Interview: Tabitha Mortiboy

Tabitha Mortiboy’s second full length play, Beacons, is about to open at The Park Theatre, London. Last week Female Arts’ Amie Taylor chatted to her about her career and the play.

AT: : Tabitha, first of all could you tell us a bit about you, your training and how you came to be a playwright?

TM: Yes, I studied at Bristol University which had a lot of links to The Old Vic. I studied English and Drama and for each of those years I participated in a mentorship scheme with the literary producer at the Old Vic. We had fortnightly meetings where we’d bounce script ideas around and she taught us a lot about the craft of playwriting and tricks, techniques and styles. Then once I graduated I applied to the Old Vic’s anonymous script window, and got chosen to be one of five writers who work for a year on attachment to the Old Vic.

AT: Your first full length play called ‘Billy Through the Window’ was on at Edinburgh last year, could you tell us how that was, and what it was like to be up in Edinburgh.

TM: Yes, that was about two young boys that run away from a residential care home for a weekend away, with the idea of growing up and wanting to become men. They have a furiously intense friendship; iit all becomes very chaotic and ends dramatically. I took it up with my company, Bellow Theatre, and co-directed it with a woman called Maureen Lennon. Edinburgh is an amazing month, you find yourself utterly immersed in a load of crazy, theatrical stuff. It was good, very tiring, more so for the actors probably who had to sweat themselves silly every night.

AT: And Beacons is your first commission, by Attic Theatre company, could you tell us how you got involved with them?

TM: Yes, so they are a brilliant company that do a lot of work with new writers, and they hold a thing called ‘Playfest’ in October time where they put a call out for 20 minute scripts. So three or four years ago I sent in the germ of this play and they chose that for a rehearsed reading, Jennie Lee, the director at the time said she really liked the idea and she could see that there was a lot more mileage in it, and asked if I would like to pull it out in to a full length script. So I worked on it, it’s been through many drafts and alterations, but now here we are.

AT: Great, so perhaps at this point you could tell us a little bit about what it’s about…

TM: It’s set in an ice-cream van on the edge of a cliff in Eastbourne on Beachy Head, and the lady that runs it, called Julie, who’s in her mid-fifties. Then there’s a friend of hers who comes to visit the van every day and a 16 year old who’s come from out of town to help her for the summer. It begins as summer is ending, and there’s a sense of ‘what next?’, what will happen when there are no more customers? And these three people are left on the edge of the cliff talking about things and it transpires that they’ve all got secrets and connections that they didn’t know about.

AT: What was your inspiration behind the idea?

TM: I visited the cliffs a few years ago now with my girlfriend, we went for a weekend away and I was struck by how beautiful it was first of all then I came to learn other stuff about the area, a lot of it very sad unfortunately. There was a lot to think about, but it’s such an amazing place, I thought, what a setting for a play. And this idea as well that when you’re outside in these vast, panoramic spaces, you do begin to think more about life in slightly more poetic and open way.

AT: And what do you hope audiences will take away from watching?

TM: No particular thing in mind, I write in a way that I hope the audience will very much take away what they choose to, that’s completely up to them. It’s a lot to do with what we say and what we choose to hide really, it’s an exploration of that and how most people are very adept at presenting a version of themselves and keeping lots of secrets - there’s so much that as human beings we feel we can’t say to each other. It’s a look at what happens when we open up a bit more with each other.

AT: And you’ve been the room a bit during rehearsals, how’s it going? Are you pleased with the outcome so far?

TM: Yes, it exceeds everything I’d imagined it to be, but that’s the lovely thing about writing and then handing it over to a creative team, they breath energy in to it that you may never have envisioned. And the cast are just beyond words, they’re brilliant, they’re so perfect for the role it’s uncanny, better than what I had in my head!

AT: Thank you so much Tabitha. Beacons is on at Park 90 (Park Theatre, London) until 16th April.

Beacons is at Park Theatre, London N4, from Tuesday until 16 April ( / 020 7870 6876)

Interview © Amie Taylor (@AmieAmieTay) 2016

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