Typescript draft article about the Royal Court Theatre by Hanif Kureishi


After the success of his first three plays, Hanif Kureishi became Writer in Residence at the Royal Court Theatre in 1982. Here, in two undated drafts titled ‘The Writer’s Theatre’, Kureishi discusses his formative experiences at the Royal Court, and the importance he places on continuing to nurture young, ground-breaking writers. This principle, writes Kureishi, is at the core of the theatre.

The piece begins with Kureishi’s account of writing his first play, Soaking the Heat (1976), ‘sitting isolated in my tiny bedroom in the suburbs’. He sent it to the Royal Court, and they invited him to the theatre. He had never been there before. ‘I was terrified’, he wrote, ‘But that afternoon changed everything’. The theatre agreed to stage his play, and at the end of that afternoon, aged 22, he sat watching Samuel Beckett rehearsing Footfalls with the actor Billie Whitelaw: ‘From then on I took it for granted that things happened at the Royal Court.’ Kureishi praises the theatre for being,

one of the few places in the land which takes seriously the notion that old writers were once young writers and that the kind and quality of older writer you get partly depends on the quality of support and encouragement you give initially.

In the second half of the piece, Kureishi develops a wider discussion about the important impact that good quality, pluralistic writing has on the fabric of any society. ‘We need writers who can see clearly what is going on at the present time, writers who can articulate our social, moral and spiritual dilemmas, whatever they are’. While Kureishi does not advocate explicitly political or social writing, he considers good writing ‘in itself a revolt, it is criticism, protest, rebellion against kitsch, against all forms of domination, against ignorance and prejudice’. Literature, Kureishi argues, is an empathetic, humanising force.

Further on, Kureishi seeks to overturn the mystification that often exists around the idea of the writer. ‘Writing is mostly craft, discipline and concentration’, that must be learnt and passed on. Plays, specifically, are not built by a single intellect, but with the ‘crucial help of many other committed people’.

To conclude the piece, Kureishi reaffirms the Royal Court as a model for supporting young writers. ‘Young writers are our life-blood, our possibility, our hope, since without them nothing can be said, and where nothing can be said, you may be sure that much evil is being done’.

Full title:
Hanif Kureishi Papers: Notes and draft articles by Hanif Kureishi: c. 1990-2012
undated; whole volume c. 1990–2012
Manuscript / Typescript / Draft
Hanif Kureishi
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© Hanif Kureishi. You may not use the material for commercial purposes. Please credit the copyright holder when reusing this work.

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