What do you do in theatre?
I am a playwright and an actor.
How long have you been doing it?
Since I gave up my Phd on Women in the Theatre to become a woman in the theatre.
What was your first ever job?
I lasted one night working behind a bar in Highgate. I can’t count and guessed the change. My improvisatory skills were not appreciated. Being sacked was a relief and the next month I moved to Edinburgh to continue my doomed postgraduate studies.
What was the contact or opportunity that you feel has made the most difference to your career?
Robert Nye was Writer in Residence at Edinburgh University when I was doing the post-grad thing but actually acting and writing. He said “do you really want to be an academic? Because I think you are a poet and a writer. Wouldn’t you like to apply for a Scottish Arts Council Writer’s Bursary with my back-up?” Without him I could now be teaching Gender and Performative Studies at Wolverhampton University. No offense to… (I’m too old to fake any interest in finishing that sentence)
What’s the biggest opportunity that you missed or wished you had taken up but didn’t?
I think regretting nothing is only convincing if you sing the non-regretting, sparrow-like and in French. I firmly believe that my unending practise of pointlessly re-editing the story of my life (inventing unanswerable lines I never uttered, spiritedly leaving men I never left in my head etc) has been the perfect conservatoire for my job of making things up. Musicians practise scales and I take my retrospective yearnings for a rigorous daily workout. So now my regrets are very toned.
What’s your most memorable moment in the theatre?
David Tennant playing Hamlet is the most recent memorable. Along with watching Into the Woods at the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park and seeing Francie and Josie onstage at the Alhambra Theatre when I was a kid – Scottish vaudeville, Sondheim, Shakespeare what a line-up. . .
What’s your favourite play?
Hamlet. “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.”
What advice would you give to new and emerging women in Scottish theatre?
Hire the hall, design the poster and then having painted yourself into a corner, go for it!
What do like best about working in theatre?
That your secret nutshell world becomes a realised populated universe. That the little pilot light has turned into a hush of expectation, carpenters have carpented and words have been learnt off by heart, and a story is beginning.
How does working with an actress like Maureen Beattie help playwrights develop their work?
Maureen and I plotted our future lives in theatre at convent school together. I wrote my first full length play, Hard to Get, with her and Peter Kelly in mind. That was a brilliant adventure. Also, I think she knows that tragedy and comedy are really one mask. And we are so glad to be out of uniform and properly dressing up now.
Who would be your Stellar Quine of the month be and why?
Sarah Collier who starred in my play Wedding Belles and Green Grasses and broke my heart nightly. She is the real deal. Subtle, smart and powerful. I love that she combines the classy with the mischievous too. It’s an irresistible combination. Also she looks good in hats. I’m not sure she ever wore a hat in any of my plays actually, but maybe that’s another opening of another play.