Zinnie Harris: 'Everyone criticizes my work: friends, relations, critics, neighbours, bods on buses'

First & Last: Zinnie Harris

First & Last: Zinnie Harris on worrying less, walking more and Winona Ryder

The Edinburgh-based playwright's version on the Eugene Ionesco classic Rhinoceros returns to the capital's stage after a successful outing at last year's International Festival. Here Zinnie Harris takes on our First & Last Q&A.

First record you ever bought
'Girls Just Want to Have Fun' by Cyndi Lauper.

Last extravagant purchase you made
Two tickets to Berlin.

First film you saw that really moved you
Pete's Dragon, aged six.

Last lie you told
That everything would be OK.

First movie you ever went on a date to

Last time you cried
With laughter: last weekend.

First thing you do when you've got time off work
What time off work? I suppose something outdoors. Preferably with my kids. Drag them around Blackford Hill. Have fight about how soon we can go home. Go home. Put TV on. Think about how I should probably be working …

Last great meal you cooked
Christmas dinner for ten. Took all day. Never again.

First crush
Brian Cant in Play Away.

Last book you read
A Legacy of Spies by John le Carré.

First great piece of advice you were given
To worry less. This was from my grandad, the greatest worrier on earth.

Last time you were starstruck
Often around other writers. Both Jez Butterworth and Caryl Churchill have rendered me mute.

First thing you'd do if you ran the country
Make lying to the electorate illegal and punishable with a long prison sentence. And then deportation.

Last meal on earth: what would it be
Pietroni Macaroni, a family recipe invented by my uncle.

First song you'll sing at karaoke
I really can't sing so I'd pass.

Last time you exploited your position to get something
What position? Not sure being a playwright gets you much except free tickets to the shows sometimes. On which note, the EIF gave me very splendid tickets to see PJ Harvey last summer.

First time you realised you were famous
I'm still waiting for that one …

Last time someone criticised your work
Everyone criticizes my work: friends, relations, critics, neighbours, bods on buses. Luckily most people forget your worst moments in time, except, of course, family.

First three words your friends would use to describe you
Never home. Full on. Bit eccentric. Which my kids have edited to: Absent. Demanding. Nuts.

Last time you made an impulse buy and regretted it
Anytime I have been to IKEA.

First concert you ever attended
Oh gawd, not sure. Can I answer first demonstration instead? Went to a Save the Whale demo with my mum in Trafalgar Square in 1978. Not the question you asked but is probably cooler.

Last time you bought someone flowers
For my best friend. To cheer him up.

First object you'd save from your burning home
If the kids were out, I'd be happy, but if I also managed to grab my notebook with all the notes for my new play, and maybe even my laptop, that would be splendid.

First job
Worked in the box office at Theatre Workshop in Stockbridge. Never got the hang of the VISA machine.

Last person you fantasized about
Not sure but I had a really weird dream about Winona Ryder after my Stranger Things binge watch.

First word you spoke
Gandalf: the name of my aunt's dog.

Last crime you committed
I stole a strawberry.

First book you read for a second time
The Child in Time by Ian McEwan.

Last song at your funeral
Dunno. Something cheery, send them home humming. 'In the Mood'?

First person you'd thank in an award acceptance speech
Always thank the actors first. If I'm getting an award for something it's probably because they have been brilliant.

Last thing you think of before you go to sleep
All the things I forgot to do

First thing you think of when you wake up in the morning
All the things I have to remember.

Rhinoceros is at Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, Fri 23 Mar–Sat 7 Apr.


  • 5 stars

Zinnie Harris' new version of Eugène Ionesco’s classic 1959 play.