Interview: Ashley Winter

Ashley Winter is a theatre director and co-founder of Attila Theatre Company. This week Female Arts' Amie Taylor ran a quick-fire Q and A with her to find out more about her latest project.

AT: Ashley, please could you start by telling us a little about your journey to becoming a director?

AW: I have been acting since I was a teenager, it was probably the only thing that kept me from going off the rails. I then studied Film & Theatre at the University of Reading, which is probably the best decision I have ever made. I directed a couple of plays whilst studying and fell in love with it. After Uni I set up my company Attila Theatre with Chris Montague and we co-directed Shoot. Get Treasure. Repeat by Mark Ravenhill. I then decided to try some actor training and did the Two year Rep course with Fourth Monkey.

AT: What work are you interested in making?

AW: Playful, irreverent work that gets to grips with popular culture. I'm really influenced by "nerd culture", I feel that there is so much to be explored in sci-fi and fantasy writing and a huge audience that loves it that aren't necessarily going to the theatre regularly.

AT: As well as a theatre maker, would you also call yourself an activist?

AW: I would never, ever call myself an activist. I'm a feminist- yes. I always prefer to work with a gender-balanced cast, but I'm primarily a theatre maker and to say I'm anything more than that would be lying. I have massive respect for companies like Sheer Height and Bechdel Theatre and organisations like Wolf Whistled who are doing great things on the fringe, but I'm primarily focused on making great theatre.

AT: How did you come to work on Irn Pru? What's it about?

AW: I worked on Andy's last piece In/Out (a feeling) as assistant director. We really clicked and he asked me to come on board to direct Irn Pru.

It's about a woman who has managed to fall between the cracks of society, She's unemployed (thanks to a massive Waitrose opening in her town and closing down all the shops and cafes) and interviewing for a series of shit jobs but instead of being broken by it, she just keeps pushing ahead. Despite this fiery determination she also feels disconnected from her surroundings, her sense of community has been eroded away and she's lonely. She's just found out she's pregnant too, so there's a sense of urgency - she wants to give her child a better life than the one she has been given.

AT: What do you hope audiences will take away from watching this piece?

AW: It packs an emotional punch definitely, her situation mirrors so many people I know- particularly from back home- I think there are things that everyone can relate to in Pru's story, but I want them to leave feeling hopeful for her. She's a warrior in her own way and the last thing she would want is for anyone to feel sorry for her. I think there is something in that; rather than feeling sorry for those who have found themselves in desperate situations, the best thing we can do is believe in them, give them respect.

AT: What are you working on next??

AW: Attila Theatre has two new shows: The Frogs adapted from Aristophanes' ancient Greek comedy and set in a totalitarian state at the Bread & Roses on 24th & 25th October and a piece of new writing called Skin Deep inspired by real-life serial killer Erzsébet Báthory at Old Red Lion on 29th & 30th October.

Thanks so much Ashley. You can see The We Plays at The Hope Theatre (London) from 27th Sept 2016 - 15th October 2016
Booking: http://www.thehopetheatre.com/productions/the-we-plays/

You can find out more about Ashley's work by following her on Twitter: @ashley_winter1

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