Caro Meets Theatre Interview

James Fritz: Four Minutes Twelve Seconds

By | Published on Monday 9 November 2015

‘Four Minutes Twelve Seconds’ has already had a very successful run at Hampstead Theatre, selling out houses and garnering an Olivier Award nomination. Now this provocative and topical play, which takes as its theme the sometimes harmful consequences that the use of the internet can bring about, heads over to Trafalgar Studios for a run in London’s west end.


Ahead of the upcoming dates, I put some question to the show’s up and coming playwright, James Fritz.

CM: Tell us what the play is about. What themes does it address and where does the narrative take us?
JF: It’s about two parents whose son is accused of something. It looks at generational attitudes to sex, our sharing culture, confirmation bias, parental responsibility and class prejudice, as well as some other things that are a bit spoilery. As for the narrative – that’d be telling…

CM: What made you want to write a piece about this particular subject matter? What inspired it?
JF: Lots of different things. I often try and write from a place of annoyance, things that bother me either about the world or – quite often – about myself. I think in recent years I’ve become very aware of my own maleness in a way that I wasn’t when I was younger.

CM: The internet has its positive side and its negative side. Have you yourself ever fallen foul of it?
JF: There are definitely things I’ve written or posted when I was younger that I’d rather weren’t online. I think everyone has that. I think if I’d been born ten years later, it might have been even worse, but who knows.

CM: In writing this, did you have any intention to inform young people (or indeed, their guardians) of how things can go wrong?
JF: I dunno. I think in a way we already know deep down on some level what can go wrong, even if we bury it. That’s what makes watching this sort of thing so uncomfortable. Just because I might be showing them a nightmare doesn’t mean that it hasn’t already occurred to them in some form.

CM: As a writer, how involved are you with the production? Have you had a close working relationship with the director?
JF: Yeah, Anna and I have got a really great working relationship. I like working with directors who just take what you’ve written and run with it to make something new without worrying too much what I want and think. Anna and Janet the designer have made some decisions that I think have made the play ten times what it is on the page.

I’ve been quite involved throughout. Just before the first run at The Hampstead the text wasn’t really working in rehearsal so there was a lot of rewriting and tweaking throughout the process, which Anna and the cast facilitated beautifully. The final play feels like a very collaborative thing – we’ve all found our way through it together.

CM: What’s next for this production? Is it likely to tour?
JF: One step at a time! I’ve no idea to be honest, this run is already a huge bonus and as far as I’m aware there are no further plans. But who knows.

CM: This was your first play, wasn’t it? Did you always want to write plays? How did you embark on this career?
JF: In a way. It was my first full length play that was put on. There were several other not very good plays I wrote that will never see the light of day.

I remember always wanting to write when I was younger. but I started writing properly at university. I wrote short plays and sketches and things and then got some funding to do an MA at Central. That gave me a year to practice and find out if I wanted to do it. I then spent a few years writing the aforementioned terrible plays in my bedroom.

CM: What new projects are you planning?
JF: I’m under commission to a few places and have got my first radio drama coming up next year. There’s also a couple of ideas I’ve been itching to write for ages, so hopefully I’ll get round to them sooner rather than later.

Four Minutes Twelve Seconds is on at Trafalgar Studios from 10-30 November. See this page here for more info and to book.