What Lies Between Me & Jean is a classic comedy piece with many hidden undertones of a serious yet poignant nature. It’s a story about Steven and Lou, on the surface at least. They work together and their working relationship and indeed their relationship as a whole is put under the spotlight in this glorious piece of observational theatre. Steven is a drag artiste and goes by the alias of Jean Pocket. Lou is the put upon, somewhat downtrodden assistant, who is pushing Steven to complete the script for a stage show that is set to change the course of his career. Jean will be brought to a theatre audience and the pair are running through the script for the introduction of the show.
Both characters are so well rounded that you get a sense of their personalities within the first few minutes. Lou (played by Anna-Lisa Maree) is particular, she is clearly quite irritated by ‘Jean’ (played by Anthony Poore/Tanya Hyde) and her well placed huffs and body language say it all without the aid of the exceedingly well crafted script. Then there’s Steven/Jean, he’s a bit of a diva, a quick-witted, sharp tongued extrovert, but with a vulnerability that shines through, and the vulnerability is shown far more often than at the key moment in the piece. The chemistry between the performers is evident as they bounce the dialogue off one another in, for the most part, a laugh a minute script. When the laughs stop, we see the real characters and that is what Anna-Lisa Maree is so adept at achieving with her work.
When you’re already familiar with a playwright’s work and you’ve seen one of the stars of the show on a previous occasion, pre-conceived ideas are inevitable. Anna-Lisa Maree’s latest short play, contained all of the essentials that I’ve come to expect from her talented mind, but there was a little something extra, this time.
Whether it was the fact that the lady herself was playing the other role in this two-hander? Maybe, for she is as gifted an actress as she is a writer and director, that’s for sure. Casting AnthonyPoore aka TanyaHyde as Jean Pocket, ‘Stitch Bitch to the Stars’ was a bold move, given that he has already created the role of Nathan in her successful play, Blast From The Past. However, she has done this terrific performer a huge favour, because his versatility is clear. Jean (or Steven), couldn’t be more different to Nathan, and what Poore/Hyde has done with the role is to bring out a three dimensional character who pours out every emotion within the short time frame. I’ll point out that he does this in high heels for the majority of the show, too.
This play needs just one further ingredient, make it longer, please!
Jean Pocket is the female alter ego of Northern Drag Artiste Steven Saxby who is about to embark on his first one Wo/Man UK Theatre tour “JEAN POCKET – STITCH BITCH TO THE STARS”. Steven may be able to handle a “tanked up lesbian” in the comfort of the clubs on the cabaret circuit but his long suffering stage manager Lou doubts he will ever be ready to unleash ‘Jean’ on the paying public.
In ‘real life’ Anthony Poore is the award winning drag artiste Tanya Hyde and Anna-Lisa Maree has worked extensively as a Company Stage Manager – this is truly a casting where life imitates art or should that be vice versa in this case?!!
Anna-Lisa Maree or Twinkle as she’s often known, enjoys a varied career both backstage and onstage, her most recent employment in a Stage Management capacity includes ‘The Rise & Fall Of Little Voice’ at the Union Theatre and the UK Tour of ‘Bad Jews’. Anna-Lisa is a great supporter of this blog and more importantly, she’s a talented writer with so much to offer the arts. Her latest play, What Lies Between Me & Jean is on the cusp of appearing at the Red Gallery this July.
I caught up with the theatre fairy for a second interview, on this occasion, to find out all about her new writing.
Thank you for chatting to Break A Leg again. Tell me about What Lies Between Me & Jean, where did the idea originate from and how long has the writing process taken?
Jean Pocket is the female alter ego of Northern Drag Artiste Steven Saxby who is about to embark on his first one Wo/Man UK Theatre tour “JEAN POCKET – STITCH BITCH TO THE STARS”.
Lou Harper is the Production Stage Manager for the tour, and having taken the job as a favour to a friend ‘ever the professional’ Lou is becoming increasingly exasperated by her challenging artiste and his delaying tactics in actually getting on with the rehearsal process.
Several years ago I collaborated with a London based drag artiste and wrote a show, however for one reason and another much of the material that I had written didn’t quite make the journey from page to stage and the whole production process was certainly a learning curve for us both, We now look back with much hilarity and wisdom, although at the time I think it’s fair to say we both wanted to kill each other! I have subsequently written a play inspired by our experiences and ultimately it is the creative collision of 2 world’s of entertainment; the ability to be able to handle a ‘tanked up lesbian’ with an amusing ad-lib on the cabaret circuit and the discipline required for a scripted theatrical production. Elements of ‘What Lies Between Me & Jean’ had already been written, it was material that I knew at some point would be heard and as with everything now’s the right time.
Describe the writing process to me, how many drafts did you do before you were satisfied with the final product and did the overall picture alter much as you progressed?
This was such an easy piece to write and incredibly cathartic, we live and learn and only once a situation has passed do we fully understand the whys and wherefores of it all. I’ve lived and breathed most of what I write about so my writing process is invariably short and sweet! The only major alteration I have made to this particular script was a reference to a certain actress, at the time the play was originally written back in January 2016 it was a very positive usage of her name but in light of recent press the gag could now be perceived as a ‘dig’ at her and that’s the last thing I would want.
You’re playing one of the two roles, will it be an easy transition? From writer to actress?
My job as a writer is done, the script is ‘there’ and I’m now looking forward to totally transforming for the role, with a little help from my friend and wig stylist extraordinaire, Darron Harrold! Although the character is inspired by my ‘real life’ experiences as a Company Stage Manager Lou was always in my mind visually very different. She has been a tough cookie to cast for various reasons and in the end I just thought “many moons ago I was nominated as one of the Critics Choice’s at my Post Graduate Showcase in ‘The Stage’, so with the right wig and costume I myself can make Lou the woman I always envisaged her to be!”
