Writer reveals true labour of love

Lee Colyer

Playwright James Graham, whose ‘Labour of Love’ has opened to rave reviews in London, visits Mr Books in Tonbridge on Sunday. Eileen Leahy talks to shop owner Phil Holden about this big event

WRITER James Graham, whose latest

Play ‘Labour of Love’ has just opened at London’s Noël Coward Theatre, is swapping the West End for downtown Tonbridge when he comes to chat at the first in a Meet the Writer series being put on by the new owner of Mr Books, Phil Holden.
The independent bookshop will be hosting the acclaimed 35 year old at an exclusive event at Tonbridge’s Old Fire Station on Sunday [October 15] from 5.30pm and it promises to be an exciting evening.
“Getting James to visit Tonbridge is an amazing coup as he is an award-winning playwright and currently the hottest in Britain,” explains Phil.
“He has two plays on in the West End at the moment, and another just about to start in Chichester, with a fourth one starting a national tour next year.”
Since he began penning plays, James has enjoyed enormous critical success and has seen his work – which includes The Vote, The House and Monster Raving Loony – performed at some of the capital’s most illustrious venues, including The National, Donmar and Bush theatres.
Labour of Love only opened recently and is already being praised by critics.
It charts the prickly past 25 years of the Labour Party through a fictitious MP, David Lyons, played by Martin Freeman. Tamsin Greig co-stars as his feisty constituency agent, Jean Whittaker.
“I’ve tried to embrace all the contradictions,” James recently told The Observer. “The different forces at work are there: Those who want the party to be more electable, those interested in the grassroots, as well as those who want to increase the membership without having a Parliamentary majority.”

While Labour of Love addresses some of the trials and tribulations of the party over the last two decades, James’s other current West End success, ‘Ink’, deals with the early career of Rupert Murdoch. Currently playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre, it tells the story of Murdoch and his Editor Larry Lamb buying The Sun newspaper and inventing tabloid journalism – with some laugh-out-loud moments.
It was Ink that led to Phil persuading one of the country’s most successful writers to come down to Tonbridge this weekend.
“Getting such a successful playwright along to my bookshop was actually down to a stroke of luck,” Phil reveals. “My son is an actor and currently performing in Ink, so he was able to ask James personally.
“James’s talk will be very enjoyable as he is such an engaging speaker, but also fascinating for anyone interested in writing or passionate about the theatre.
“We hope that this first of our Meet the Writer series will also reveal how such topical and award- winning plays are put together.”
The event will include a question and answer session and a book signing.
A limited number of tickets are still available from Mr Books Bookshop at 142 High Street, Tonbridge, or online at www.mrbooks.co.uk
Future events at Mr Books include the novelist Ross Armstrong speaking in November, and the comedian and writer Adam Kay at a date to be announced.

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