Tanya Bridgeman is the writer of Shoes to Fill, which comes to the Actor’s Church in Covent Garden as part of Iris Theatre’s Summer Festival.
Playwright, Tanya Bridgeman also appears in the production as Granddaughter. She is a theatre maker trained at ALRA and Mountview – this marks her playwriting debut. She is also part of the Soho Writers Lab 2020 – 21.
Shoes To Fill is at The Actor’s Church 5th – 10th July 2021. Tickets are on sale here.
Your debut play is opening as part of Iris Theatre’s Summer Festival, what can you tell us about Shoes to Fill?
The play follows the main character ‘Granddaughter’ who is struggling with her mental health which, in turn leads her to lose all her shoes – confining her to her room.
Her Grandmother’s stories then inspire and drive her to take risks, find confidence and let go of the grief that she has been holding onto.
The play explores themes of race, mental health, grief, family and belonging through spoken word and multi-rolling. With pop culture references, the celebration of Irish and Bajan Culture and clever lyricism. Shoes to Fill is a fast paced, warming and connected story that audiences are going to fall in love with.
What inspired you to write the play?
Shoes to Fill is inspired by my two grandmothers it is a celebration of my heritage and brings their stories to life!
I was also inspired by my experience of being mixed and how my family, especially my Granny and Grangran, have influenced who I am. I have such rich ancestry and getting the chance to explore that and see where I slot in was amazing because I belong in both beautiful cultures.
Your one of Iris Theatre’s Seed Commission Winners, what opportunities has that given you?
The seed commission from the Iris has allowed me to write this play. Without their support it would still be an idea and now it’s ready for an audience. I am just so grateful for this. Being a new writer it’s an absolute dream that my debut play is being performed in the middle of Covent Garden. Opportunities like this don’t come around often, but now places like the Iris are championing early career artists and that’s incredible.
It has also allowed me to kick start my production company FAIR PLAY which I co-founded with Alex Miller in March 2020. This show is the first play to come under our company name and through this we have been able to start finding our feet in an extremely competitive industry. Again, being able to have the opportunity to gain exposure at such an early stage in our business has given us the confidence we need to continue the journey of creating exciting, inclusive and affordable theatre. This is just the start for us but thanks to the Iris seed commission we can start making some waves.
How does it feel to be presenting your debut play and championing mixed race voices at a time when theatre is struggling to survive?
I am honestly so proud of myself. I know this year has been really tough, but I somehow found the drive to create! When lock down happened I took the time to look at the theatre industry and work out where I wanted to be within it. When I couldn’t find that specific place (being a recent grad) I decided to write. There are so many stories out there yet to be championed and I wanted to not only highlight my individual experience of being mixed but the stories of my grandmother’s generation. Not every story is a Hollywood blockbuster but I believe in celebrating the small stories, and we all know some of those!
You’ll also be starring in the play, how challenging is performing your own work?
It’s been great to be honest, though I might change my mind when the audience are in! It’s just been amazing to act again. To move and to speak. My director Alex has been amazing at finding new connections to the work so I don’t feel vulnerable in terms of sharing personal stories. One thing I would say is a challenge is that everyone keeps saying ‘’it must be easier to learn the lines because you wrote it?’’ This is not the case for me!
What would you say to anyone thinking of coming to see Shoes to Fill?
Come and enjoy some new theatre! As the play is being performed outside you are allowed to take off your mask and hopefully find a connection to being in a space where we can all share an experience together. It’s the Iris summer festival – we want people to grab a drink, sit in the sun (hopefully) and be transported through story telling.
See you all in the garden!