Sunday, 25 June 2017

How to be a Dramaturgy: Sarah McDonald-Hughes @ Edfringe 2017

A Paines Plough, Theatr Clwyd and Orange Tree Theatre production
By Sarah McDonald-Hughes

Molly cooks. Molly does the dishes. Molly gets her little brother Joe ready for school. Molly is only 12, but she doesn't feel much like a kid anymore.

Now Molly's Mum is feeling better, maybe things will get back to normal. Can you help Molly learn how to be a kid again?

Time: 10.45am (50 mins) 
Dates: 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 August. 

What was the inspiration for this performance?

The play is Molly’s story.  She’s an ordinary girl who is capable of extraordinary things, with a brilliant imagination and sense of adventure.

I wanted to write a play that explores how children cope when they are in extremely difficult situations, and Molly has certainly been through a lot in her relatively young life when we meet her standing outside her house at the start of the play. 

But I wanted also to write a play that celebrates the power of imagination, friendship and brothers and sisters to help us through the difficult times in our lives.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

Absolutely – the act of sitting shoulder to shoulder with other people, sharing an experience, is completely unique and more important today than ever, I think.  For one thing, it’s one of the few places where no one is on their phone! 

I think its especially important for kids to experience live performance and to have access to this – it encourages imagination, empathy, understanding, creativity and offers the opportunity for young people to ask questions about the world they live in and experience a different narrative and perspective.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I was an actor first, and then began making my own work with my company Monkeywood – out of necessity really, to be able to do the work I wanted to do.  From there, it was a natural progression to writing – I found that the stories I wanted to tell didn’t exist, so I had a go at writing them myself!

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

The ideas for How to be a Kid came out of a seed commission I did with Paines Plough and Half Moon last year, which focused on making new work for young people aged 7 – 11.  This was brilliant, as it gave me complete freedom to experiment with ideas and stories for this age group with no pressure of performance.  

Following this, I was thrilled when How to be a Kid was commissioned for Roundabout, not least because it gave me the chance to write the whole play and to find out what happens to Molly and Joe!

I knew that I wanted to write a play that started when a girl comes back home to her family having been in care, and that I wanted it to be celebratory and fun as well as real and authentic.  Fortunately, James (the director) identified with these aims from the very beginning and really supported this through the writing process, encouraging me to be ambitious and fearless – like Molly is in the play, actually!

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

I’ve not written very much at all for this age group so that feels really new to me, and I also feel a huge responsibility to get it right.  I really hope young audiences identify with and engage with the characters in the show. 

Writing for Roundabout is another first, too, it’s such a unique space and it offers quite different opportunities and possibilities to other spaces.  I love how in Roundabout we just have three actors, light and sound – there’s no set, no props, nothing ‘extra’.   The play kind of ‘jumps’ right out of the space.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

I hope that they identify and empathise with Molly and cheer her on through her story.  I hope they find the story funny, exciting and surprising and come on the adventure with the characters, that they get swept up and go with it.  

And I hope that the play tells a new story, from a voice that isn’t often heard in the theatre – that of a young person in the care system, who cares for a parent with mental health issues.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

I researched the world of the play extensively, and have had some experience of working with young people in the care system which hugely influenced the story.  And I have two young children so I have lots of opportunity to observe what will grab their imagination and what won’t!

Join Molly, Joe and her Nan for a larger than life story of family, friends and fitting in by Sarah McDonald-Hughes, twice nominated for the Best New Play at the Manchester Theatre Awards.

Warning: Contains dancing, chocolate cake and an epic car chase.

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