Lonesome Schoolboy Productions brings Turkey to the Hope Theatre from 26th September to 14th October 2017. We spoke to writer Frankie Meredith about this debut play.
Your play Turkey is coming to the Hope Theatre, what can you tell us about it?
Turkey is actually a reference to turkey basting (the method of artificial insemination), not the country or the food, I’m still working out whether having such an ambiguous title is a good thing, I spend a lot of time currently explaining the turkey basting process.
It’s about one woman’s overwhelming desire to have a baby, however this woman (Madeline) is in a lesbian relationship, so it is a little more complex than your ‘traditional’ method. It explores the ways in which she tries to conceive this child, letting nothing, not even the ones she loves, stand in her way.
It’s ultimately about putting a flawed female centre stage and asking an audience to be okay with that. Madeline does some pretty horrific things, and treats people, particularly her partner Toni, in an awful way. People don’t necessarily have to like her, but I want them to understand why she acts like that rather than judging her.
This is the first play you’ve written, what inspired you to become a playwright?
I’ve always written and told stories, ever since I was little. I found my first screenplay the other day from when I was nine, of course it had a flawed female lead called Julie who beat up bank robbers with her impeccable karate skills.
It wasn’t until a few years ago when I did the Lyric Young Writers Programme, headed up by the fab Duncan Macmillan, that I started to take writing seriously. It was a fantastic course that gave me so many skills and access to loads of resources I otherwise wouldn’t have known about It was so insightful. Every other week we’d have a playwright come in to impart their wisdom, it’s hard not to get inspired when you’ve got the likes of Anya Reiss, Arinzé Kene and Simon Stephens giving you tips.
Are the characters based on people you know?
Yes, in a way. The story is based on a true story, and Madeline and Toni do exist. Of course I’ve taken artistic license and changed and adapted elements, but a situation like this did occur. I had to tell the real life Toni the other day that the play was going to be on, luckily she took it really well and can’t wait to see it.
What have you learned during the writing and production process?
The writing process has been a rather long one, just over two years. It started out as an exercise on the Soho Theatre Young Writer’s Lab as a short scene that we were to create around a family story. Chris White, my dramaturg while on that course and who was leading that particular session, told us that the most truthful tales often come from our family as it’s in our blood. I started with a scene in the supermarket about a couple debating on which man to ask for his sperm. Using the real life tale as a sort of base, it went on from there.
Before landing this run at The Hope, and meeting the fantastic Niall Phillips, who will be directing, I’d had meetings at numerous theatres and with various directors and producers regarding Turkey. Only now does it feel like its in the right place to show it to the world for the first time. Niall and I had a really positive initial meeting with Matthew Parker (AD of The Hope), Niall’s production company Lonesome Schoolboy has had a couple of shows on there before which both did really well, so I knew it was in good hands.
How have the cast responded to Turkey?
The cast are fantastic, and are so keen to get stuck in and play with the text, which is wonderful to see. It’s a three hander so is really intimate, and these actors will have to get to know each other and the play incredibly well and I just can’t wait to see how it shapes and evolves.
We saw a lot of people for these roles, and I found the casting process fascinating. Everybody came in with such an open mind and so many opinions and questions on the characters and the play. They were a really interesting couple of days.
What a lot of people have picked up on is the truthfulness of the characters and how they feel like real people, I think the fact they’re based on real life humans really does help.
What are you most looking forward to about seeing Turkey on stage for the first time?
After being really involved in the casting process I’m taking a step back now and letting Niall work his magic along with the actors, Peyvand, Harriet and Cameron. I think I’ll maybe take a peek at rehearsals when they’re in the final week to see how it’s all going, but I don’t want to step on Niall’s toes!
I can’t wait to see how the set turns out. In quite an early meeting Niall and I got ourselves all excited about the possibilities of how we could transform the room upstairs at The Hope. For a small space it’s so versatile and I’ve seen some brilliant sets there over the past few years; we should be able to create something wonderful.
We want to play with the idea of some sort of vegetable patch, or garden, referencing the fertility and earthiness of the play. In reality it’s just an excuse for us to get the actors to roll around in mud for seventy minutes and hang trees from the ceiling; we’ll see what Matthew lets us get away with.