Interview: Polly Churchill and Lucy Foster

This week I spoke to Polly Churchill (PC) and Lucy Foster (LF) about their involvement in Short(s)wave, a selection of 10 minute plays performing at the Bread and Roses Theatre (London) on 22nd March – 4pm and 7pm. The event features new writing from seven members of The Royal Court’s 2014 writing programme.

You participated in the Royal Court's Spring 2014 writing programme. How did you find the programme and what benefits did it offer to you as a writer?

PC: I absolutely loved it. even though I have been a writer for a long time I learnt so much. I think it's really important to keep learning whatever your job. Leo Butler, who ran the course, and Rob Hayes who assisted were both great. Every week was so interesting and stretching but more than anything it reminded me of why I became a writer in the first place. It was great to go back to the beginning with all the experience I have now and just see what happens. I write television mostly which is very structured so just to be able to write to see what would happen was incredibly liberating. I hadn't done that for a long time. They were also very encouraging and kept saying just keep going. It gave me a lot of freedom. I decided that there didn't seem to be much point in just writing as I normally do so it was great for experimenting. The encouragement and talent of the others writers was great too, We became friends and supporters and it's that that led to us putting on Short(s)wave.

LF: One of the greatest benefits as a writer was probably the community we've formed through it. Short(s)wave is showcasing exactly this - the talent of all the writers involved. Not just the talent, but also the support. Writing, and theatre as a whole, often feels incredibly competitive, and so it's great to have a network supporting each others' projects, and working to showcase our talent together. During the programme, we had the help and guidance of Leo Butler and Rob Hayes, so it's great to have this support with the other writers after leaving the programme.

What are you most interested in writing about at the moment?

PC: Oh so many things. Lately I have been writing a lot of mosaic type plays. I like collaborating with people, other writers, actors or directors. I think theatre is such an interesting place to write for and you can use the space differently and the reaction is instant. It is also a lot of fun and I think laughter is vital in theatre. I think we as writers have a responsibility to write fully rounded female characters. There has been years of male parts and men assuming leads and I think change is well over due.

LF: A focus of a couple of my recent projects has been that of youth ambition / apathy. I touch upon it in my Short(s)wave piece as well - looking at what drives young people, as well as the disillusion when the world doesn't conspire to help these dreams come true. I think it interests me at the moment because of my age.

Tell us about your piece for Short(s) Wave:

PC: I wanted to write something for a uniquely female experience. I had written a piece for six men ( I was given the actors for that) so I set it in the men's toilets and I think those places that are still single sexed are very interesting. Do people behave differently? Are they more liberated there? Also I find the whole world of lingerie shops so intimidating and through my research so do lots of other women.

The play is also about the comfort of strangers. I remember last year when I was having a pretty grim time I was crying at a bus stop and a women came up and gave me a tissue and said that she hoped things get better soon. I was so moved by that woman and think we all have a duty to sometimes reach out to each other even in a faceless city.

LF: My short play is called "The News", and centres around three 20-something-year-olds waiting in A&E after a night out. One of their friends has ended up in hospital, and they are waiting to hear "the news" from the doctor. As the discussion evolves, resentments begin to come to the surface, and their friend's "accident" does not seem as accidental as it once did...

What do you aim to do (/achieve) with your writing:

PC: I'd like to make people laugh and maybe be moved and to make people think about the play and the life around them after they have leave the theatre.

LF: I just really love writing in a variety of different mediums and formats, whether it's long or short stage plays, fiction, screenplays, radio, etc. I love exploring the different ways you can use each medium - how to drive the dialogue in a short play, for example, compared to the description and slow unravelling of a long piece of fiction.

What are you writing (if anything) at the moment?

PC: I am currently working on two pre-school television shows Wissper and Topsy and Tim. I am also working on a new full length theatre play and am about to start on the re-draft of the one I wrote for the Royal Court. My kid's theatre play Fridge! has been in Research and Development and is hopefully going into the Arcola soon.

LF: I'm currently trying my hand at writing a musical, alongside a really talented composer, Jo Walker, who I met whilst working on Hamlet at Park Theatre in December. I'm also currently writing a novel, as well as continuing playwriting. I like to keep myself busy!

Booking for Short(s)wave :
Interview © Amie Taylor 2015 (@spoonsparkle)

Author's review: