Spotlight On… Writer of Screwed, Kathryn O’Reilly

Kathryn O’Reilly’s Screwed opened at Theatre 503 on 28th June and its running right through until 23rd July. I caught up with Kathryn to find out all about the World Premiere of the show.

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg. Can you tell me about your debut drama, where did the inspiration come from and what can the audience expect?

Screwed grew out of a poem that I’d written for actress Eloise Joseph and myself, and we used to perform it at various gigs and also music and spoken word nights that I used to put on. I had the idea to develop the poem into a play, and it just grew from there. One of the locations in the poem was a club, so that became a central location to the play and the characters started to drink more. Also, women binge drinking is constantly in the press and I thought I would like to explore that subject. I find relationships fascinating. How we function with others, how we relate to others, who we are with certain people, how our identity changes in different situations with different people at different times in our lives. Sometimes we want to hold on to things, people, the past and sometimes things run their course and you have to move on, sometimes you have to get out of situations because if you don’t you’ll be stuck forever and sometimes we just can’t get out of situations. There’s a brilliant quote “people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime”. In the original poem, the climax is that one of the friends accidentally reveals she’s slept with her friends man and that was the end, but they’d probably carry on as mates as another fella would come along and the reason the first fella was there was to make their friendship stronger as they were meant to be friends for a life time. But what if person you thought would be in your life for a life time wouldn’t be because you suddenly realise you don’t want them to be. And so I wanted to explore the complete dismantling of the friendship, theses best friends, co-dependant, who live for the moment, way it’s always been suddenly one of them realises the friendship has to be terminated.

The audience can expect a mix of kitchen sink drama, with stylised coral scenes, rhythmic punchy banter, and in yer face type of theatre that takes you on a roller coaster of a journey and make you think about the themes in the play. An exciting production, with fantastic collaboration from the team who create the world of the characters with brilliant lighting from Jamie Platt, set design by Catherine Morgan and original composition by Benedict Taylor, lead by director Sarah Meadows.

Following Luce and Charlene two bone deep friends, soul mates for so long they can finish each others sentences, they survive the factory line popping caffeine pills and downing miniatures as they boast about the previous nights sexual conquests. They live and work to go out and drink as much as they can and pull men. Over a period of 24 hours we see them work and go out, getting on it, enticing fellow work mate Paulo out with them whilst Doris, Luce’s parent tries to guide the women in a better direction.

An entertaining and thought provoking evening at the theatre.

What attributes were you looking for in the actresses who are playing Luce and Charlene?

The part of Luce was written for Eloise Joseph and as we worked together on the piece over the past so many years the character grew and revealed its self to us. Luce and Charlene are best friends and a double-act so the actresses needed to be able to play off each other in a sparky way and have that connection.

It’s 90 mins straight through and there is no let up, so the actresses also had to have a certain dexterity and excellent energy for a very physical performance especially as the continued drinking throughout the play has to be charted to the point of being paralytic. Charlene goes through a range of emotions and has to be able to transform from vulnerable, soft, flirtatious to ugly, savage and frightening whilst also allowing us the audience in, a laying the character bare.

Talk me through the rehearsal process, did you see anything begin to change as the words were read? Any surprises as to how the final production has turned out?

Before the rehearsal process started for this production, Screwed had been through a lot of development over the past five years, with a sharing at Arcola Theatre, an industry invited reading and development at Ovalhouse Theatre and another at the Pleasance Islington, also work-shopping with actors and director at Theatre Delicatessan before a final reading last year again to an invited industry audience along with a long collaboration with dramaturg Neil Grutchfield, so nothing really changed for me when the words were read in rehearsal as I guess it has been evolving for so long. At the same time I was also acting in Karl Sydow and Out of Joint’s A View From Islington North directed by Max Stafford-Clark at the Arts Theatre, however I was in Screwed rehearsals as much possible, especially when I brought in Jacquline Malton to talk to the cast about alcoholism and Nikki Attree to talk about transitioning, they were both so incredibly generous and helpful and I am so grateful to them for their kind support. I was conscious that I didn’t want to be one of those writers who becomes over bearing and too involved and so I gave everyone lots of room. I think also as a writer you really have to trust the director and actors and creative team implicitly, when I asked Sarah Meadows to direct I knew she was the perfect director from when I worked with her as an actress on Mark Wilson’s play YOU, Sarah is an exciting director who has real integrity and looks after plays and actors.

The action in the first fourteen scenes takes place just over 24 hours and then the following scenes are months apart as the story continues until the play ends. So the main surprise for me was that director Sarah Meadows decided to seamlessly transition between those final scenes, which is not something I had not envisioned, however I think it works brilliantly. The other surprise was Catherine Morgan’s set design, I could never have imagined something like that, when you see in the playtext my descriptions of locations is very different, and I think Catherine’s design is brilliant and exciting.

Who or what inspires you as a writer?

There are so many amazing people out there doing brilliant work and that is inspiring. Max Stafford-Clark inspires me, especially as he has championed so many writers, most notably many female playwrights. I’ve had such generosity of support form Max and when someone like that tells you that you can write it’s very inspiring to keep going. Another prolific man of theatre Rikki Beadle-Blair is inspiring to me, he keeps going and is constantly working on projects and challenging himself. There are so many writers that I love and really look up to, Helen Edmudson, her play The Clearing is just gut wrenching heart breaking intelligent writing. Jez Butterworth, Conor McPherson, Chloe Moss, Sarah Kane, Mark Ravenhill, Simon Stephens, and Shakespeare and Goethe, all spellbinding, poetic incredible writers who are amongst my all time favourites.

Any advice for budding writers?

I would say go out and watch as much as you can, see who’s work affects you and know why. Read as much as you can, when you find a writer you love keep reading their work. Most importantly write. Just put pen to paper or get tapping on that keyboard and go, don’t stop and start judging yourself, get it all out, get it all down and then pick someone who you respect and admire and ask them if they would take a look. Listen, be open to their response and feedback and take it away, have a think about it and decide if it’s useful for you as you develop the piece and write some more. Finding a good course that suits you is always a good idea, meet other writers and read their work if they want to share it and just keep writing.

Finally, any words of encouragement for potential audience members?

If you want an entertaining, thought provoking evening at the theatre, don’t mind a bit of in your face explicit acting and brilliant directing get on down. The whole team behind this play are absolutely fantastic and everyone is doing a sterling job. Everyone has been and is working so hard, the actors; Elosie Joseph, Samantha Robinson, Stephen Myott-Meadows, Derek Elroy, Stage manager Polly Heinkel, Assistant director Monty Leigh, Dramaturg Neil Grutchfield, Designer Catherine Morgan, Lighting designer Jamie Platt, Composer Benedict Taylor, Educationalist Tas Emiabata, Producers Maeve O’Neill and myself along with director Sarah Meadows all make a wonderful and happy team and an exciting production.

I am very proud and I believe it’s work that needs to be seen. We’ve been getting great reviews and feedback, there’s only two weeks left to catch us and then we are gone. We’d love to see you there.

Thanks Kathryn, this sounds like an amazing piece of theatre and I encourage you al to go and see it! Tickets can be booked here: https://theatre503.com/

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