Simon Stephens has a big head. This is anatomic and not metaphoric. It is amplified by big, active hair that sways a lot when he talks, because he gesticulates with his whole body which makes everything he says seem more necessary and immediate! His larger than life effect was amplified by the fact that he was probably the largest human being on the post-show talk panel. He’s tall and broad-shouldered, even though he is slim. You can tell because he was wearing skinny jeans. No, real skinny jeans. The ones you have to peel off because you can’t slide them down. He must be a rock star. Only rock stars wear skinny jeans.
If you chat with Simon Stephens at some point you will probably think “Is he always like this?” But then you can imagine everyone who actually knows him enthusiastically nodding yes while eyeing you with sympathetic understanding. He explained during the talk back that he always wanted to be a rock star, but wasn’t good enough in the musical arena. But he has thoroughly made himself a rock star in persona, and in the theatrical arena. I deeply admire those who do what it takes to get what you need as an artist.
Simon considered my question in a dramatic Rodin’s Thinker pose. He listens with his whole body as throughly as he talks with it. He mentioned on twitter a few weeks ago, seeing a play that made him want to be a better writer. I’m not sure a writer could pay a peer a finer compliment, nor better showcase their own humility. During the talk back he mentioned that he is bad at endings. In the case of Birdland I concur. Better luck next time. He also talked about how much he loves it when people cut his scenes and rearrange his work. Stephens is a minimalist in stage directions etc. and completely open about casting without matching and preconceived notions of gender, race, etc. He is also a relatively spare writer. The message and themes of the work are not overly explicit in the text. This leaves room for both creativity and risks confusion. I aspire to all these freedoms in my own work, and to being able to let it go in these ways. A brief brush with SS will keep me pushing for that.
Though I don’t know Simon, I suspect he is a lovable disaster of music nerdery. The guy who will orate a thesis on the various recordings of “Prodigal Son” based on hearing four bars of it from a car as it rounds the corner. Don’t chat him about music at a party because your drink will run dry, and you might not get a break to grab another. SS and I are drunk on different genres, but all I can say is, “Amen, brother.”
Simon Stephens is the author of several successful plays. His Twitter handle is @StephensSimon, which confuses me. Congratulations sir, subversion complete. #TwoFirstNameProblems