However should there be life for this play after the Red Gallery the powerhouse that is Charlotte Gorton is definitely getting first refusal on the role of Lou, I only crossed paths with her a month ago and have had the pleasure of watching her perform as ‘Mari’ in Little Voice for the entirety of June, she is a truly phenomenal actress and I’d be honoured for her to play the part.
How did you select your co-star? What attributes were you looking for?
I needed someone who could fully comprehend the complexities of Steven’s world and character, the man behind the make-up, the ‘lady’ herself and all that lies in between! Anthony Poore is perhaps better known as the award-winning drag artiste Tanya Hyde, not only is he an accomplished artiste on the cabaret circuit he has also appeared in the West End so has a perfect understanding of the trials and tribulations that both Steven and Lou experience. This will be the third time we have worked together and we will be reuniting again this August when Anthony reprises the role of Nathan Tate in my production of ‘Blast From The Past’, Upstairs At The Gatehouse.
What can the audience expect from the piece?
Laughter, Leopard print and a nod to the Legend that is Lily Savage!
Finally, can I have some words of encouragement for potential audience members? Sell the show to me!
This is a rare insight into what really goes on during the daytime in the wonderful world of a drag artiste, preparing to tread where their high heels have never trod before.
What Lies Between Me and Jean will play at the Red Gallery as part of Milk which is run by Prevalent Grit in association with The New Shoreditch Theatre and The Red Gallery. The aim being to showcase new writing. The show dates and times for Anna-Lisa’s piece are Tuesday 5th July at 19:30, Thursday 7th July at 14:30 and Thursday 7th July at 19:30. A link to the Facebook page for the event is here: https://www.facebook.com/events/931262460332901/
The press release is below, which include a link for booking your tickets!
Last year I went to the London Short Play Festival where among others, I had the great pleasure of reviewing Blast From The Past by Anna-Lisa Maree. This year, Anna-Lisa has expanded on the script, added new characters and brings her master-piece to Camden Fringe. Details of how to book tickets and the press release can be found here: https://breakalegreview.com/2016/06/02/blast-from-the-past-press-release/
In the meantime, here is the brief review from last year’s shorter version.
Blast from the Past written and directed by Anna-Lisa Maree opened the event, starring ex-Coronation Street star Scott Wright, seasoned television and theatre star Judy Buxton, Anthony Poore and Matthew Jordan Wright. The story centres around the dysfunctional Tate family who are ensconced in their own Blackpool B&B business. With monologues which drew me in and enhanced the story, together with the sensitive tackling of real-life event, the 1999 nail bombing at the Admiral Duncan, this piece could easily work as a full length play. The attention to detail down to the costumes all helped to create the correct atmosphere and tone. The set was simple and effective, the casting was perfect, a definite triumph, and I’m keen to see more of Anna-Lisa Maree’s work.
The annual London Short Play Festival opened its doors for the second time on Thursday 16th July for a three night residency at the Edric Theatre, part of the London South Bank University. Organised and produced by Millie Thorne and Maria Klockare (both London South Bank University alumni), the success of last year’s festival laid the foundations for the promise of another inspirational evening of new writing for theatre.
‘Blast from the Past’ written and directed by Anna-Lisa Maree opened the event, starring ex-Coronation Street star Scott Wright, seasoned television and theatre star Judy Buxton, Anthony Poore and Matthew Jordan Wright. The story centres around the dysfunctional ‘Tate’ family who are ensconced in their own Blackpool B&B business. With monologues which drew me in and enhanced the story, together with the sensitive tackling of real-life event, the 1999 nail bombing at the ‘Admiral Duncan’, this piece could easily work as a full length play. The attention to detail down to the costumes all helped to create the correct atmosphere and tone. The set was simple and effective, the casting was perfect, a definite triumph, and I’m keen to see more of Anna-Lisa Maree’s work.
‘Fallen Apple’ by Bethan Highgate-Betts which starred Joel Grizzle, takes an interesting look at how an ordinary day running in the park can lead to mystery and intrigue. Hats off to Joel Grizzle for holding the audience’s interest with skilled story telling. I could picture the park, the perverted duck(!) and the pawn shop and I really wanted to know more about the lady who’s apple was broken in half. An excellent unexpected twist from the writer, too. In my opinion, this works very well as a short play, even though I felt that I was left with many unanswered questions.
‘The Way To A Man’s Heart’ by David Weir brings the story of revenge with a deliciously subtle build-up to the moment the ‘victim’ of the fall-out ‘twists the knife’. Beginning as a mundane meeting of two people who are in the process of splitting up and dividing their belongings, including a hefty pay-out from a winning lottery ticket, this is laced with clever and intricate comedy. An engaging two-hander exceedingly well performed by Sasha Ellen and Alec Bernie. This is a good subject for a short play as it demonstrates a snapshot of an estranged couples’ lives and the tale is wrapped up neatly.
‘The Heir’ starring Suzanne Tooley, Shaun Noone and Emma True, is perhaps the most mad-cap of the four plays. Written by Jasmine Arden-Brown, it explores the huge ‘what if’ posed by the suggestion of the ‘end of the world’. It shows an almost believable set-up of how individuals might be dealing with the situation while struggling to survive. The set spoke a thousand words on its own, but it was a ‘laugh out loud’ script which belied the seriousness of the heart of the topic. The writer plans to turn this into a full length play, and I’d be interested to see more as there are many avenues to be explored. Notable chemistry between the actors in this piece, and they kept the dialogue moving at a pace which suited the genre.