Sophie Leydon is the writer and director of Rapture, the debut show from Pink Sky, a collective of LGBTQIA+ artists taking an interdisciplinary approach to making queer theatre.
Rapture is a three-hander centring gender non-conforming identity, the politics of polyamory and radical self-expression.
Rapture will play at Pleasance Theatre London 28th June – 17th July 2022.
Rapture is coming to the Pleasance, what can you tell us about the show?
Rapture is a queer, chaotic adventure through London in the lives of a small chosen family, polyamorous partner-and-girlfriend Kit and Rosy and their best friend Tommy. The show uses a blend of spoken-word style confessional monologues with zippy dialogue and fast-paced narrative action staged with stylised movement direction – we hope it’s a playful, engaging evening of theatre!
Born of a wish to express the hope and resilience that runs in our veins as LGBTQIA+ people navigating life, ‘Rapture’ doesn’t so much hold the audience’s hand through the story as it does drags them along for the ride.
What inspired you to write it?
I first had an idea for a one-person show about healing from trauma through engagement with pop culture forms like true crime, as you’ll see in the show there is no trace of the latter left! However, for me healing remains as the idea at the heart of the play – asking how we as queer people construct and sustain elaborate coping mechanisms to survive, and having fun with thinking about the bizarre and mundane ways these manifest.
It has also been a painful process for me of committing to the page and dissecting the emotional implications of parts of my own experience, from sexual assault to the intersections of mental illness and queer identity.
I began writing in the first lockdown, living in a 6 person house share in Peckham with all my lovely housemates studying or working remotely, while I was on furlough from my front-of-house job, which I’m really grateful for. I’d go for bike rides and walks around all the parks I could find, taking coffee and my laptop – it sort of began as a way to find company in the writing. As the story has developed, Rapture has become less a mirror held up to mine or my community’s experiences and more an exploration of survival and solidarity in these three characters’ lives in the aftermath of a harmful event.
How do you think your combination of spoken word poetry and movement helps tell this story of queer life?
A lot of the action of the play takes place in and around workplaces and nightlife spaces, using the movement direction to bring the audience on that highly visual journey across and out of the city, while the rhythms of spoken word speak propel the action of the story forwards while being a wonderful vessel for the expression of the characters’ inner lives.
There’s a gag in the first scene that Rosy, Kit and Tommy all need a day job, a gay job and a pay job, and the rhythms of the writing really take us through the myriad shifting environments they traverse on a daily basis, from a shift in a WeWork in North to closing up at a queer bar in East and onwards.
‘Rapture’ is our debut show as Pink Sky, a collective of LGBTQIA+ artists who make work across diverse performance disciplines – back in September during an R&D we workshopped the piece with live musicians, poets, writer-performers as well as theatre artists. The idea being that finding interdisciplinary approaches to making theatre can broaden the scope and reach of the work, bringing in that playful performativity we as artists are so used to seeing in London’s drag, cabaret and burlesque spaces
You’re also directing, do you think that’s easier or more difficult when you’re also the writer?
More difficult! I have a ton of experience working with new writing, and during each process there have been varying degrees of how much that artist is a Writer-in-the-Room, so that really feels like home to me and is where I sit very comfortably as a Director.
As a first-time Playwright, this process has been a steep learning curve that’s thrown more new challenges at me than I could have ever imagined. I have definitely seen whole new sides of Playwrights’ job that I don’t envy them! At the same time, being a perfectionist (read: control freak), there is naturally something galvanising about having written the script and subsequently being the one to bring it to life. The poor actors, I have to reign myself in from making edits in the space every time a line’s sounding off to me!
What have you enjoyed most about working with the cast in the rehearsal room?
Each of the three actors has a unique performance background and they all have their own individual artistic practice – it’s been extremely invigorating for the creative team and for the text itself to see and hear these characters animated by Bryan, Sam and Izzy.
They are also very different creatives when it comes to how they work in the rehearsal room, whether that’s wanting to find their characters’ thoughts through table work or preferring to feel out the text’s emotional resonances bodily. The thing I’ve enjoyed most has definitely been the sense of fun we’ve had in throwing the text around, experimenting with physicality and seeing how far we can take the campiness or turn up the heat of our intimate and mischievous scenes.
What would you say to anyone thinking of coming to see Rapture?
‘Rapture’ is an unapologetic evening of drama, chaos, confusion, and madness – brought to life through vibrant performances underwritten with a strong emotional heart. It’s going to be a ride and a half, so come for the fun and stay for the story! Plus the Pleasance make a great Negroni.