The play is called Everything Must Go - but a cynical cash-in it isn't
We should get one thing straight from the start. Not that Patrick Jones is in any way emphatic about it. If anything he seems a little apologetic when he explains that actually Everything Must Go, the play, predated Everything Must Go, the album. It all started with a photograph of his son, taken outside the window of a shop that was closing down. Jones took the shop window slogan and used it as the banner for a poetic rant, a "vent of exasperation and anger". He spoke about it to his brother Nick - aka Nicky Wire, lyricist of the Manic Street Preachers - who borrowed the title of his brother's play for his band's new album.
A year later, the album had gone platinum, but it took until St David's Day 1999 for Jones's play to reach the stage, and by this time the poetic rant had become a full-length drama structured around rock music, the bulk of which was by the Manic Street Preachers.
Jones had long had a close relationship with the band, with his poetry featuring on the band's early album Generation Terrorists. Growing up together in the small South Wales town of Blackwood, watching the strikes and pit closures, the boys dreamt of politics, poetry and revolutionary philosophy. Up until the point where the Manics became a guitar-smashing rock phenomenon, the experiences of Patrick Jones had been very much the experiences of Nicky, Richey, Sean and James.
All this background information is necessary if only to give Jones the credit that he deserves. It would be too easy to assume that a play written by a pop star's brother, featuring his band's music and lyrics focusing on topics - self-harm, socialism, joblessness - that fuelled much of the band's work, was a cynical attempt to leap on to a fast-moving bandwagon. But that would be wrong.
Jones shares his younger brother's feline grin and a polite charm, but below the surface there is a craving to communicate and a hint of delight at what he has done. "I had never been involved with the theatre," he says, "but when I started writing this I just saw people on stage; I didn't know who would end up seeing it, but the younger audiences have been very open. My audience has no expectations. There are people coming who have never been to a play before."
Nicky Wire agrees, announcing proudly: "If I had seen something like my brother's play when I was young it would have blown me away; Pat's play should be on the A-level syllabus. The first time I saw it was a spine-tingling moment."
So inspired were the band by what Jones has done with their music that lead singer James Dean Bradfield has since written a score for Patrick's next play, which opens in Cardiff in the autumn. For Jones, the marriage of the two creative sources seems automatic. "I love the way Nick writes and Richey used to write; and the way James tends to play is also the way I tend to write; but then we have all had the same upbringing and the same interests."
The play is structured around big social themes - the Disease, Squalor, Ignorance, Want and Idleness that Aneurin Bevan railed against in 1945 - but there is something in the anger of Jones's writing that roots it very particularly in modern South Wales. "Wales does irritate me," says Jones, "the whole valley culture is very male, macho and apathetic. A lot of the play came out of my struggle here. Being a writer was a difficult choice where I come from, people just think you should get a proper job."
Brother Nicky is among those who would disagree and argues that the theatre offers something that his music cannot equal. "Rock music is a much more accessible medium but theatre is one of the few places left where there is very little censorship. It allows more freedom than music; there is so much more scope within the words to explain things. People might say that rock bands shouldn't be involved in a play like this but theatre has got to become sexy as well."
Patrick Jones: Everything Must Go is on at the Lyric Hammersmith from tomorrow until May 27 (020-8568 4714)