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Aisling Towl is new Shaffer playwright-in-residence 2024-25

Aisling Towl is appointed Shaffer playwright-in-residence at Trinity 2024-25. Here she writes about her inspiration and plans for the residency.

Tell us about yourself. 

I’m a playwright and poet born and raised in South London. My work so far includes Godfrey (VAULT Festival), pearl apple penguin (Concord Theatricals/ Samuel French Festival), don’t stand so close to me (Kings Head Theatre) and Softboy (Mountview).

As a poet, I’ve performed at venues across London and the UK, including Richmix, Handel Hendrix House and Brainchild Festival, and for organisations including Merky Books, Freedom from Torture and Sofar Sounds.

What new ideas are you developing? 

I’m currently working on a play about a group of friends holidaying in what used to be an open air mine, but has since been turned into a luxury tourist resort. This is inspired by what Naomi Klein calls ‘disaster capitalism’ – the idea that when political or climate crises occur, venture capitalists frequently take the opportunity to sweep in and rebuild for profit.

I’m also working on a one man play to be performed by a female drag king, based on the canonical Don Juan character, but reimagined and relocated to modern day clubland Ibiza.

Aisling Towl. Credit: Aisling Towl

What inspires your work?

I studied History and Politics at Goldsmiths, and a lot of my work is inspired by the subjects and ideas I learned about there. I’m inspired by music, film, poetry, novels, and conversations I overhear on the bus. Spoken language and communication also really inspires my playwriting –  the ways my friends and family express themselves, the different modes people speak to each other in public and private, in places I’ve worked.

What does the residency offer? 

So much – a tranquil setting in which to focus and be inspired; incredible libraries to write and research in; extensive creative, academic and pastoral support.

Crucially, it’s the only scheme I know of which supports an early-career playwright financially, for an entire year. I feel incredibly grateful to have been able to quit my day job just to write, which has been my dream forever and wouldn’t be possible without this Fellowship.

Do you have a favourite playwright? 

My favourite playwrights are Annie Baker, Sarah Ruhl and Ntozake Shange. Each have inspired my writing in different ways – Annie Baker for her astute dialogue, humour and pace, Sarah Ruhl for the way she takes on huge social/moral/historic issues and crystalises them into gripping, razor-sharp narrative, and Ntozake Shange for her lyricism, formal experimentation and vulnerability.

A number of contemporary British and Irish playwrights have also really influenced my work – Margaret Perry, Jasmine Lee Jones and Lucy Prebble to name a few.

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The Peter Shaffer playwright-in-residence was established in 2022 in memory of the dramatist Sir Peter Shaffer (1926-2016) whose acclaimed works include Equus and Amadeus.

Previous recipients are India Harrison Peppe (2022-23) and Tom Murray (2023-24)

Professor Adrian Poole said:

We were delighted to select Aisling out of an impressively strong field of applicants for this award. There is such a wealth of creative talent seeking the opportunities this post affords, and we look forward to enjoying what Aisling makes of them when she joins us in October.

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