Monday 13 April 2015

Sue Glover on The Straw Chair

When you were writing The Straw Chair, what made you go for a historical story - one of the characteristics of your work is an active engagement with contemporary issues - does the past allow you to do this in a particular manner?

I mainly look for character, sometimes an incident/predicament, but it’s the characters that grab me. I think I've interpreted Rachel correctly, and I've made the ‘servant’ female, and the wife very young, and the minister a good bit older, and I love these characters. I never really saw it as ‘costume drama’. 

The play is about the different aspects of marriage (Rachel’s, Isabel’s and the Minister’s, even Oona’s) and also about hypocrisy. Massive hypocrisy. These things are always relevant. There are men like Lord Grange in public life today, one who was in very high office in Europe hit the headlines big time a while back. 

Has much changed in the context for the play in the past twenty years? Are the issues, especially for women, similar?

It’s about the problem – or the solution - of ‘uncomfortable’ women being ‘tidied away’. Rachel was by no means the only ‘disappeared wife’, although she is the only one to have had three funerals. The Victorians were a dab hand at it. Think of Camille Claudel. 

Women, and girls, were still being shut away on the orders of men – male relatives, priests, even into the 1950s, in the laundries of convents and reform schools. 

Which doesn’t make Rachel, Lady Grange, a less impossibly awful character, but it does make her pitiable.
Theatre , dialogue, character are just so interesting. You’d have much more control over a novel....but the play’s the thing.

I regard you as one of the playwrights who kick-started Scottish scripted theatre - do you feel that there is anything about your writing that identifies...

Writing as Scottish? It’s not something I would think about, although when I started writing I felt out on a limb being ‘East Coast’. It seemed to me as if all the Scottish radio/theatre/telly was dominated by the West (i.e. Glasgow!) 

 I actually thought I was kind of doomed. (I didn’t really notice that there were almost no women writers around; there were other problems: like travelling from East Fife, babysitters, not coming from a theatre background, not knowing the jargon. In short being an outsider. Which is fine.)

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