Tom Murray is appointed Shaffer playwright-in-residence at Trinity 2023-2024. Here he writes about his inspiration and plans for the residency.
Please tell us about yourself
I’m a 23 year old playwright from the village of Linton in Cambridgeshire. I graduated from Durham University in 2021 with a degree in History before doing an MA in Dramaturgy and Writing for Performance at Goldsmiths College in 2022.
What inspires your work?
I’m interested in rurality, the socio-political, and the way the past speaks to the present. I’m fascinated by the Absurd and the boundaries that join the banal with the extraordinary.
My work is characterised by themes of interconnectivity, of shared complicity, and mutual plight. I strive for theatre that fosters empathy – whilst challenging complacent narratives.
My work includes: FRAMED (Theatre503) and North Star (RSC’s 37 Plays).
What new ideas are you developing?
I have multiple things in the works. Over the course of the year, I hope to write my new play: ‘The Melancholy Death of William Huskisson’: An epic story about Captain Swing, modernization, and the very first man to be hit by a train.
I also hope to redraft a studio piece: ‘Forgotten In the Land of Egypt’, set in the fens – where a woman is haunted by prophetic dreams.
What does the residency offer?
Perhaps the most valuable thing this opportunity offers is time and space. For research, for thinking, for trialling material. It is such a rare and necessary thing. It’s sadly something the social and economic demands of the present too often denies.
This residency grants me access to the wonderful University Library, in turn equipping me with the research material required for my most ambitious project yet. I also gain the privilege of expert feedback and scrutiny, so vital in creating drama.
Cambridge is a very special place to me. It’s where my parents met and fell in love. It’s where I was born and raised. It’s where my love of theatre began. It’s a privilege to have the support of this initiative to pursue the very passion the town instilled in me.
Do you have a favourite playwright?
At the moment? Probably Jez Butterworth. Perhaps because so much of his work resonates: the love of rurality, the comic beats, the sudden poetic turns of phrase.
I love Brian Friel for a similar reason. Also Kae Tempest. They’re writers who write in a way that makes you wonder why anyone else bothers – whilst also being precisely the reason why we do bother.
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.
The current and first Peter Shaffer playwright-in-residence is India Harrison Peppe.