Tell us a little a about the creative process. How did you go about shaping the production?
I wrote up my grandmother's (Christiane) stories in 2002 in the evenings of a summer whilst working in Lichfield. Then when she moved into sheltered housing, she gave me her wartime letters to read. For her 90th birthday I took her back to Paris (she'd not been back for 16 years) and Sarah Cunningham (a friend recently graduated from film school in Paris) filmed sections of our trip. I didn't know what I'd do with all this material until I did a one woman show up at the festival in 2009 (Almost 10 for Tangram Theatre) and this gave me the idea and the guts to create a solo piece from the material.
I then came across the First Bite/Bite Size development programmes for West Midlands artists and performed a scratch at Stan's Cafe in Birmingham in November 2009. The piece was then commissioned by China Plate/mac/Warwick Arts Centre and performed in its first full-length version at Warwick Arts Centre as part of the Bite Size Festival in March. Then Ed Collier of China Plate came on board as producer and with support from Arts Council West Midlands, the New Vic and through various development processes we arrived at a finished piece pre-Edinburgh.
I worked with a brilliant dramaturg (Clare Betney) and two brilliant directors (Omar Elerian and Daniel Goldman) during the process which involved me improvising through the material and then doing rewrites and rewrites and rewrites of what had emerged until we had a final script.
On the day I saw it there were quite a few tears shed amongst the audience. Is this a common reaction? What feedback have you had?
Yes - people have often been very emotional at the end of the play - at first this was a surprise - I thought I'd constructed a piece that told a story about love surviving through thick and thin - and expected happy faces. But I discovered that the delayed realisation in the piece that I am Christiane's grandaughter and that until the final moments, we don't know what will happen to her and her fiance is in fact very moving. Perhaps also seeing a projection of Christiane as an old woman is also poignant. People from the audience often tell me about their grandparents and talk about similar stories in their own families which is wonderful.
Has your grandmother seen it yet? What was her response to you turning her life into theatre?
Christiane was due to see the show at the Lichfield Festival (she's lived in Lichfield for 60 years) in July but had gone into hospital in June so wasn't able to attend. I was developing the show in the Midlands at the time however so me and my team visited her in Burton after rehearsals and kept her posted on developments. She loves to be at the centre and is a brilliant storyteller and so has been absolutely thrilled about the piece from the word go. I was very sad she couldn't see it in July but yesterday I arranged with the home where she now lives to perform it for her and the other residents on 3rd October.
Do you prefer working as a solo artist or as part of a larger cast?
I love both - I don't really feel they are very different roles. I work as an actress as well as making my own work and working to make new work with other companies. Although, as this is the first piece I have both written and performed so feels incredibly special and a new and exciting step to have taken. But I do love having an ally or two on stage!
What are your plans for the show after Edinburgh? Do you have any upcoming projects you'd like to tell us about?
I am currently working with my producer Ed Collier to book a UK tour for the show in Spring 2011 and we are trying to get to the Adelaide Fringe in February but this will depend on funds. I am currently unemployed but excitedly developing my next show Mess - a piece that involves a fairy story, a bit of my life history and a giant duvet.