Blackout is a show coming to Theatre 503 on December 8th and 9th and we had a chat with Poppy and Emma from Untamed Production company to speak about their exciting project.
-Hi Poppy and Emma, so nice to meet you, how are you?
So nice to meet you too. We're really well thank you!
-Congratulations on your new show, Blackout. The first question I wanted to ask you was, what made you write this script?
Poppy: I moved to Birmingham last year, I didn't have a job and I didn't know anyone except Emma (as I live with her). I thought, what could I do with my time? So, I decided to write a play! I had just turned 30 having had a summer full of hen parties and weddings and I decided there was a story that needed to be told for women who were watching their friends starting families in order to explore the feeling of being left behind, but at the same time still enjoying your own freedom. I wrote it as a drama originally and quickly realised it needed to be funny. Emma would always read in, which was key in helping me decide what to keep and what to cut. However, we didn't have a director, so we developed the script mostly in rehearsals through improvising and devising.
-That sounds interesting and definitely a topic that a lot of women can relate to. I want to move on to discuss how you are developing Blackout into a screenplay. What about the stage play makes it inherently theatrical and therefore, what changes were made for the screen play?
Poppy: For the stage play, we break the fourth wall a lot, and though you can do that on the screen you can't get the real time reactions the way you can with a live audience. Also, in the film we had to cut it down from 45 pages to 12, so choosing which bits to keep and cut was a process. More than anything it was about playing into the elements that aren't as easy to do on stage, such as cutaways of internal thoughts.
Emma: Just to add to that, the story of being a single woman in your 30s is such an untold story and those who are going through that are often feeling left behind, so it was important in the stage version that no one was going to feel left behind, that the audience would come along with us, they're manifesting, they're meditating and if you are able to come you will be a part of Tilly and JJ's night out. It is then our next challenge to transfer this onto screen and the film should be completed by the end of February 2023!
-Really exciting stuff. When I read the summary of the play and saw the title it instantly suggested there was a through line commentary of drinking culture or a discussion of the effects that drinking has on our mental health. Is there? And what can we expect to see from the deeper themes of the play?
Poppy: It is definitely a through line of the piece, it is a constant ‘let's go out', ‘oh we're hungover', ‘let's go out', ‘oh we're hungover'. It isn't necessarily a criticism of drinking culture, more an exploration of the aftermath of drinking such as self-hate and feeling terrible all day. But then to feel better you say, ‘shall we have another drink?'. It is something a lot of people do.
Emma: Obviously the line ‘I am never drinking again' is included and the moment the character Tilly says it, the audience burst out laughing because we've all been there. It really is an epidemic, every single weekend the majority of the UK, at least, are in deep pits of anxiety and self-hate and we wanted to give voice to that. It isn't a moral message of ‘you should stop drinking', it is just starting a conversation about why we may be doing it.
-Great thank you. Could you try to summarise in 5 words what an audience member can expect from Blackout?
Poppy: Fun night out.
Emma: A bit of a laugh.
Poppy: We try to hit the lows and the highs, there is a fertility story that brings a reality to the piece rather than just the fun times drinking or the escapism. At the heart of it, we look at the reality of being a 30- year-old woman and not have someone to start a family with and the possibility that that might not happen.
-It is lovely that there are light and dark moments exploring this topic. Last question, which playwrights do you love reading and were there any other pieces of work that inspired Blackout?
Poppy: For me, because the long-term goal is for this to be a TV show, my main influences are Phoebe Waller Bridge and Michaela Coel who have started their projects as a stage show and transposed them to screen. They're female centred and have a dark humour, which are very much things I take influence from.
Emma: Last night we got to go to a Netflix event in Coventry where Debbie Isitt was hosting a talk. Isitt wrote The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband which is a fantastic play and she has been one of my favourite writers. She is also a Brummie theatre maker who has gone on to write screenplays for Netflix. Birmingham is such an underrepresented scene and so it is great to see a female creative going on to do these amazing projects. We got to meet some great people and it was very exciting.
-Well, I can't wait to see the show. It has been so lovely talking to you both, it is clear you have a special friendship and it is great to see you exploring important topics in a playful approach. Blackout is on at Theatre 503 on December 8th and 9th. Links to their social media are below, and you can book tickets here.
Interview: Isabelle Tyner