How did you get involved in audio drama and Wireless Theatre?
My first foray into the audio drama world started at Springfield Leisure Gym where I was attempting to shift baby fat… somewhat unsuccessfully! For several weeks I found myself enthralled by two rather glamorous ladies who exercised together, talked up a storm and roared with laughter non stop. One day I started to chat with them whilst astride the bikes (as you do) when one of them asked me what I did? At that time I was mainly tied to the kitchen sink and had discovered that being an actress was difficult with a small child in tow. I had taken to writing for my own pleasure… so I told her I was attempting to write a radio comedy about a Devon farm girl who falls in love. She instantly suggested I show the script to a friend of hers – Cherry Cookson. At the time I had no idea what a legend this woman was. So to cut an already rather long story a little shorter… I met Cherry, she loved the script BUT felt that there needed to be a few changes and so our writing/mentor/friendship was born. Cherry put the script forward to Wireless Theatre, the play Devon Girl was soon recorded and the writing seed was planted!
How did you discover your talent for play writing?
I never felt I had a talent for writing of any sort – at school I was certainly no natural. Writing was, initially, a personal and private creative outlet from the everyday routine of being a new mum and came when I was older. I had worked in the theatre before I had my first son and desperately needed some creative outlet and writing seemed to fulfil this need. It was Cherry who made me feel that playwriting was something I was good at and she, very quickly, became my mentor.
Open Air is a warm and engaging story about theatre and community in rural settings. What inspired you to write about this?
Initially I had been considering the idea of writing a two-hander about how Rowena Cade and her gardener Billy Rawlings had built The Minack Theatre down in Cornwall – an amphitheatre on a headland! Then I was chatting with Cherry about coming up with an idea that might encompass the pandemic and the sudden need for outdoor theatre spaces that were safe in times of Covid. My dad is a farmer and I suddenly thought it might be an interesting idea to have a performance space on his farm – something that would horrify him! How would it be possible to convince him to agree to such an idea? Then I felt that a journey of rediscovery between father and daughter could be a really charming idea. Engaging the community in such a journey seemed natural and led to Open Air morphing into a comedy.
What advice or tips would you offer to other writers?
I don’t really feel qualified to offer advice as the older I get the less I know! But I guess… just keep writing!
What do you consider to be the proudest moment of your career so far?
My career has been a shapeshifter – At first I did musicals and was utterly delighted to play Janet in the West End production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I had gone on as an understudy one night and Richard O’Brien just happened to be in the audience and gave me the role. I am not sure I felt proud… just so unbelievably excited! Oh… and my eldest son is very proud that I am the link voice on Times Radio.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Personally I have had a few… giving up cigarettes! Getting on planes! Moderating my kettle chip and chocolate intake…
Workwise – overcoming stage fright, believing I am good enough to write plays for radio, saying yes… learning to say no – both equally challenging.
You are an accomplished actor and writer. What are the challenges involved in each?
Thank you for calling me ‘accomplished!’ I used to adore acting and working in musical theatre was a magical time for me. The challenges were physical in the sense that it was exhausting doing eight shows a week. The main challenge however was keeping it ‘fresh’ night after night, finding something new, being really honest for hundreds of shows and… not corpsing. (Inevitable during a long run)
Challenges with writing – finding a new way of telling the same story? I recently watched La Belle Epoque – a fabulous film that tells the story of love in a very original way.
Do you prefer writing or performing?
I think if somebody asked me to be in a Sondheim musical I would be unable to refuse – any offers welcome! or if I were to play a small character role in a musical where I perhaps had one song then that would suit me down to the ground but… musicals require huge reserves of energy and a fitness level that I am not sure I have now.
Writing is a beautiful escape – when life throws obstacles in your way, like a pandemic, then writing is the most perfect escape. You can be anywhere with whoever you like and the characters come alive. You can leave your life and enter another for a while.
Have you heard any great audio dramas lately? Is there anything you would like to recommend?
When I have time I search out audio dramas to listen to and yesterday happened across Yellow Lips – a moving audio drama by a new writer called Katie Redford. Not only a very moving account of a mum’s struggle with mental health but unbelievably funny too. A great mix!
What have you been working on lately?
Obviously ‘Open Air‘ but also I am currently writing a play about the life of Exmoor writer and artist Hope Bourne.
Where can we enjoy your work?
The Bully is currently available on BBC Sounds. It’s about a mother’s journey in finding the right treatment for her son who suffers from OCD. On Wireless Theatre you will find my first audio drama – Devon Girl, also Angel – a play about losing a baby. There’s also an erotic drama hidden away in the depths of Amazon Audible… but it’s under a pseudonym so good luck finding it!