The following article was first published in the July 2019 edition of Viva Lewes magazine:

John Foster has, without doubt, a talent for writing crime drama. He’s crafted episodes of classic TV cop shows including Softly Softly, Z Cars, Juliet Bravo and The Bill. He’s also written a BAFTA-winning BBC documentary about detective fiction author Raymond Chandler and devised the story behind murder-mystery film Letters from a Killer, which starred Patrick Swayze. So it’s a surprise when I briefly stop him in his tracks by asking what fascinates him about the darker side of life. “I don’t know, really. I’m quite interested in people who are forced to the brink, as it were. It’s really a means to an end: it’s looking at ways in which you can examine people’s psychology. That’s what interests me. It’s not so much the crimes themselves as why people commit crimes.”

His new play Feral doesn’t start with a crime, although its leading character soon finds themselves on the edges of society. “It was a true story I came across years ago. A teenage boy living on a council estate in Dorset travelled to Cornwall, not knowing why he had this strange call of the wild – and not knowing he was from gypsy heritage, because his parents had kept it quiet. He’d experienced these mental storms, these pulls to nature, but was very resistant until it took over. It’s something I’ve wanted to write about for some time.” In John’s play, the boy becomes 18-year-old Simone. “I enjoy writing for female characters more than male characters. Also there’s a move to provide more parts for female actors; it’s been a male-dominated situation for many years. And it rings the changes a bit: it’s a different perspective and raises all kinds of other issues.”

The forthcoming Lewes production of Feral is being performed outdoors, as was the original Bournemouth show last year, although it wasn’t penned with any kind of staging in mind. “It was written as a one-woman show with a lot of descriptions of the outdoors. When we came to work on it [with director Charmaine K Parkin], we thought it was a good idea to perform outside.” Another way in which the play has evolved is its music. Singer and songwriter Hui Hue, who originally performed the role of Simone, turned some of her character’s words into lyrics. “I simply wrote it as a monologue”, admits John. “She took those lines, composed music and sang them. The new actress, Maria Theresa Rodriguez, has done the same and composed one song, so now there are four or five songs in the whole piece. It adds a lot to it.”

Finally, given his long and successful career, I wonder if John has any plans for retirement. He laughs. “The R-word? No, I don’t think so. I shall be at my word processor as they lower me into the coffin.”

Feral takes place in the Gun Garden of Lewes Castle on Sunday 7th July 2019. Tickets available via ticketsource.co.uk/sisata