Roy Williams

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Plays by Roy Williams

Advice for the Young at Heart

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

It’s 2011 and 1958 and London is rioting. Candice is ordered by her gang-leading boyfriend to lure Clint into a honeytrap. Haunted by her grandfather’s mistakes, she stands at a crossroads. Will she do as she’s told, or will she learn to be true to herself before history repeats itself?

A modern tale for riotous times, commissioned and developed by Theatre Centre, Advice for the Young at Heart examines 2011’s unrest against the background of the 1958 race riots, exploring themes of race, family and misguided loyalty. A new play for young people aged 14+.

Advice for the Young at Heart was first performed at Redbridge Drama Centre, London, on 12 September 2013.

Category B

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Category B is a sharp and hard-hitting play about the brutal power structures of prison life. It is set in a Category B prison, where all offenders are placed after they are first convicted: it is tough, and dangerous, and compelling.

Inside C Wing, Thames Gate Prison, it’s the screws that have the keys, but all too often it’s the prisoners that have the power. Saul is the con in charge: prisoners follow his rules, the officers turn the occasional blind eye, and everything runs smoothly. But his number two position is vacant, new inmates are flooding in, and things are getting tense. Meanwhile Angela is training her replacement, a crash course in keeping the aggression of an overcrowded ward at bay. And new inmate Rio is ready prove he’s as tough as the rest of them, but the volatile Errol is keeping an eye on him, for reasons of his own. Category B offers a chilling insight into the treachery and manipulation that prop up the prison walls from the inside.

Williams's play was first performed as part of the ‘Not Black and White’ season at the Tricycle Theatre, London, in 2009.

Clubland

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Clubland is a south London drama of sexual politics, which confronts pressing questions of race, cultural identity and the roles in which society casts young men and women.

Although Ben is married to Denise he's still on the pull, Kenny's looking for someone who's "right", Ade's with Sandra but playing the field, and Nate's a proud new father. The play follows this group of young men and women in and out of the clubs, as they discuss each other's lives, who has slept with whom and whether black or white people are better in bed.

With shrewd insight and a sharp ear for dialogue, Williams examines the mechanisms of race, discrimination and sexual stereotypes, and the power they have over people’s lives.

Clubland premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in 2001.

Days of Significance

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Days of Significance was written in response to Much Ado About Nothing, and follows the love lives and mortal fears of young soldiers departing their English market-towns for the deserts of Iraq.

The first act sees two young soldiers join their friends to stumble, drink and brawl before they leave for active service; the play buzzes with the coarse jokes, insults and confrontations of a night out, though there’s a nervous spark of true romance buried in the teasing confrontation. The second act sees the soldiers transferred to Iraq, where they are morally out of their depth, and fighting in a war they don’t understand.

Williams's play, which premiered at the Swan Theatre in 2007, looks at how the naive and malformed moral codes of these young men have catastrophic reverberations for the West’s moral authority.

The Gift

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Gift, by Roy Williams, is a touching and vibrant exploration of one family’s loss and their love for each other.

When Heather left Jamaica to join her parents who had moved to England, her half-sister Bernice stayed at home. Thirty years later, Heather returns to the island to bury her much-loved son Andrew after he was killed in a street fight. Since their childhood, Bernice always claimed to have ‘the gift’ of talking to the dead; now Heather begs her to talk to Andrew, to give her back her son. But it is Andrew’s sister Janet who feels that she can reach Andrew beyond the grave.

The Gift is about separation, spiritual as well as geographical: both sisters struggle with the hole left by Heather’s emigration, as the family tries to find ways to talk to each other again after Andrew’s death and long years apart.

Williams’s play premiered in 2000 at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

Joe Guy

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Joe Guy is a stark and powerful contemporary story about football and fame, exploring the historical tension and bitter prejudices existing between African and Caribbean British communities.

Joseph Boateng is a Ghanaian boy, relentlessly abused at school by white and West Indian peers for his African origins. The only exception is Naomi, his childhood sweetheart, who is British and of Jamaican parentage. The play follows Joe from a nervous boy working in a fast food restaurant to a flash football hero, rolling in money, women and sex scandals. As his celebrity status escalates, Joe disguises his voice and sheds his heritage in order to talk the talk with his fellow stars. The play weaves between the promising start of his footballing career and its arrogant peak, as his ascent brings sacrifices, accusations of selling out, temptations and life-changing choices.

Joe Guy is an urgent discussion of identity and celebrity. It is unflinching in its examination of complex and pervasive racial hostilities.

