How does the co-founder of a theatre company create a novel that captures the tumult of coming-of-age in modern London? For Polis Loizou, Disbanded Kingdom developed like a collage.
It began with Loizou’s journals written when he was 24 years-old. Like Oscar, Disbanded Kingdom’s main character, Loizou describes himself at that time as “bumbling and directionless.” The journals captured the emotional journey of discovering how he fit in the world after university, but turning that into a novel was a challenge.
Loizou decided to start by organizing the material like the tracks on an album - a fitting analogy since Oscar is a stifled musician. Each track had its own theme but all the tracks work together to lead Oscar to a place where he is able to begin reclaiming his voice and his place in the world.
While he was organizing the journal material a story idea he had years before came back to him. It was the story of a young man falling in love with his mother figure’s boyfriend. The quest for an impossible love seemed to marry perfectly with the emotional journey Loizou was developing for Oscar and so the novel began to take shape.
From the beginning, Loizou knew that politics would be important in the novel. For the younger Loizou, being at the mercy of the financial crisis brought him to a low-point of self-doubt. Brexit and Scottish Independence, along with issues of race, gender and sexuality, create social instability for Oscar. The challenge was not how to bring the politics up-to-date in the novel, but knowing when to stop. Loizou found himself constantly wanting to update the novel to follow each day’s latest current event twists. Eventually he had to draw a line in the sand and set that as the date for the novel.
As the collage of the novel developed, Loizou filled it with more color by developing other characters in Oscar’s world. Bella, Oscar’s best friend, gave voice to the angst that Loizou remembers feeling in that phase of life. Tim, Oscar’s love interest, is fully engaged with the world around him and confident in himself. Charlotte, Oscar’s adoptive mother, is a figure of unconditional love for Oscar, but her love has stifled and stunted him. She is a foil for Oscar to break free from, without abandoning.
If this collage had a frame it would be the city of London, a city with a tumultuous history shaped by bombings, fires and so much more. “London is a big mess that somehow works” Loizou told Spine. What better place to explore Oscar’s mental and emotional states which - much like London- are something “you can explore and explore but never really get to the bottom of” said Loizou. It is a city that makes it impossible to stay disconnected; London forces Oscar to find a way to reconnect with his place in the world.
The editors added the tag “A Catcher in the Rye for the 21st Century” to the book which Loizou was unsure about. Loizou did not particularly empathize with Holden Caulfield when he read Catcher in the Rye. Now, though, he appreciates that, like Holden, Oscar is a polarizing character. Oscar is not particularly noble or brave; he is white and wealthy and he is coming-of-age at 24 as opposed to as a teenager. Despite those things there is a truth in Oscar’s struggle that Loizou wanted to explore. A truth that people can feel hurt and shut down whatever their background; that people are figuring out who they are not once but at various stages throughout life.
Despite theatre being such a big part of Loizou’s life, Disbanded Kingdom was always going to be a novel. It is a deeply internal journey for Oscar with much attention paid to the rhythm of Oscar’s internal voice. For Loizou it seemed important that “the words be seen on the page as they are rather than an ethereal moment that happens on stage and then is gone.”
In addition to his dramatic work, Loizou is currently working on another novel which deals with identity, politics and the world of gigolos set in Cyprus in the early 2000s.
Elizabeth is a writer, designer, professor and dedicated bookworm.