Interview with Christine Moran, playwright of ‘Getting Over Steven’

Christine Moran is a playwright and an actor. Her first lead role was playing Anne in “The Diary of Anne Frank” aged 17 whilst studying for A levels, followed by Agnes in “Agnes of God” and Sonya in “Uncle Vanya” at the Lacemarket Theatre in Nottingham whilst at University there. Professional Theatre training at East 15 Acting School and the London Centre for Theatre Studies followed.

Over the last 20 years she has played a wide variety of roles. Highlights include Belinda in “Daisy Pulls it Off”, Ophelia in “Hamlet”, Hilary in “The Woman who Cooked Her Husband”, Chris in “Dancing at Lughnasa”, Titania in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, Marie in “Calendar Girls”, Elaine in “Breathing Corpses”, Mary in “The Long Road” and Ruth in “Blithe Sprit”. She has also enjoyed playing a variety of roles in “I Love You More”, “Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell”, “I, Bertold Brecht”, “The Vagina Monologues” and “The Jungle Book” and a large number of new plays in various festivals, including the annual WriteFest at Progress Theatre, which she was instrumental in setting up. Most recently she appeared as Nursey in “Blackadder” at the Hexagon theatre in Reading.

Chris began her career as a playwright when her play, “Amelia & The Man” came second in a national playwriting competition in 1996 and was then published by New Playwrights’ Network under her maiden name of Christine Lang. This play went on to be performed by several different theatre companies and was also made into a film by Room For improvement.

Several of her plays have been performed locally at South Hill Park in Bracknell and Progress Theatre in Reading. She has also written and performed a number of monologues and in 2009 performed In Liz Carroll’s SH!T at the Camden Fringe. She is currently working on film scripts with Workbench Productions.

Q How long did ‘Getting Over Steven’ take to write and are the characters based on anyone you know?

I came up with the idea over Christmas 2013 and the deadline was in March 2014. I wrote eleven pages and had the plot and characters then devised ‘Getting Over Steven’ with the cast. I’m interested in the question - how is one person viewed by other people? It all depends on their relationships.

The characters aren’t directly based on anyone I know but I pick up on people’s expressions and sometimes put these into different situations.

Q How present is Steven without him being in the play?

It’s important for actors to come up with their own idea of who Steven is – it makes him more three dimensional.

Q You have an all-female cast, including yourself – is this a new experience for you? do you set out to write more roles for women?

Not all my plays are about female characters but I’m interested in how women’s minds work and that women behave differently without men around. I do set out to write more roles for women in that I can write a part for myself as an actor. An all-female cast is not a new experience for me, I was in an Ali Carroll play about four women in a refuge, and in ‘Calendar Girls’ which is a majority female cast.

‘Getting Over Steven’ has a cast of six women who play characters including Steven’s wife, mother, daughter, sister and his boss.

Q Forthwrite Theatre is a touring group who perform new and exciting projects. Are you planning to tour ‘Getting Over Steven?’

One of my plays was performed in Altrinchham, Greater Manchester after being shortlisted in a national playwrighting competition. There are no current plans to tour ‘Getting Over Steven’ but maybe we could take it to the Henley Fringe Festival in the future.

Q Profits from ‘Getting Over Steven’ are being donated to the Blue Ribbon Fund in memory of Elaine Moran. Can you tell me more about this?

My niece Elaine had a heart transplant when she was two years old and lived until she was fifteen, she passed away in December. The Blue Ribbon fund is raising money for the Heart Children Ireland charity, specifically to fund families who have to travel from Ireland to Great Ormond Street hospital in London. Ireland does not have the facilities for children requiring heart transplants and they have to be treated at Great Ormond St. There is no funding for their families to travel with them.

There will be information about The Blue Ribbon Fund in the programme.

Q Do you think there is gender equality in the workplace? If not, why?

No, there isn’t gender equality. It’s better than it used to be. The fundamental difference is that women are childbearers. Even if the mother works and the dad stays at home, there is still a powerful maternal instinct. I think that fewer women put work above their relationships and family, it seems to be more men who do that. It’s hard for women with the glass ceiling.

