Meet the award-winning playwright whose play, Backstairs Billy, debuts in London’s West End this month

Marcelo do Santos (cred. Mike Massaro) Blue Background Mik4747

From Esher to the West End, how Marcelo’s plays have taken him from Broadway, to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and now at the Duke of York Theatre.

A Level Courses:       English Literature, Classical Civilisation, Theatre Studies
Secondary School:    Orleans Park High School
Left Esher:                 2000
Job now:                   Playwright and Scriptwriter 

What was the first thing that struck you about Esher?

Marcelo do Santos (cred. Mike Massaro) Blue Background Mik4747

I liked that it felt a bit nestled away. I lived in Kew at the time so it was definitely a commute to get there but I didn’t mind because it felt just the right size and atmosphere for me at that time. It always felt friendly and open; big enough that it wasn’t school but small enough that you could get to know people.

What were your course highlights at Esher?

I remember we saw a lot of theatre as part of Theatre Studies, so I saw a lot at The National and the West End. We also went to Greece as part of the Classical Civilisation course. Generally though I just remember feeling very supported but also encouraged in all my courses.

What were your career plans after Esher?

I wanted to go to University and then work it out from there, that’s as far as it went. I had toyed with the idea of acting but studying drama at University killed that off. Acting requires a very particular set of skills and character traits I don’t really possess; you need to be so incredibly resilient. But more fundamentally I realised I was more interested and stimulated by how things were made.

When did you realise journalism wasn’t the career path you wanted?

It was exactly when the magazine I was working for went bankrupt for the second time. I thought, “Well, if I’m going to be in a precarious job it might as well be one I’m really passionate about”. It wasn’t necessarily hard at that point because there were a lot of writing groups and courses which helped you transfer. I think there’s fewer now sadly. The difficulty really is less about getting into the arts as sustaining a long career.

What have been your top career highlights so far?

Esher Alumni play Backstairs Billy Poster

Seeing my play Lionboy on Broadway; taking Feeling Afraid to the Edinburgh Fringe and winning the Fringe First and now Backstairs Billy opening in the West End.

What advice would you give your 16-year-old self?

I think it’s probably take yourself a bit less seriously and try and enjoy things more.

Do you have any tips for aspiring playwrights?

Feeling Afraid theatre Poster

Truthfully, I think having a solid money making job on the side is helpful, at least at the beginning. Make sure you’re focussing on the writing and not climbing a career ladder because that only comes when you’re really writing truthfully and distinctively. Enjoy it.

What music are you listening to most right now?

I’m trying to listen to happier music as my default is alt singer songwriter stuff, so I’m listening to a lot of Dua Lipa and Self-Esteem.

Feeling afraid poster Star Prod Shot
Feeling Afraid theatre Poster
Esher Alumni play Backstairs Billy Poster