Playwright Becky Owen Fisher Lets Actors Change the Order of her Scenes

In a world boiling over with police invasion of privacy, romance and rising sea levels, what could possibly go wrong? Part eco-political rally cry, part meditation on the collapse of a relationship, Generation Zero is the bold new play from Lamphouse Theatre. Al Gillespie chats with playwright Becky Owen Fisher (Perfect Straight Line, Can You Fall Up?) to learn about how the play came to be.

Having the power to change the chronology of the play gave the actors an amazing sense of ownership over the piece and their characters

What are the origins of Generation Zero?

It came out of a conversation between me and Tom, the director. We’d been talking about the stories of undercover policemen having relationships with activist women and were appalled but fascinated with the reports. I wanted to write something that would take an essence of those stories and examine the implosion of a relationship. Climate change is a huge part of my political agenda but I wanted to write a play that didn’t shove the issue right out into the centre of stage. Something that creates an awkward unsettling feeling, that forces an audience to consider their responsibility.

How did you find the process of seeing your text translated onto the stage?

It was completely nuts. I wrote the play in chronological order (as seen in the playtext – available after the show for a fiver!) but asked the actors and Tom to change the order of the scenes if they felt they wanted to. The result was a play that I could never have imagined. Having the power to change the chronology of the play gave the actors an amazing sense of ownership over the piece and their characters and it was such a joy to come into rehearsals and watch them passionately discussing the order of the play! I was allowed ultimate veto over their choices, but as it happens I agreed with all their decisions!

Why did you choose theatre as the medium to tell this story?

There’s nothing better than the medium of live theatre to tell a raw story like this. I’ve admired Tom’s direction for years and I knew that my writing style would complement his pacey, brave approach. A lot of people have said this is quite a televisual play, that they could see it working well onscreen. I see what they mean, it could lend itself well, but the raw emotion of the actors and the close proximity of the audience is what makes it for me.

What do you hope that people take way from this play?

Someone described the sensation as unsettling and I liked that. I’m not necessarily aiming for everyone to leave and immediately cancel their holiday in the sun, I’d just love it if it inspired some small sense of duty. I hope also that it’s a thinker, that in a few days time you might wake up and think “Oh that makes sense now. I get that.”

Do you have any other projects that you are currently working on?

I have the latter part of this year (once I’ve recovered from the inevitable fringe flu) set aside for writing. I’m working on something for radio – hoping my style lends itself quite well. I’m also going to be working with Lamphouse again in the future and hopefully submitting to open submissions!

You can follow Becky @beckyowenfisher and find the show @LamphouseTheatr and at Generation Zero plays at Zoo Southside 5th - 29th August (not 15th) - 14:15 (1hr). Full Edinburgh Listing: