​Bedlam Producer Cordelia Grierson on Staging New Writing in Peoples’ Homes

Three AM in Edinburgh is something of a witching hour. But if you were under the impression that three in the morning might be a respite from the Fringe, you’d be wrong. The Fringe never rests. Venture across to the Bedlam Theatre at such a time and you’d find Floor Play, a new-writing showcase burning the midnight oil. Broadway Baby spoke to producer Cordelia Grierson to find out what keeps her up at night.

I find that my generation’s attention span has become shorter and shorter

Can you give me some background, about the show and about yourself?

Sure – I studied at Edinburgh University, acted in loads when I was younger, but then decided not to act anymore, that to produce is more my calling. So in my last year I set up this thing called Floor Play, which is where you go to people’s houses and watch theatre. It turned out to do really well.

In my last year, all my friends were saying that we can go for drinks with our friends or we could see a play, because we couldn’t take two nights off. So I was like – why don’t we mix that and do something slightly more interesting? Then Bedlam found out about it and slotted us in at the Fringe, so we decided to create a show.

The time slot they gave us was three in the morning (which is outrageous but very fun), so we got together with a bunch of our writers and started exploring what goes on at three in the morning. Both the shows were written for that time.

The first one is Something’s Happened by Pedro Leandro, about two male housemates who are discussing love in a theoretical and personal way. Then the second one Sweatshop by Joe Mcardle (who is also in loads of other stuff you should check out) is about a cleaner in a strip club after it closes.

So was it a deliberate move then away from traditional theatrical spaces?

That’s how it started – I’m obsessed with space, as a person, and I find the use of space incredibly interesting. In Edinburgh we are incredibly lucky with our student accommodation – they’re such big spaces. (Especially when you are thinking about moving back to London. I’ll be lucky to have a very very small flat somewhere I could crash.) So I use this space to do create a more interesting evening. I love this combination of a event and theatre as a platform to showcase new writing.

When we did it originally we did a combination of three short plays and then a surprise act – one night we had this mime, John Oldfield (who is also in Jam Sandwich – he is so talented) – and it became this really fun, interesting evening.

I always find that when I go to theatre and films, one of my favourite things is going to a Q&A at the end, so I really liked this idea that actors doing their bit and coming offstage, having long intervals where people drink and talk and could ask actors anything, and the directors were there. I really like that interactive element of theatre.

Are you guys the fringiest thing on at the Edinburgh Fringe?

I don’t know, and I don’t want to give myself a self-professed name! But I feel that’s sort of what we’re trying to do. I love the Fringe, and I’ve been coming since I was such a young child. What you notice more and more is how expensive everything’s got, and how big names fill out hundreds and hundreds of tickets that cost twenty quid – which is fine, but also in a way, quite sad.

I really want Floor Play to be a platform for new writing, because I believe the Fringe should just be all new writing, personally. Maybe, maybe that’s more of our way – but I don’t really want to give ourselves a self-professed name.

What does Floor Play take inspiration from?

Loads of different things I think – I love short plays. I find that my generation’s attention span has become shorter and shorter – obviously there are so many things trying to combat that – I saw Richard III at the Almeida a few weeks ago, and everyone’s attention was held for the whole three hours. But more and more I like short plays – and loads of writers write short plays that are never read and never performed, and I think that’s a bit of a tragedy because what you can do in a short space of time is really interesting. So I usually take inspiration from shorter works.

How do you go about finding writers?

Pedro is an actor who was also in another Floor Play, who approached me saying “I want to write for the concept, because I liked it so much”.

Then Joe is very dear friend of mine whom I have acted with before. I think he’s a very talented writer, and he wrote Subs last year, which was a short play about substitute teachers, which I really really enjoyed.

I’m not really a writer myself, I’m very, very dyslexic, but I can edit scripts, which is where in the writing process I come in.

So what do you think the next step for Floor Play? Will you continue it on, or is this the end?

My aim is to start Floor Play in London on a monthly basis in different spaces – a lot of them domestic, as I love the home as a space for theatre. We’ve had a few offers from other venues, which is very cool. I don’t want to be in any theatre, that’s my thing, but I basically want Floor Play to become a platform for new writing.

Floor Play is at Bedlam 5th – 10th and 14th-17th August at 03.00 (1hr). Find the company on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/floorplaytheatre and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/floor.play/