Interview with Linda Landers

Linda Landers studied Fine Art Painting at Central School of Art in London (Central St. Martin's) as well as a foundation course at Watford School of Art. Tutors included Brian Eno, Peter Schmidt, Cecil Collins, Bill Turnbull.

Noted as a printmaker and wood engraver. Essayist and poet, her work has been published in the Blake Journal, performed as part of poetry on the buses and Brixton Arts Festival, Torriano meeting house among others. Studied Physical Theatre and Mime with Desmond Jones 2005-6. Dance training at Laban Dance Centre 2004-6.

Linda turned to writing plays in 2005. Writer, Producer, Director, and stage designer. Creator of short films; 2007 'The Longing' short film, premiered at Saatchi and Saatchi poetry film festival, screened also at the Portobello film festival 2007.

What made you decide to write plays and what themes are explored in your writing?

I’ve always been writing something… whether plays, poetry or short stories, sometimes reviews, I’d do that as a favour for friends.
Someone I know was writing and staging plays and I wondered why I wasn’t doing it, as I thought that could be something I could do and had that in mind for some years.

I grew up in Elstree near MGM studios, and though it had a front door, through which I once went, the rest was hidden behind a high wall. Sometimes if you want to know what’s going on behind the wall you have to create it.

Some of my plays are drama, comedy, tragedy, some futuristic but rooted in the present. Some deal with the past. Some in fact deal with roots, and the conflict between a person and their environment or circumstances when the relationship is not harmonious, dealing with alienation and disaffection.

Human relationships and interactions are important but also the individual, the way they see the world around them and how it affects them.

You write plays, poetry and songs. Does one of these forms appeal to you most in terms of expression?

I suppose they all come from the same point of origin, so it just depends which format an individual wants to listen to. I tell stories through poetry, plays and music and I’m writing a musical now that weaves all of these together. Poetry exists in both my plays and songs so it’s a bit difficult to separate that one out from them, although I would say that poetry is one of the building blocks of the other two. I do enjoy directing and working with people and that’s probably why I love performing with my band. It’s all about people.

It's true that one can get something different across in each art form, they all express something different though they have meeting points in common.

What has been your career highlight to date?

That’s a difficult one as there have been so many. With the plays I would say having such great press for the first one, which came from the theatre “highlight of the year’”, and to subsequently be compared to Evelyn Waugh by the press for two more plays. One has to be doing something right for reviews like that, but also the audience reactions. It makes it worthwhile. It’s for the audience, that’s the whole point.

With music I think the highlight is just seeing the way things are developing, and to have played already with some amazing bands such as The Polecats.

Which is your favourite play (that you have written) and what/whom is your favourite play or playwright?

My favourite play must be ‘Outside the Cradle’, my first play. It’s a hard-hitting story but weaves the inner life with a cold and brutal world of mainly the 70’s Punk Era. It’s not all dark. But I’d have to go for a comedy after that, ‘The Secret Life of Charles LChaim’, but then I’d be missing out on the tragicomedy of ‘Mamenschka’. Difficult to choose when all the plays are so individual.

My favourite playwright? Well I have many but Berkoff for the physical theatre aesthetic which I would find difficult to ignore. David Greig whose plays I find very poetic and striking. Pinter, Beckett, Ibsen.

What inspires you to create your work?

Just about everything. Life. I usually take elements of a thing and turn them into something different; experiences, people, empathy. My characters come to life and take on a life of their own. Sometimes they show me other characters and develop into new characters in new plays.

Where did you train and how long did it take?

I did a one year graphics course and an art foundation course at Watford. We were lectured on how to make music in a studio by Brian Eno (visiting lecturer), as well as some amazing designers, one of whom was Abram Games who designed the Festival of Britain Logo. He was an inspiration as he told us he was completely self-taught. I went up and shook his hand after the lecture.

I studied at Central St. Martin’s for a fine art degree and then went on to do a lot of printmaking for a few years at several different places, so I’m also a member of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers.

Since then I’ve studied intensively with Desmond Jones on his physical theatre and mime courses on and off and also spent some time at Laban.

What is your career background?

Limited edition hand-made books have taken up a lot of my years, that and printmaking. I’ve shown at the Royal Academy Summer Show several times and also won a prize at the Mall Galleries. I’ve also taught a bit of design. I’ve always done some poetry and performance too and I started to notice some years ago that I needed some performance skills, as my poems were becoming performances. Desmond Jones is brilliant and teaches you a lot about stagecraft too.

Do you think there is equality in the workplace? If not then why?

I’d like to think so, but when I recently heard that 80% of people who have lost their jobs in the recent economic downturn are women I wondered if there were any women in the jobs containing the other 20%. Someone said that woman were in the less important jobs so of course they had to go!

I don’t think inequality is always an obvious thing. But I think one would have to be in denial faced with those figures. But there is also the child bearing and rearing aspect which complicates the question of equality, it’s never become obvious how to deal with it in a fair way in the work place.

My theatre career was put off for ten years because I went to a business advisor to get advice on starting up a theatre company and he told me I could not do it as my son was six months old at the time, so I made books instead. Ten years or so later I met a well known playwright and he said ‘why don’t you write a play?’ and that’s how I got going, and overcame that hurdle. People might say that was just one comment but if you add it to years of similar ones being said either to you or at you and others from various angles, then it all adds up, it’s a sort of attrition.

What advice would you give to others wanting to get into your field of work?

Well, if you can find someone to encourage you it works wonders. Sometimes just a few words of encouragement can change a person’s life. Get involved with proactive people who share your vision. If you can’t find any just get on with it. Connect with your role models through books, films, and whatever is your chosen direction.

What is the favourite part of your job? And least favourite?

Favourite part is coming up with ideas and materialising them. Least favourite is all the admin and paperwork.

How do you achieve a work/life balance?

You can’t have one without the other. Most people I see have to do with work. Some of them have become friends.

Who do you find inspirational?

Anyone who is seriously involved with the arts and just keeps at it, anyone who tries to improve things for others, even in small ways. Philanthropists. I’ve been inspired by so many people… Stanley Kubrick, Michael Angelo, Buster Keaton, Marcel Marceau, Mozart, numerous punk and rock musicians, people I’ve met, and everything that’s beautiful and profound.

Sky or earth?

As my band is called Sky Keepers it must be the sky. But we all need somewhere to refuel, so I do pop by Earth every now and then for a cup of tea.

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