Broadway Baby chats to Gemma Wilson and Anna Thomas-Jones from The Well-Behaved Women about their upcoming show Dog Play Dead.
You wake up the morning after, and there's a pool of blood in the kitchen, and his beloved dog is missing. And to make the hangover even worse, the boss' daughter arrives, and she is not happy... Surely this is not a situation well-behaved women should find themselves in?
Tell us about your show
You're throwing a great party, for your closest friends, in an amazing house. What could possibly go wrong? Except you're actually supposed to be house sitting. For a mafia boss. You wake up the morning after, and there's a pool of blood in the kitchen, and his beloved dog is missing. And to make the hangover even worse, the boss' daughter arrives, and she is not happy... Surely this is not a situation well-behaved women should find themselves in?
This unconventional black comedy is truly gripping, full of exciting twists and unexpected laughs, brought to you by a new and daring all-female company.
Why did you decide to take your show to Space UK this year?
theSpace UK is renowned for having some of the best theatre of the Fringe, and this notoriety was very important to us as newcomers. We felt it was important to have a venue name that punters could trust - theSpace provides this level of security to The Fringe public, guaranteeing them a good theatre experience. theSpace also caters to a wide variety of theatre, especially new writing, so we felt it was the right place for us. They have helped us from start to the finish in every way possible, from press release support to securing interviews with great publications (such as yourselves!).
What makes your show unique amongst the thousands of others at the festival?
Think of a film, any film, and then ask yourself the three following questions:
Does the film have a woman in it? Does it have a scene in which 2 women talk to each other? If so, are they talking about anything other than relationships?
This is called the Bechdel test. Few films pass every question and even fewer plays. Dog Play Dead doesn't mention relationships once. At no point does a woman cry, complain or enthuse over a relationship - something extremely rare in many modern productions. This play is about a group of girls that get in to trouble, together, and eventually overcome it, together. There is no riling about the injustices of a male-dominated society and no attempts to persuade anyone to become a feminist. We hope this play can show everyone that all types of theatre, be it epic or kitchen-sink drama, can be created to involve women while appealing to a gender-neutral audience.
What has been the biggest challenge in getting your show ready for Edinburgh?
In one word - money! Having only just graduated from Drama School, none of us were in a position to single-handedly set up and promote a theatre company, or commission a play that complied with our aims. Luckily, the six of us decided to all band together and come up with the money for registration and venue hire ourselves. We then threw all our energy into sponsorship emails; crowd funding websites and organising fundraising activities - anything we could do to get our show on the road! It's been a constant struggle, but theSpace have helped enormously by promoting our play in all their venues & we've called on a lot of favours - you all know who you are!
How did you create your show? (Answered by Anna Thomas-Jones)
I love edgy, gritty plays. Plays with some black humour, gripping plots and engaging characters. One such lay that left an impression on me was Jez Butteworth's Mojo. I could only dream that one day in my career, I would have the opportunity to play such roles. These parts, however, come few and far between - especially for women. Given these circumstances, I'd decided to take a proactive approach to my career before I even attended drama school. I decided to write a play which included all the aspects of theatre that I love, including characters and situations that women in theatre, thus far, have not been able to find themselves.
Can you tell us a bit about your company’s background?
The Well-Behaved Women was founded by Anna Thomas-Jones, coincidentally the writer of our play Dog Play Dead. The members are all like-minded drama school graduates who want to give women a strong presence in the arts.
We first thought of creating a theatre company when discussing how difficult it was to get jobs after Drama School (a problem many actors can identify with). Everyone struggles, but it seemed especially difficult for female actors. We spoke about it at length and discovered it's not because of us, but due to the industry and the numbers of parts available to female actors. We wanted to change this and so we decided to create an all-female company that specialised in new-writing, focusing on giving women important, challenging roles, instead of simply supporting a lead (predominantly male) protagonist.
What makes us different is that we are not being militant about it. We are being proactive and making the change ourselves instead of pushing other people to make it. In doing so, we hope to encourage more theatre companies, writers and producers to do the same.
If your show does well in Edinburgh, what do you want to do with it next?
We would love to take our show back to London and do a run for at least another week - but wouldn't everyone? Any profits from Edinburgh will go towards this, and then any further profits from a London run would go towards our next project. We want to continue creating female-dominated plays that appeal to all audience types. If we could return to Edinburgh festival next year with another cracking show, we'd be thrilled! If we were very successful, we'd consider taking it on a tour to all points of England and Wales, hopefully inspiring other writers, both new and old, to include more roles for women in their work.
Show Name: Dog Play Dead
Production Company: The Well-Behaved Women
Venue: theSpace on the mile (Space 1)
Dates: August 24th-29th
Times: 12.50pm (1 hour)