In ‘Getting Over Steven’ one character is a lawyer and another is a Detective Inspector – Steven’s boss. These women meet at a conference and become friends. They are women in a man’s world and we see how they cope with it. Both have sacrificed some of their personal lives for their careers. Most men wouldn’t have to make that choice.

Steven’s wife meets him at work but she gives up her job because of the cost of childcare. She puts her daughter before her career. The daughter Amy is 17 and more clued up about what women can do and doesn’t see any barriers in terms of her gender. She wants to be a crime writer.

Steven’s mother was on her own with Steven for a short time then she married a teacher. She believed she had to ‘find a man’.

Q Do you think ‘Getting Over Steven’ will attract a majority female audience?

The play is about a man from a female point of view. It’s accessible to both sexes and I know that couples have booked tickets. At Progress Theatre I’m part of the committee that decides what plays go on and there shouldn’t be a ‘woman’s play’. There are more women involved in Progress Theatre (than men) so there need to be more roles for them.

Q How long have you been involved in Progress Theatre?

When I was seven I saw youth theatre in Swanage ‘Run for Your Wife’ I wanted to act from that moment on. I went to East 15 acting school and trained as an actor but there was too much waitressing. I went into playwrighting sideways as I could work on that whenever I wanted. I find Progress Theatre to be a community, a family. I was in a production called ‘SH!t’ at the Camden Fringe festival but we had to pay to stay in London, so because of the costs incurred it was more like a holiday. Reading Fringe Festival is on the doorstep which made it appealing for me to put on a play here.

Q What challenges have you faced, bringing this performance to the stage? How have you overcome these?

Our challenges include that the production is financed on a shoestring, but it is mainly a challenge of logistics, organising rehearsals for a cast of six actors. We did workshops at home but we needed more space. Because this show is for charity, Suzanne at Jelly gave us rehearsal space for free.

My challenge as a writer was that three weeks ago I was still typing up the script and panicking. I tell people I’ll do things to make it happen.

If I had to choose between acting and writing I’d choose acting as I find it slightly easier. As a writer I’m struggling with myself and a blank screen. Someone asked me if it was stressful acting in my own play and I said no because I’m in control on stage. If I’m not on stage I’m nervous because I can’t do anything.

There are times I have written and handed over scripts and not acted in my plays or directed them. Then I can be more objective. The writer writes the play, the actor interprets the play and the director shapes the play. Because I’ve been a director for a long time I can wear different hats and not be precious about lines. I’m happy to hand my script over to someone but it’s better to hand it over to someone I trust. My husband Aidan Moran is directing ‘Getting Over Steven’.

Q Do you have any words of wisdom and/or inspiration for aspiring theatre makers and performers out there?

Join a theatre, volunteer for the Reading Fringe Festival. In terms of writing just do it. There are a lot of youth theatres around. Progress Theatre has an annual ‘Writefest’ where you can submit a script of between ten and twenty minutes. Life is too short. Don’t wait for something to happen. Do it yourself. Don’t give up. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it - They might be frightened that you can’t do it, or are trying to put you off because they can’t do it.

If you want to be a playwright or an actor see as much theatre as you can. It’s thanks to my parents that I saw everything locally in Grimsby from the age of eight. It’s one of the best things they did for me.

Q Who inspires you?

Acting - Maggie Smith and Meryl Streep.
Writing – Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders and Victoria Wood. They were the first women to succeed in comedy writing.

Also, Mike Leigh, Richard Curtis and the film ‘Peter’s Friends’ This film inspired me to write one of my first plays called ‘Moving On’ about University friends who are reunited at a funeral. I like good British films and can recommend ‘Quartet’ and ‘About Time’.

(c) Wendy Thomson 2014

‘Getting Over Steven’ by Christine Moran, Forthwrite Theatre, 17-19th July Reading Fringe Festival, Watlington House, Reading.

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Twitter: @forthwrite_t

Blue Ribbon Fund
Progress Theatre

* With thanks for sponsoring Female Arts crowdfunder

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