Coming all the way from Cardiff in south Wales, Professor D.J. (David) Britton is the first Writer-in-Residence that UIC has had the pleasure of receiving during the month of September 2017. His visit, consistent with the mandate of the UIC Writer-in-Residence programme, has been to provide support for an accomplished writer while allowing the community as a whole to benefit from the writer’s creativity and expertise.

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Professor Britton is an accomplished playwright, director and professor and has been working with the Creative Writing Programme at Swansea University, a UIC partner school, for the past 12 years. Professor Britton’s visit focused on his expertise as a playwright and dramaturg, allowing him the opportunity to direct one of his plays using UIC students as the actors.

Professor Britton thoroughly enjoyed working with the UIC students, noting they were extremely courageous in their efforts because he was asking them to learn and perform a play with less than two weeks of rehearsals.

When asked what he thought of UIC students, Professor Britton mentioned that the students he worked with all had a strong ability to focus and concentrate on the task. He is amazed at how well they were able to not only perform, but to be able to do it confidently in a second language. He is impressed with the students’ commitment and dedication.

Image3Professor Britton helps students rehearse a scene

Professor Britton emphasized that in this sort of circumstance within such a short time frame, the most important thing is not the production, but the process. What he’s been able to give the students at UIC is a sense of the process, and what it is like to be an actor working with a director.

Professor Britton got his start working as a newspaper reporter where he grew up in Perth on Australia's west coast. He began to feel restricted after a few years by the journalistic style of writing and decided to write his first play, called ‘Landlovers’. It was quite successful, and this began his career as a playwright. When Professor Britton moved to Wales in the early 2000s, he was almost immediately offered the opportunity to teach dramatic writing in the relatively new Creative Writing Programme at Swansea University. That programme has grown enormously since then, and he ended up running the programme.    

At the same time, his writing career transferred from Australia to the United Kingdom and has been very fulfilling. People began to ask him to direct their work, so he is now usually seen as a combination of writer, director and dramaturg. When asked what he likes most about the creative writing process, Professor Britton said he loves it when he’s writing dialogue and making himself laugh. “When I write my dialogue, I do all the voices,” says Professor Britton, so if you walked past his office, you would hear him doing all these different voices. He loves the feeling of creating dialogue that sings in your head as well as entertains you while also moving the story along.

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Professor Britton’s favourite artistic mediums are live theatre and writing drama for radio. He loves the creation of dramatic situations through what you’re hearing and imagining. His most permanently successful play, which is still running, is called “The Wizard, the Goat and the Man Who Won the War”.  It is a one man play about the Welsh-speaking British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, during the First World War. Professor Britton chose to write a play about David Lloyd George because he found him to be a very interesting and complex character. He said that “A character who is all good or all bad, there’s no drama in that.” The play has now been running for about five years in Wales, with performances also in France and Singapore.

Professor Britton is very impressed that UIC is attempting to expand its theatre activities. He sees the value of using theatre to improve one’s spoken language abilities. If you’re acting in a theatre production, the director is going to make sure what you say has a clear meaning, acceptable pronunciation, and has a big enough volume to fill an auditorium. He explains that meaning, pronunciation and projection are all key aspects one has to master for English speaking. Theatre can help enormously in learning English.

Image4Students take direction from Professor Britton 

The other very good thing about theatre is that it requires a high level of teamwork and trust, which is a fantastic life skill. He says, “It is important to know that if you don’t do your job properly, the production will wobble, but you also know that there are other people on and off the stage who will support you and help you through it.” Collaborative creativity is particularly suitable to UIC students; they love the idea of what he calls “making something together”. 

Reporter: Samantha Burns
Photographer: Deen He
Editors: Samuel Burgess, Deen He
(From MPRO)

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