Meet Michael Wynne, Writer of Discoshow

Michael Wynne Discoshow Wrighter.

Spiegelworld speaks to Michael Wynne, Playwright for Spiegelworld’s new show DISCOSHOW, opening at The LINQ Hotel + Experience.

Welcome, Michael. Thank you for taking the time, I know you are busy preparing DISCOSHOW. Can you share with us your journey to being the writer for DISCOSHOW?

I never thought my career would lead to this point – a show opening in Las Vegas. It seems so extraordinary but perhaps this was where it was all leading! I write plays for theatre and also TV and film scripts. My work often has something serious to say but I do like to entertain and for the audience to have a good time. I’m a populist at heart – DISCOSHOW is for everyone – and I want every single member of the audience to have a brilliant time at the show – a night that they’ll never forget. I guess all the different projects have led to this and informed DISCOSHOW. I’ve written a few plays that take place outside of conventional theatres like DISCOSHOW – including a play with Steven Hoggett our Director, Dirty Wonderland, which was in a 400-room, art deco hotel in Brighton. Another, Who Cares, was a play about the National Health Service in the UK and was performed in and around the Royal Court Theatre – turning the rehearsal rooms into operating theatres and the offices into doctors surgeries. The audience goes on a huge journey in these shows and never know what is round the corner – literally – and it will be the same with DISCOSHOW – which is so exciting. Other pieces of my work – whether it’s my play The Priory – which won the Olivier Award for Best Comedy, or my film My Summer of Love – which won the Best British Film BAFTA, or Lapland – my TV film, starring Steven Graham and Zawe Ashton which was a huge hit on BBC1 on Christmas Eve – all feel like stepping stones to this wonderful moment.

What inspired you to become a playwright? And what goes into the process of writing a project?

I sort of fell into writing plays by accident. I was at University studying for a politics degree when I saw a poster for the Royal Court Theatre – advertising their young writers festival and writing workshops. I didn’t know what a writing workshop was or much about the Royal Court, but something made me reach out and go along. I ended up writing my first play – The Knocky – which the Royal Court then decided to produce and it was a huge hit. I didn’t quite know what I was doing, but I was apparently a playwright, so I decided to stick with it. Now when I look back, I can see that I was drawn to theatre from a young age – I just found it so magical – and have always loved telling stories and being fascinated by people and how we live. So perhaps I had been gearing myself up to be a playwright all along – I just didn’t know it. 

My writing process can depend on the project. Some plays have a clear story that I want to tell – others are more fluid – where I feel there’s something fascinating to be discovered around a subject or character but I have to dig in and find the play as I write. DiscoShow was different again and has grown and developed over the last few years into the unique creation it now is. 

How have you approached the development of DiscoShow characters?

I did research around the world of disco music and what it was like to live in New York in the 1970’s. This really informed our main six characters – who are all living and working in New York but need the joy and escape of disco to keep going. Disco brought together people on the dancefloor who may not mix on the street and this felt like a perfect idea for us to explore. I also came across videos on YouTube of a Finnish disco dance teacher from the 1970’s Åke Blomqvist – and he intrigued me. We tried out a version of him in a workshop in New York a few years ago and tested out the idea that he would teach the audience disco dance moves throughout the show. This went down brilliantly – the audience loved him and the lessons – especially as embodied and performed by the wonderful Eli Weinberg. The character of Mother came later. Initially she was just going to be on the door and you needed to get past her to get into the show – which we still have – but now she’s also our narrator and is central to the whole piece and story.

How do you integrate the disco music era into the narrative and what role does music play in driving the story forward?

The music is central to the whole show. It is all about the disco music. Every scene is practically underscored by a disco track – some songs move the story on, others provide a great backing track or a moment for our audience to lose themselves and dance. I was a huge fan of disco music even before being involved in this show and regularly go to Horsemeat Disco in London which takes over a small pub in Vauxhall every Sunday – playing the best disco tunes – which they’ve been doing for the last 20 years. But working on this show and hearing the songs played on our incredible sound system in the theatre has made me fall in love with disco all over again and hear them almost afresh.

We are excited for how DiscoShow will introduce our audience to this amazing era. What do you hope will be the experience and memories coming out of it?

DISCOSHOW is unlike anything else in the world. The audience members are transported back to 1970’s New York – to the streets and characters from that time and then to a disco where they get to dance with the main characters in the show to the incredible music of the time. The audience are in the show and go on the journey with the characters. They don’t sit down at a distance away from the action – they are in it. I hope they’ll take away how joyous disco music is. It’s incredibly celebratory, all about being free and being yourself. I hope they put their phones away and come together in this shared experience – no two shows will be the same – and dance!

What are you most excited for people to experience in DiscoShow?

There’s so much I don’t want to tell people and so many magical moments – that I want to be a surprise. All I would say at this point is bring your dancing shoes!