Steven Moffat says friend’s true story inspired West End play The Unfriend

Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat  (Dave Benett)
Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat (Dave Benett)

Writer Steven Moffat said the friend whose true story inspired his hit West End play let him use the idea — as long as he invited him to the opening night.

Unfriend stars Reece Shearsmith and Amanda Abbington as timid couple Peter and Debbie, who are too polite to stop a brash American, played by Frances Barber, from inviting herself to stay.

The idea was inspired by a story the real Peter told Moffat , right, about how he had to stop an acquaintance from moving in. The writer, whose TV credits include Doctor Who and Sherlock, said: “When my friend told me about it, the real Peter, it just sounded like a play.

“It was a real conversation, he was just telling three boozy old blokes in France and I said ‘can I have it?’ and he said ‘I don’t know what you mean’.“ I said I wanted to write it but change it so she comes and he didn’t take me seriously.

“He laughed and said ‘As long as I can come to the first night and you don’t change my name’.” Moffat admitted it was difficult seeing the reaction of a live audience to his work for the first time, adding: “You don’t go round people’s houses when they watch television and see them switch over.”

Sherlock star Mark Gatiss, who directs the play, said: “A friend said to me last night the best reviews you can get is to listen to the people on the way out, and people just had such a good laugh and that’s desperately what we need right now.”

Read our The Unfriend Review here.