Guest Blog: Interview with Nathan Powell about the creative process behind The Spine

The Spine is an explosive new show about goals, brotherhood and the football academy system. You can catch it at here on 27-29 Feb. Click here for more details. 

In this blog post, Nathan Powell the director and writer of The Spine discusses his creative process behind the show. Specifically drawing on what inspired him, the rehearsal process and what he has learnt about the academy system throughout.

What inspired you to write The Spine?

I was inspired to write the play after having a conversation with a good friend of mine that used to play in a football academy. It just seemed like such an interesting world full of hope and incredible highs, but also some pretty harsh lows. It just felt like the right time to be making a play on this subject too. There is so much being reported about racism in football at the moment, which is great, we should be talking about it, but we also need to take some responsibility for what is happening a bit closer to home. We’re also talking a lot about the hopes and prospects for young people in our society today, this play lets us get into meaty conversations about all this stuff in a way that is beautiful and exciting to watch as well.

Is The Spine a true story?

No, but it is heavily inspired by a collection of true stories. When I started making the show, I began by interviewing people that used to play football, coaches and some parents whose children had been a part of football academies. All of this allowed me to create this story that feels very truthful but with fictional characters. The play focuses on three young boys in the football academy system.

What have you learnt about the academy system whilst researching & writing?

I’ve learnt how truly dedicated these young boys have to be to have a chance at making it in the game. I’ve learnt about some of the sacrifices that these boys have to make for a dream that is really difficult to attain. There are also some pretty rough facts that I have learnt about the system, the most important being that out of all the boys that are playing in academy football at age 9, less than half than 1% of them will ever play professional football or make a living from the game. Less than half a percent!!!!

How would you describe your writing style?

I think my writing style is quite conversational. I try and portray stories through conversations that feel honest and truthful. To me, those are the things that are most exciting, the things that we see as an audience from what isn’t being said. When I write, I also sometimes just write down big ideas that I hope to figure out in the rehearsal room. Then when we get into rehearsals, I will try out a variety of ways to bring this to life.

What writers & artists have inspired you through this process?

A lot of music has been inspiring me throughout this process actually, more than theatre writers. I have been listening to a lot of UK rap, grime and drill and have been taking from some of the playfulness and silliness of some of the lyrics whilst talking about really serious topics. Some artists I have been inspired by are Loski, Headie One, JME and SL. There is a clear feeling in young black Britain today that we are going to enjoy life no matter some of the terrible situations we might be in, and I think a lot of that comes out in the interactions of the boys.

What will a typical day in the rehearsal room look like for this show?

It’s going to be exhausting in the best way possible! There is going to be a lot of movement, a lot of football and a lot of competition. This show is all about brother hood in a competitive space and how competition effects that brotherhood or friendship and to get into that world we are going to experience some of that. It will be a lively room with a lot of really exciting conversation great music and football. I’ll basically be using it as my new year’s resolution to get fit!

What excites you the most about this show?

The most exciting thing about this show for me is the fact that it speaks to a generation and a demographic that have often felt not included in the theatre. I think it is a show that will start a generational conversation between younger people and older people and will allow young people to feel empowered to talk about how they are feeling. Also, as a part of the rehearsals we will have a training session at a football academy, so I get to live out my childhood dream of being a footballer for one morning…