Wales Writer in Residence – Meet the Writer, Rhiannon Boyle

October 2, 2019

Why do you write?

When I was a little girl I was always writing poetry and all sorts of fantastical stories. I had a tough childhood and so I loved that feeling of escapism and being transported to another place. I remember telling made-up stories to my friends on the playground and being so good at it they often totally believed me. I found that fascinating. So I suppose I write because I’ve always been good at spinning yarns. 

What was your first writing success?

In 2011 when I was a drama teacher, TV producers Fiction Factory asked me to be part of their storylining team as their ‘panel expert’. They were creating a new drama series for S4C set in a school. A couple of years later, when I decided to quit my teaching job and become a writer, they offered me a job writing an episode. It was a bit of a pinch me moment really. I quit teaching in December and by January I was working as a TV screenwriter. 

How did you find out about the Wales Writer in Residence and what made you want to apply?

I always keep an eye on any opportunities on the BBC Writers Room website and when this competition popped up I felt I had to apply. I’m a writer who wants to write across all platforms – radio, TV and theatre and so this opportunity was perfect for me. 

How did you come up with the idea for your winning script ‘Impacted’ and the characters in the story?

A few years back there were a lot of incidents in the news where teachers had been charged for crimes against children. At the time I had two young girls of my own – both under two – one of which wasn’t sleeping much. I found myself struggling somewhat. I’ve always been a bit of a worrier, but I felt increasingly concerned and convinced something bad was going to happen to my babies. I became paranoid about their safety and imagined there were peodophiles lurking everywhere. It feels strange looking back because I can see now how irrational those thoughts were, but at the time I was overwhelmed by motherhood, exhausted and I felt very vulnerable. So it’s fair to say Alys is partly based on me. I just exaggerated all those feelings and took her to the worst possible depths of paranoia, despair and anxiety for the story. 

How did you find writing for the medium of sound, is there anything unique and special about it for you?

I trained as an actor at the Royal Welsh College and always loved our radio lessons. The fact that you are never restricted to time or place really excites me. I also think the fact this piece is a monologue – one woman telling her story – will be extremely powerful as an audio play. Having said this, there are lots of other characters in the story, and so there is a possibility of having a cast of actors to play the different parts. This could really colour the story and give it a sense of realism that may not have been achieved on stage. 

How important do you think it is to tell authentic Welsh stories?

I think it’s important to hear everyone’s stories. No one wants to go to the theatre time after time to hear white, middle class people droning on about their problems. Of course there is a place for those plays. But we need a diverse range of stories, otherwise we’ll never learn anything about each other. For me, I’d really love to tell a story about my hometown Holyhead because it hasn’t really been done before, so watch this space.

What does it mean to you to be the Wales Writer in Residence and what are you looking forward to about it?

It means so much to be selected as the winner. It’s given me such a confidence boost as I’ve never been very sure whether I was any good. I’ve been writing for a good few years now, and it’s often hard to keep going and to see that light at the end of the tunnel but this opportunity is going to offer invaluable support, guidance and mentorship. I cannot wait to start working with Mathew Hall as my mentor. I am also ridiculously excited about getting one of those BBC passes I can wear on a lanyard around my neck. It’s usually just me and my whippet Blue typing away in my kitchen, which can get a bit lonely, so I’m looking forward to getting out there and meeting lots of new and inspiring people. 

Do you have any favourite writers?

Sally Rooney. Dolly Alderton. Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Duncan Macmillan. Jack Thorne. Tim Price. Alan Harris. 

What have been the best things you’ve heard or seen this year and that you’d recommend to other people?

Theatre wise I loved Dirty Protest’s Edinburgh show, How to be Brave. On TV I’ve really enjoyed – Game Face, This Way Up, Fleabag, Killing Eve, Keeping Faith and Chernobyl. My favourite film this year has to be – Safety Not Guaranteed, which is on Netflix. 

What else have you got coming up?

I’m in the process of pitching for Dirty Protest’s 2020 Edinburgh show, which is a play about a young saleswoman selling biodegradable coffins. It a dark comedy exploring euthanasia. The main character is faced with some tricky questions regarding the quality of life of her father who is in a home having being bed ridden with MS for nearly twenty years. It’s also autobiographical, so maybe that’s my USP?

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