Here is a quick interview with Mark Griffiths, author of the play about Douglas Adams “We apologize for the inconvenience”. The play is directed by Emma Bird and stars Pete Gibson as Douglas Adams and Rachel Howard as the duck. It will be played on the 21/22nd of November in Liverpool and the 25th in Manchester.
You can book here: https://www.fatsoma.com/room-5064-productions
More information about the play here: https://www.facebook.com/weapologisefortheinconvenience/
DouglasAdams.eu: When and where does the play take place and why did you choose this period of his life?
Mark Griffiths: The play takes place in 1984, when Adams was, so legend has it, locked in a hotel room by his editor and refused to be let out until he’d finished writing So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish. When Adams biographer Nick Webb describes the incident, he suggests in a footnote that it might make a two-hander play. I read that and thought, I love Douglas Adams, I write plays – if anyone should write this it should be me!
DAE: « So long… » is a very peculiar book in the Hitchhiker « trilogy ». It’s a love story on earth. Do you think that the conditions in which he had to write the book had an impact on the book himself?
MG: I do. Particularly his state of mind after coming back from America after failing to get a Hitchhiker film made and also his lack of pre-existing material to adapt into the new book. The play touches on these matters.
DAE: What makes Douglas Adams such a good subject for a play?
MG: He was a truly fascinating, brilliant man. And one around whom a lot of legends have accrued. Plus, he was a writer who hated writing. All these things make him an interesting person to write about.
DAE: Douglas is well known for loving to embellish stories. He was also a complex man with a lot of passions. Do you try in your play to differentiate between the real man and the author? Your Douglas is more a fantasized version or did you try to get the real Douglas?
MG: This is the key to the play, really. The tension between the Douglas of a thousand anecdotes and the real person. I love all the tall tales surrounding him and the disarming way he deployed them. And yes, Douglas’s wild and varied passions (and that they might sometimes be sources of procrastination) feature heavily.
DAE: You discovered Hitchhiker thanks to the BBC TV show when you were a kid. What was so fascinating about it?
MG: The wit, the often dark tone. It wasn’t just whimsy about aliens with funny names – there was a real sense of loss and alienation in there amid the humour to counterbalance the more overt silliness. That often gets overlooked.
DAE: A bath, a talking duck… Does the play include Douglas eating huge sandwiches in his bath while talking to his duck and listening to Paul Simon? Just say yes.
MG: Haha! I always associate Paul Simon with Restaurant at the End of the Universe rather than SLATFATF. There’s a reference to Dire Straits in the play that people might pick up on. There’s also mention of some of Douglas’s favourite food, but it’s not sandwiches.
DAE: Did you ask Google if you could borrow for the play Douglas’ bath that is now sitting in their London office?
MG: I had no idea they had it! Ha, that would have been fun. We have a very nice bath of our own, though.. I can’t wait to see it actually on a stage. It’s an image I’ve had in my head a long time.
DAE: How did you work on the play? Did you read the three and half biographies written about Douglas? Did you watch his talks? Do you use a lot of extracts of what he actually said/wrote in the play?
MG: I know and love all the biographies and I’ve seen all the talks. Radio interviews were particularly useful in giving me an idea of how he spoke. I have one I taped off the radio in 1984 and must have listened to a hundred times over the years. I don’t use any extracts of what Douglas said or wrote. Partly for copyright reasons but also because the play is a work of imagination, not a documentary. This is my version of Douglas, albeit one informed by a very close attention to the man and his work.
DAE: Do you think that Douglas and his work are still relevant today?
MG: Hugely so! Many of his predictions about technology have been proved true, but more importantly, his books are still funny and thought-provoking and still deserve to be read.
DAE: On a more personal level, did Douglas work had an impact on your own work as a playwright and a writer?
MG: Yes, a big impact. He’s definitely one of my major influences. Not just in terms of subject matter, but also in terms of the literary devices he employs. He was a very inspiring guy.
DAE: For those who won’t be able to see the play in Manchester and Liverpool, will there be other dates, other places? Do you to publish the play as a book?
MG: Too early to say yet. We are, of course, open to offers! If no publisher wants to take it I may sling it out there as a self-published book.