Anthony Clark is the writer of SHE, a new show interweaving the stories of 14 different women in their twenties, embracing life from infancy to old age. Presented as seven short plays, the show is performed by two actors. We talk to Anthony about writing the show.
Tell us what SHE is about?
The stories that are told in the seven plays that make up SHE touch on many different themes. These include, looking after a kid, sibling rivalry, revenge, kindness, first love, harassment, political awakening, career versus family, growing old, and the fun of acting. The themes emerge through stories, very different in tone, all with an intriguing twist.
It tells us about the different stages of life but the characters are all in their twenties, why did you pick this approach and what perspective do you think it brings to the play?
I wrote SHE for two actor/directors in their twenties, I thought it would be interesting to explore the perspective of this age group on their future, their past, and of course their present. It’s difficult to pinpoint an age that defines the trajectory of a person’s life, but I think for most people it’s probably their twenties.
How did the play come about?
Alongside my directing career, running three theatres, and freelancing extensively I have always written. When I left Hampstead Theatre in 2010, I was invited to teach at E15, and then at Drama Centre at Central Saint Martins. Whilst at Drama Centre running the MA Directing Course and MA Dramatic Writing Course, I was challenged to write a play for two talented directing students who wanted something to act as well as direct. Despite a fruitful development process with the directors I was late delivering, and in the end there was never the time or space to produce SHE at CSM. I thought nothing more about play until I showed a draft to Jatinder Verma then Artistic Director at Tara Arts, who suggested that it would be interesting to see the play performed by actors, who wouldn’t necessarily be offered the opportunity to play so many different parts in one play, because of their colour. We did a workshop. I did some more writing. Tara decided to programme it. Unfortunately, it was postponed twice for lack of resources. It was then decided that perhaps it could tour with support from my company Theatre Accord, as Paradise of the Assassins had done in 2016. A tour was booked supported by the Arts Council, but then postponed, again twice, because of Covid. After more redrafting, and a decision to offer the play to two young emerging directors, and wonderful couple of versatile actors ,it is now happening.
What message do you want to play to present?
I want the audiences to engage with and think about the situation and themes presented in each play. Would they make the same choices the characters make? And if not? Why not? If there is a message that emerges from watching all the plays, it is to do with celebrating the indefatigability of the human spirit, and that it is the individual-in- society’s responsibility to look after themselves and this wonderful world.
What do you want the audience to leave feeling?
That they’ve had an extraordinary night in the theatre and they’ve enjoyed watching two versatile actors play so many characters I hope the plays make people think about things they haven’t thought about before, and perhaps think differently about things they have. With so much theatre experienced online these days, I’d like people to have felt the difference between the live event and the recorded one. The audience are complicit in the live experience, and this what makes it a unique valuable, and enjoyable.
What’s next for Theatre Accord?
We are a small theatre company relying on co-producers to develop and tour our work. There are a number of projects we have in development. Top of the list is The Countess and the Revolutionary, a new play that tells the extraordinary story of Madame du Barry, Louis XV’s last mistress, and her Indian/African page, Zamor, who she educates to the point where he testifies at a revolutionary tribunal to see her guillotined. This play for eight actors to be directed by a talented emerging director Dewi Johnson. And then there’s a play called No Case, a thriller for three ,middle-aged, female actors, that explores the parameters of friendship and the ethics of the free market, set in Singapore, which I’m going to direct.
SHE runs at Tara Theatre 8 – 11 February, then tours to a further 11 venues across the UK. For tickets at Tara Theatre, please visit taratheatre.com/whats-on/she/