The play premiered at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, in 2007.

Little Sweet Thing

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Little Sweet Thing is raw and spikily contemporary portrayal of a group of young people whose identity depends on acting tough and keeping on the right side of the gangs.

The young teenager Tash is sharp-tongued and defiant, but she can’t afford to drop her tough-girl image. Her brother Kev is just out of prison and trying to go straight, but he’s finding it difficult to stick to his new principles as his past has a nasty habit of catching up with him. As they try to survive the pressures of the gang culture that surrounds them, it seems the only way to survive is to swagger and fit in. Williams’s funny, gritty and gripping dialogue summons a complex world of vengeance, bullying, vulnerability and gun crime.

Little Sweet Thing premiered in 2005 at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich.

Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Roy Williams’s fierce and excoriating portrait of British racism is set in a south-west London pub, during the 2000 England vs. Germany match. As England lose again, their supporters in The King George lose it too – at full time, patriotism has become unapologetic racism.

Fuelling the xenophobic tensions is the blind venom of Lawrie, captain of the pub team; the articulate propaganda of Alan, active member of an anti-immigration party; and the hatred of Glen the landlady’s son, bullied and confused. The dialogue snaps with alarming authenticity in Williams’s challenging play about what it means to be British, and how people define it – whether it is a bulldog tattoo, or violence against those who don’t fit in.

Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads premiered in 2002 at the Royal National Theatre, London.

Sucker Punch

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

By turns tender, shocking and funny, Sucker Punch looks back on what it was like to be young and black in the '80s and asks if the right battles have been fought, let alone won.

In the red corner: Leon Davidson - Black British champ or Uncle Tom? In the blue corner: Troy Augustus - American powerhouse or naive cash cow? Having spent their youth in the same London boxing gym, vying for the favouritism of inspirational, foul-mouthed trainer Charlie Maggs, the two former friends step into the ring and face up to who they are. Williams combines very real characters with potent, nuanced dialectics to create a tough, forceful drama of race and money.

Sucker Punch was first performed in 2010 at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, London.

Picture of Roy Williams

Roy Williams, OBE, worked as an actor before turning to writing full-time in 1990. He graduated from Rose Bruford in 1995 with a first class BA Hons degree in Writing and participated in the 1997 Carlton Television screenwriter's course.

No Boys Cricket Club (Theatre Royal, Stratford East, 1996) won him nominations for the TAPS Writer of the Year Award 1996 and for New Writer of the Year Award 1996 by the Writers' Guild of Great Britain. He was the first recipient of the Alfred Fagon Award 1997 for Starstruck (Tricycle Theatre, London, 1998), which also won the 31st John Whiting Award and the EMMA Award 1999. Lift Off (Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, 1999) was the joint winner of the George Devine Award 2000.

His other plays include: Night and Day (Theatre Venture, 1996); Josie's Boys (Red Ladder Theatre Co., 1996); Souls (Theatre Centre, 1999); Local Boy (Hampstead Theatre, 2000); The Gift (Birmingham Rep/Tricycle Theatre, 2000); Clubland (Royal Court, 2001), winner of the Evening Standard Charles Wintour Award for the Most Promising Playwright; Fallout (Royal Court Theatre, 2003) which was made for television by Company Pictures/Channel 4; Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads (National Theatre, 2002, 2004), Little Sweet Thing (New Wolsey, Ipswich/ Nottingham Playhouse/Birmingham Rep, 2005), Slow Time (National Theatre Education Department tour, 2005), Days of Significance (Swan Theatre, Stratfordupon- Avon, 2007), Absolute Beginners (Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, 2007), Joe Guy (Tiata Fahodzi/Soho Theatre, 2007), Baby Girl (National Theatre, 2007), Out of the Fog (Almeida Theatre, 2007), There's Only One Wayne Matthews (Polka Theatre, 2007), Category B (Tricycle Theatre, 2009) and Sucker Punch (Royal Court, 2010). He also contributed A Chain Play (Almeida Theatre, 2007) and Sixty Six (Bush Theatre, 2011).

His screenplays include Offside, winner of a BAFTA for Best Schools Drama 2002. His radio plays include Tell Tale, Homeboys, Westway, which was broadcast as part of Radio 4 First Bite Young Writers' Festival, To Sir with Love, and The Interrogation. He also wrote Babyfather for BBC TV. He was awarded the OBE for Services to Drama in the 2008 Birthday Honours List.