(Kate Kellaway's article appeared in The Guardian, August 30.)

How Simon Stephens's plays are galvanising British theatre

Pornography, Sea Wall, Punk Rock… is Simon Stephens the busiest man in British theatre?

'Excuse me, are you Simon Stephens?' He is sitting on the front steps of Black's club, in Soho's Dean Street. His pose is a bit like Rodin's The Thinker – hand on chin. He is on his mobile, talking concentratedly, dressed in black – a sort of uniform. He could be a waiter or a theatrical usher. But I am guessing that I have the right man. I have just overheard him say he can't take on any more work – and that clinches it. For Stephens is in overdrive. To say that he is 'in demand' would be putting it mildly. 'Pornography', about the London bombings has just finished a successful run at The Tricycle in Kilburn, 'Sea Wall', a tragic monologue – a Father's Tale – has been at the Edinburgh Festival and his new play 'Punk Rock' is about to open at the Lyric Hammersmith (it is also a debut production from Sean Holmes as the theatre's new artistic director with Simon Stephens as his associate). It is true: Stephens does not have much room for manoeuvre.

He owns up to being himself at once – and scrambles to his feet. He is tall, good-looking with hair that seems under attack (all that earlier thinking). He seems to have the combined energy of several people in one body. I like his punchy, engaged manner. At different moments, I notice him throw his arms wide, as if someone had scored a goal and use both forefingers to add double emphasis to his points. If you were to guess what sort of plays he wrote from his demeanour, you would plump for dynamic comedy. But you would be wrong. His writing can entertain but it is darkness that draws him in.

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