Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles is the subject of a theatrical reimagining from founder of Hammer & Tongue poetry slam Steve Larkin, who has reinvented the tragic heroine as a teenage hoodie from a council estate who is found to be descended from a famous romantic poet

Following the success of NONCE in previous years at the North Wall, I return there with TES feeling like I’m finally ready to give birth to a new fully-formed piece of theatre after a lengthy gestation period.

TES took shape quickly in my head after its conception in 2012. I knew what I wanted it to be: a modern day reinvention of Thomas Hardy’s novel, written with a cinematic eye, drawing parallels between pre- and post-industrial ages, personifying injustice in a protagonist drowning in pathos.

I followed the original closely, finding modern-day equivalents: where Hardy paints pastoral landscapes strewn with seeds, I imagine analogous symbolism in the form of an urban/techno soundscape.

Passage by passage, I process like a defragging computer. I just need to find time to put pen to paper.

I agree to a theatre scratch night at the Old Fire Station in February and a run through it at small fringe festivals while on tour.

What could go possibly go wrong?!

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by,” said Douglas Adams (RIP).

Positive audience feedback on a seven-minute scene at the scratch night was welcome; now all I had to do was put pen to paper and finish the script, create the soundscape and learn it before September.

Alarm bells! My saviour: Martin Dockery, New York storyteller, who encouraged me to follow his method and develop the show entirely orally. He never puts pen to paper, speaking his pieces into life in secluded environments, committing them to muscle memory by in-the-moment physical repetition.

My only hope is to take his direction. I neglect the soundscape and written script and lock myself in a cat-poo-strewn basement and start to tell my story to a bemused cat. I finish the last scene the night before I open at the Edinburgh Fringe.

I open. Standing ovation. Glowing review. Best show!

Underconstruction Theatre advertise a residency at the OFS to develop a theatre piece. I apply, get it, and somehow convince award-winning West End sound designer Chris Full to help develop the soundscape. I work with dramaturge Lizzy McBain on blocking and characterisation and perform a rough showcase at the OFS. Then perform every other day in Canada for three months, editing and inhabiting the piece until it’s ready for Britain; the country it was written for and about. I use the 4- and 5-star reviews to secure a booking at my favourite theatre in Oxford, the North Wall.

“A poet’s got to travel the whole world round before he’s accepted in his home town.” – Tuggstar So only now, years later, do I feel like the show is about to be born, hopefully perfectly formed.

TES – Tess of the D’Urbervilles Re-imagined, at the North Wall, May 14, 8pm.