My first play, The Cure, was a tragi-comedy with a cast of four, and it was chosen to represent the CUADC (Cambridge University Amateur Dramatics Club) at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2010, where it was called “a gratifying gem” by Stage magazine, and “the most important work since Brecht” by a German octogenarian claiming to be from the Berliner Ensemble. Ali Smith was invited to, and generously attended, the preview in Cambridge, calling the play, “Witty, courageous, genuinely funny, highly unsettling.”
One person who was forced into the Happy Days audience by his daughter, Flossie, was BBC Radio 4 host, John Waite, who had expressed delight in my journalistic writing, but firmly insisted he’d been avoiding the Beckett play for over forty years. Afterwards he avowed it was his favourite play, describing my rendition as, “Mesmerising. The best individual performance I’ve ever seen in Cambridge – beautiful, funny, mad – heart-melting and heart-breaking.”
At the time of performing in Happy Days I’d written a second full-length play called The Juveniles, also an ensemble piece like my first, but playing Winnie gave me a great hunger to further explore and play with the audience ‘one-on-one’ (if the audience is one beast and I’m another) so I wrote, co-designed (with the incredible Emily Hodge), directed and performed a one woman show. This show, Fierce, debuted at the ADC in November 2011, reviewed by the three student papers:
“Directorial genius... impeccable acting... effortless fun... passionate, energetic, amusing, entertaining and unpredictable... Not to be missed.”
The Cambridge Student
“Fascinating... funny... masterful and subtle... a tour de force.” Varsity
“A triumph. The story she takes us on is one of constant gleeful surprise... developed flawlessly... undoubtedly a winner... funny, terrifying, energised... undeniably and eponymously fierce.”
The Cambridge Tabloid
And, convinced enough by my first play to bring the love-of-her-life Sarah Wood to my second, Ali Smith afterwards told me I was, “Very bloody talented indeed.”
Final day of 'The Cure' on the Royal Mile.
Photograph by Ned Quekett.
The only remaining evidence of my second play,
'The Juveniles', taped to my bedroom wall for editing.
Photograph by Giulia Galastro.
Publicity for Macbeth at the Judith E.Wilson Studio.
Original artwork for Fierce poster (2011 run) by me.
While at Cambridge, I did far less acting than I’d intended, getting to my first year auditions and finding I was too nervous to speak, but I eventually overcame my fears – after a friend emailed with “I’ve run out of actors” and cast me in a bit part with no audition at all – and I went on to land a good handful of roles. My favourites include Lady Macbeth, Kattrin in Brecht’s Mother Courage, and Winnie in Beckett’s Happy Days.
After taking three years to write my first novel, I resurrected Fierce at the Camden People's Theatre in order to work on plot and polishing, and to work with a wonderful director, Celine Lowenthal, which led to extreme development especially in my physicality. The reviewers that came all said good things –
"Hilarious… a remarkable piece of work" Everything Theatre
"A fiercely intelligent creative force" Exeunt
"A very special talent" The Reviews Hub
"Gripping…our hearts are broken" LondonTheatre1
"Highly accomplished...a true feat of solo performance"
A moment between Finn and Felicity, in Fierce 2014.
My most recent stage work, excluding drag, was acting in Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale, with Shadwell Opera at the Courtyard Theatre, in which I was called,
“Tender and compelling” The Times
“Absorbing and energetic” Fringe Opera
“Tender and charged” The Spectator
So I'm definitely tender.
Maggie May Lynn, in Fierce 2014.
experimental shorter plays
While my longer plays are character-driven love stories, some of my most exciting times on stage have been performing more experimental works, in particular my ‘Oral Fixation’ series, which consists of three plays – Roses, Mouth&I, and Quiet is the King – all surrounding my genuine experience of being orally fixated, while relating different aspects of my wider life and mind. The series began when I was commissioned by the Cambridge English Faculty to write and perform a piece in response to the work of a contemporary of mine, Will Stuart, who is vigorously experimental and pushes his audiences often to great discomfort. I wrote about our shared time as neighbours, with grotesque exaggerations of physical habits and emotional distress, at one point consuming an entire jar of instant coffee (which coagulated and became tar-like), following it up with an entire bottle of red wine, dancing with an audience member and screaming at the top of my voice, dissolving the barriers between fun and flail-ure, as university did.
When the same people invited me to perform with them again, I decided to push myself further, and explored my inability to use my own voice on stage, always performing in accents. I had a set of unrehearsed physical actions, including self-asphyxiation with a leather belt, which worked with a sort of interrogation monologue, in the hope of eventually losing all accents and showing an audience my bare self for the first time. During the play I unintentionally threw a chair into the audience (genuinely unintentionally – I’d been whipping it and the belt wrapped around the chair and flung it off stage) and I was left with no ‘imagined’ self to interrogate. I ended up using my right arm to violently whip my left one, over and over, more or less staying on script but terrified by the reality of being up there alone, and when I finally attempted to use my own voice I broke into tears as I spoke. It was one of the most interesting experiences I’ve ever had on stage, and I’d like to experiment with work that is less and less scripted, closer and closer to the bone.
Fierce stage set 2014 as seen on homepage. Set by Anna Reid; artworks on set by myself and Emily Hodge; photograph by Nick Rutter.