Co-founder of Hatch It Theatre Emma Brand talks about their new production, ‘In the Pink’, which is based on real conversations with women in their nineties, using younger people as their mouthpiece.
Where can we see ‘In the Pink’?
The Courtyard Theatre is right around the corner from Old Street Station, and definitely suits its Shoreditch location. It’s a low-key venue, more known on the gig scene than for theatre, but actually it’s a hidden gem, with two fully-equipped performance spaces and a quirky bar. We’re lucky enough to be performing in the Main House at the Courtyard, which boasts 150 seats yet has a surprisingly intimate feel to it.
How did Hatch It Theatre originate?
Hatch It is just a baby, but we have big ideas! We are three graduates from Oxford University, who have started a theatre company to make formally experimental theatre with a social conscience. We believe that theatre can challenge people’s assumptions about the world by recreating it on stage in stimulating ways.
What was the inspiration for ‘In the Pink’?
‘In The Pink’ has existed in some form or other for over a year. I have always been close to my grandmother, but it was only as I got older that I began to appreciate just how beautifully her manner of speech was – she’s theatrical without even knowing it. This became more obvious when she moved into a care home last year. During my visits, I began to see more and more that afternoons in the home were like something out of a play, and I suppose the women there were putting on a sort of show for me. Like my grandma, they had a knack for saying beautiful things. I began to write down things exactly as I had heard them, and also added to them in order to build up characters who were composites of the women they were based on. Once the cast came on board, we improvised around this material and built the script up into a full-length play. The title comes from a song my grandma sings while telling a particular story, which appears in the play. I don’t want to give it away, but you’ll get it when you hear it! Unfortunately the ninety-year-olds it’s based on tend to go to bed before the time the play will start, so they won’t get to see it!
How have you found the experience of directing this production?
It’s been great fun seeing the characters I wrote come to life, especially with the absolutely fantastic cast we found. I’m certain that Jeannie Dickinson, Maisie Greenwood, Adele James, Emily Reid, and Elly Wade are all destined for great things! Directing ‘In the Pink’ has also meant that I’ve been able to get things exactly “right” with regards to the ladies whom it’s based on – I remember exactly how they said the lines the first time I heard them, and feel that the production will be true to them. The challenge has been in trying to distance myself from the text and also from its roots, as I think a prescriptive approach never makes for particularly exciting theatre. I’ve had to force myself to be flexible, and take on board the many invaluable suggestions provided by my assistant director Luke Howarth and production manager Luke Rollason, to make sure that the play does something beyond simply mimicking the people I know.
Why do you think people should come and see ‘In the Pink’?
The main message of the play is that elderly people are worth listening to, and that if you take the time to listen, you’ll hear things which surprise you. The most surprising lines in the play are the things that old women have actually said. I think there’s a tendency to get wrapped up in a millennial bubble, and just expect everything outside of that to be fairly dull. I also think there’s a disregard for the experiences and opinions of people from the older generation, which we definitely saw with the dismissal of Brexit voters as “old racists”. The play promotes cohesion and understanding across the generations and aims to break down stereotypes, which I think in 2016, with more and more people living past 90, is incredibly important.
Any final thoughts?
I feel very proud that Hatch It Theatre has managed to bring together all of the many separate elements of this play in such a short space of time! It has been a real team effort and a test of what we can do. A learning curve for sure, but one I’m incredibly proud of. We’re hoping that this play will appeal to everyone! I think, realistically, that people who already have older people in their lives are going to warm to it and be more interested initially, but I think the play can capture the hearts of younger audiences too. Regarding future productions, Hatch It is already working on a devised piece that we will spend this year developing for an Edinburgh run. It will push both the “formally experimental” and “socially conscious” parts of our mission statement much further than ‘In The Pink’, so watch this space!
‘In the Pink’ by Hatch It Theatre at the Courtyard Theatre, 20th-23rd December 2016.
Written and Directed by Emma Brand
Assistant Director: Luke Howarth
Designer: Sean Ford
Tickets: Standard £12.00 Concession £8.00