Playwriting is an exciting way to improve students' English language skills, according to two well-known theatre personalities. British couple David and Catherine Pinner told students to use their imagination when creating characters for a stage production. 'You can base your characters on people around you but project different behaviour to suit your play,' David said. They were speaking at a workshop on playwriting techniques organised by the British Council at Ying Wa Girls' School. The pair covered the mechanics of staging a play, with illustrations from David's production, The Potsdam Quartet . David, who was trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in Britain, has appeared on stage and television. Having written his first play at the age of 17, he has given acting and playwriting lessons at several British drama schools. His latest production, Revelations , is scheduled to be completed next year. His wife Catherine, a graduate of the Guildford School of Music and Drama, has wide experience in theatre, radio and television. An actress, producer and director, she has presented poetry and prose programmes for the BBC. David said each character in a play should have a different personality, which could be based on everyday experiences. 'I sometimes talk to myself when creating characters who have different English accents,' he said. He got the idea for The Potsdam Quartet from his father-in- law, who is a famous violinist and leader of the Griller String Quartet. The play revolves around four musicians, each hired by a powerful politician in Europe. David uses conflict among the musicians to highlight far more serious problems that plague their masters' relationships. 'In writing a play, you can show the audience what is happening on the stage has been happening in real life,' he said. It was important to maintain suspense in the play so that the audience would not know what was going to happen next, he said. 'As the drama unfolds, you will be able to reveal more details.' David said themes could be adapted from the basic elements of playwriting such as ambition, love, revenge, hatred and jealousy. Non-native English speaking students would have to work hard if they wanted to write good English plays. 'This will help improve their English proficiency in the way they think, speak, act and communicate with others,' he said. Fifth formers Patricia Awn Measor and Carol Suen Ka-lee said their literature class was packed with exam-oriented material and they did not have time to try playwriting. 'Our writing classes are not creative at all. We never create characters or write plays,' Patricia said. She said creative writing was a learning experience in which students would be able to express themselves and raise their language standards.