties about it. The elliptical, quasi-poetic quality of the dialogue is the most interesting element." Cooke concurs: "I don't think she's been given enough credit for the quality of her dialogue – the way she captures a situation or a character in just a few lines."