Welcome to the final interview from one of the lecturers at Southampton Solent University! A certain Solent English student had the pleasure to interview the wonderful Seamus Finnegan during a very rainy lunchtime…
What inspired you to become a playwright?
When I was five years old, one of my uncles was an actor and I went to see him in a play which is called Lord Castlereagh. My uncle was playing Lord Castlereagh. It was my first theatre memory. That was probably the inspiration.
What is your favourite play of all time?
Favourite play of all time? Well it changes. For the purpose of this, I’m going to say Buchner’s Danton’s Death.
When did you decide to teach about plays and what sparked that?
When I first started teaching at a comprehensive school – in a Jewish Comprehensive School – I taught English for four years. I don’t believe that one “teaches”. I feel that what one does is create an atmosphere in which people will want to read and learn. It’s my favourite medium.
Do you have any religious beliefs and if you don’t, why?
I think everyone does. I think all human beings have a religion. I don’t necessarily belong to any particular denomination. I think all human beings have a sense of the religious.
Who is the most famous person you have met and why?
Chaim Herzog, the President of Israel. I interviewed him. He was born in Belfast. His father had once been the chief rabbi of Ireland.
Based upon that person, do you think they have inspired you in any way?
No – the only thing I can say in relation to that is when we were talking about the Jewish and Irish Experience. We both agreed the Jews, and indeed the Irish, probably had a better literature before they had a nation state.
What is your favourite play medium to write for and why?
Stage, because Theatre is live. I’ve written for Radio.
Outside of being a playwright, do you have any other interests?
Life. The World. Food. Wine. Sitting and Reading. Writing for the Theatre. Going to Art Galleries.
When teaching, what is your favourite unit to teach?
I enjoy teaching Shakespeare. I think people can often have very bad experiences with Shakespeare at school. I like to be able to help students to overcome the fear.
Any memorable moments when teaching?
It’s not at University – it was when I was doing some supply teaching in a Boys’ School in London. The pupils were either Black or Asian, but 20% were Indian or Chinese and the others were White with names like Flannery, O’Riley or McGinty. I was there to teach drama. We would do improvisation. Other people from other classes used to wonder what was going on. The class started out with about twenty and grew to about forty. They were supposed to be in Geography and History! But I suppose that is one of the more interesting ones and it was many years ago.
Living in London, do you think it has shaped your career in any way?
Yes. That is where the Theatre is and that is where I started having plays produced. That is where I got my first agent and my first publisher.
Do you have any advice for aspiring playwrights?
The only thing I would say is get a piece of paper and a pen and write “Scene One” and start writing. Read as many plays as you can and go and see as many plays as you can. Look at plays for the last Two Thousand Years and you will be inspired by them!
Many thanks to all the lecturers who were willing to be interviewed! Also, many thanks to those who read these!