Guest Feature: Paper House by Eliza Power

Paper House

Sexual politics can be as brutal, deceptive and manipulative as governmental politics. And it’s a battle of the sexes that provides the catalyst for my new play, Paper House.

Paper House tells the story of Claire, a talented writer who has been relegated to the role of a muse to her novelist husband Neil. As Neil tires of their marriage, resulting in his crippling writer's block, Claire’s brother Mike conspires to revive his brother in law's inspiration; in the form of younger call girl Isabelle. But as Claire loses her grip, a battle of the muses begins.

I’ve always been fascinated by sexual politics and its ramifications. It’s coloured much of my work so far and some of my favourite plays – such as David Mamet’s Oleanna and Strindberg’s Miss Julie – are predicated on this subject. While I'm certainly not approaching the play from a misandrist angle, I did want to highlight the way certain patriarchal attitudes can reemerge over the course of long term relationships, when depleted energies may mean partners fall back into traditional gender roles.

In this particular play, I wanted to create four characters that represented different aspects of the power struggle between men and women. The characters swap roles throughout the play, switching from muse to puppet master; lover to manipulator. Yet their dependency means they persist in remaining within unsatisfactory relationships, whether platonic or sexual. Even if the result means they must exist in, as Yeats called it, ‘the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.’

I also wanted to write a play with three central characters who are in their forties. There are numerous roles for the teens to thirties, and others focused on 60+, but I am often told by forty something actor friends that there aren't that enough multi layered roles for their age bracket on the fringe, particularly for women.

At its core, Paper House is a black comedy. While the interactions of each of the flawed characters generate comedic episodes, ultimately the same flaws contribute to the tragic denouement. Claire, Neil, Mike and Isabelle's good intentions are undermined by their own vulnerabilities. They are, unapologetically, fallible. I think – and hope – that is something each of us can relate to.

(C) Eliza Power 2015

Paper House by Eliza Power runs at The Hen and Chickens Theatre, 109 St. Paul's Road, London, N1 2NE, from 24th to 28th February, at 7.30pm each night. Tickets £8.50 available from or 0207 704 2001.

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