A finalist at the Windsor Fringe Drama Festival, Julie Ford is preparing to premiere her new play, Totally Devoted, at theSpace this Fringe. The show is about three mature housewives who are absolutely obsessed with Robert Pattinson, so naturally our Features Editor James T Harding wanted to know more.
Robert Pattinson is almost like a religion – he is father, son and holy spirit.
Tell us about the show.
"Totally Devoted is about the fantasies some women engage in in order to escape from their everyday lives. In this case the dream is to meet Robert Pattinson. The playtakes audiences into the crazy world of three mature housewives Cecilia, Monica and Rose and their total obsession with the Twilight star."
What made you choose Robert Pattinson specifically as the object of your characters' desires?
"He has the most amazing, dedicated fan base, which includes a large number of older women. Their reactions to him and their feelings for him are varied and complex. It’s almost like a religion – he is father, son and holy spirit to them. I had an ‘in’ to this world, through someone I know, and like Alice with the White Rabbit, I followed it down the rabbit hole.
"In the play he does represent any fantasy figure on which people pin their hopes. But because of what happens, you couldn’t just swap him for a film star of your choice. In Totally Devoted, it does have to be him."
What was it that drove you to write this play?
"The world of the obsessed fan is brilliant. It’s a world hidden from the view of most people, and an absolute gift to a writer. I wanted to understand these women, what makes them tick, and I wanted to take the audience with me on that journey. They are our sisters, our friends, our aunts, our mothers and no different from you and me – except for this obsession with a (handsome!) man young enough to be their son."
I think it's fantastic you're working to combat the marginalisation of older women in the arts. Are there other plays with great part for women in their forties and fifties that you'd recommend?
"I would recommend Top Girls, by Caryl Churchill; Phedre, by Racine; Ghosts, by Henrik Ibsen and Jumpy, by April De Angelis. The women in Top Girls, Mrs Alving in Ghosts and Phedre all struggle against what their societies expect of them or impose on them. And in Jumpy, Hilary struggles with her mid-life crisis – many older women will recognise this. And, of course, there is Happy Days, by Samuel Beckett – a commentary on the female condition."
How did your MA in writing from City University in London shape your approach to writing and building a career as a writer? What was the single most important thing you learnt there?
"I have always loved writing, but it has taken many years to realise that my natural writing home is the theatre. After an early success at the Windsor Fringe Drama Festival, I realised that I needed something to take my writing up a level, and the MA at City was it. The MA taught me the need for hard work, discipline (goodbye, social life!) and a trusted group of fellow writers to share with. The single most important thing I learnt was that the world is not going to discover me - I need to get my work out there. So here it is, at the brilliant Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I am so excited at the prospect of audiences actually seeing my play come to life."
Obviously procrastination is a key skill for writers everywhere. What are you favourite ways to waste time?
"Searching on the Internet for the answer to a long and healthy life, which has to include alcohol and chocolate. I also like to watch TV – I call this research."