Amy Rosenthal dares to work with someone she hardly knows

PUBLISHED: 16:23 06 September 2007 | UPDATED: 14:37 07 September 2010

Amy Rosenthal

Amy Rosenthal

PLAYWRIGHTS Amy Rosenthal and Cosh Omar had never met – despite growing up near each other. Amy, the daughter of Maureen Lipman and screenwriter Jack Rosenthal, comes from Muswell Hill, and Omar hails from north London s Turkish Cypriot community. But th

PLAYWRIGHTS Amy Rosenthal and Cosh Omar had never met - despite growing up near each other.

Amy, the daughter of Maureen Lipman and screenwriter Jack Rosenthal, comes from Muswell Hill, and Omar hails from north London's Turkish Cypriot community.

But the duo are now united by Hampstead Theatre's Daring Pairings new writing festival, which asks emerging and established playwrights to collaborate on a short piece

for theatre.

Amy and Cosh came up with two separate characters - one a Jewish woman in her 30s, "slightly uncomfortable in the modern world and out of the dating game". While Cosh's character is a Muslim Londoner, who grew up in the 1970s but harks back to 1950s rockabilly music.

In the final scene, they meet at a dinner party and discover they have more that unites than divides them.

"Cosh and I are coming from very different religious backgrounds though we both grew up in north London - not far from each other," says Amy.

"It seemed like a really interesting potential mix of viewpoints. As soon as we were introduced, we started talking about all sorts of things. We both felt strongly that we wanted a positive image at the end - of two characters from different faiths sitting down together in an optimistic way."

Amy studied for an MA in playwrighting at Birmingham University and has written plays Sitting Pretty, The Jerusalem Syndrome and Henna Night, while Cosh is better known as an actor who has turned to writing.

He has written works including The Battle Of Green Lanes, staged at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in 2004.

"It was a good experience that didn't feel like a mentor-pupil thing but as though we were both coming from the same level," says Amy, who has completed a full-length play that will be staged at Hampstead Theatre next year.

"We both brought different strengths to it and taught each other things. We found a practical way of working that meant we were able to work separately then come together. Although we didn't see what each other had written until the end of the process, we found a lot of common ground came up naturally.

"We had both taken a gently comic route, we were both writing about religious identity and about people who don't feel at home in the era they were born in."

The new writing festival, which runs from September 10, is the second at Hampstead Theatre.

It also pairs playwright Tanika Gupta with teenage writer Atiha Sen-Gupta, who writes for E4's new comedy drama Skins.

Welsh writer Gary Owen and emerging talent Gabriel Bisset-Smith are the third pairing.

Other highlights of the festival include a first reading of Mark Ravenhill's new play Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat, which explores the personal and political effects of war on modern life, and responses by four members of Hampstead Theatre's Heat&Light youth theatre to a 10-minute play by Taking Care Of Baby playwright Dennis Kelly.

Amy, who now lives in Hampstead, says writing can be isolating and it has been nice to feel encouraged and welcomed into a building.

She has struggled with whether to write and even now feels she has something to prove because her late father - a triple BAFTA winner - was so well known.

"It was in my blood to go down the writing path. Writing felt right to me but it's hard. My brother is also a writer and we are both having to prove ourselves. But then if I had wanted to act it would have been far worse - a nightmare. Writing seems a more gentle way of finding my niche."

Amy adapted Rosenthal's autobiography for a four-part drama broadcast last summer on Radio 4 and has just finished adapting a previously unbroadcast work, Tortoise, for radio.

The experience has helped her grieve for the man who died three years ago.

"He was the loveliest man in the world. It was such an uncomplicated relationship with no bitterness or regrets. Work is something to throw yourself into. My mum finished the book and I adapted it. It felt wonderful to do and we were so lucky to be able to have that.As I got more into the detail of cutting down the book and working on his script for Tortoise, it began to feel like working with him. I kept asking myself if he would approve and having finished them, I did think he would.

"Just as I finished the latest one, the kettle boiled on its own in the flat. It was midnight with no-one else here and I thought, 'That's dad saying well done, have a cuppa,' which would have been so typical of him."

Hampstead Theatre's New Writing Festival runs from September 10-15.

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