Female friendship & collaboration: Tamara von Werthern on her new play, Puddles

In this guest post, Tamara von Werthern shares her thoughts on her new project, Puddles…
“My play Puddles is currently in development for a work-in-progress sharing at Shoreditch Town Hall, and I am incredibly grateful to have received ACE funding for a project so close to my heart. In this blog piece I want to write about the power of female friendship (which is what the piece is about), both on and off stage. I think it’s important to also reflect on how we choose our collaborators and what these choices mean for the work we make.

 

Theatre director Anna Marsland (associate director of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which has just opened at Wembley) and I met at Pieces of Gold (curated by Suzette Coon), where she directed my short play Sharks are Terrorists for The Little at Southwark Playhouse in 2018. We hit it off straight away, and after one night (and plenty of wine) at the Hen and Chickens pub in Islington, the idea to Puddles was born. A little while later, the brilliant producer Emma Blackman (www.emmablackman.com) came on board and helped us develop the ideas further and bring our project to the stage. We talked about the strength of friendship, especially between women, and the missing narratives of this in popular culture. We had never seen a film or play where that friendship won the day and triumphed. Sure, there’s Thelma and Louise, but we didn’t want to drive our characters over the edge, we wanted to tell a story with a happy ending.

But we didn’t just want to look at the sunny side of friendship, we were interested in the difficult bits, the complicated feelings and situations that must be negotiated within a friendship that lasts for many years, maybe across a whole lifetime.

More specifically we wanted to tell a story about women and love and messy situations. We wanted to dissect that dark space within friendships, where jealousy and competition live, but also bring out the strength in friendships that can survive things you’d never thought possible. How friends can hurt you so deeply, but also resurrect you. We wanted to test the true mettle of friendship.

We threw everything we had at it in this story. And we were surprised and delighted with what we found.

Not just in the writing, but also the staging concept. We managed to find a way for the audience to become complicit in how these stories are told and viewed by those around you. When you arrive at the venue, you will need to decide which story you would like to follow, as the two women will experience different sides of the same story in a love triangle. We wanted to find a way to show that the perspective from which a story is viewed is an important factor in how women’s stories are perceived. To recreate that whispering behind a hand – ‘Did you hear what she did?’ ‘Do you know what happened to her?’ ‘Oh god, how awful.’ ‘I would never do something like that to you’. We strongly encourage to book for different sides of the story if you come to see it with a friend, as this will make for more interesting conversations afterwards.

Another important point is age. With Puddles, we look at the destructive power of passionate love through the lens of people in their late thirties. Stories that might be associated with youth, but still happen all the time to people at all ages but are much more hidden when they happen later in life. And that is when the impact is even harder. When you are at a time in your life when everyone tells you to settle down, to have found what you want to do with your life, have the house, the kids, everything in place. And then it’s so much more disorientating when a bombshell explodes and we suddenly have to rethink everything.

One of the characters in the play is a singer songwriter called Ruby and we are working with the brilliant composer Sam Hooper on an original score. It’s so exciting to work on a piece of gig theatre, quite literally, as the last scene is set at a music gig, something that is new to me. I found that using the conceit of a song which is written during the piece and then performed at the end such a wonderful way of exposing the inner life of one of the characters, and I can’t wait to work with the talented actor and musician Loren O’Dair (RSC, Globe, NT, ‘Once’ West End) who plays Ruby, Sam Hooper and sound designer Luke Swaffield on this element of the show.

Anna Marsland and I are running a series of 4 workshops alongside this workshop showing on 9 January and using elements of the show. We have had great fun with the first session and ended up dancing in our respective living rooms from Denmark to Greece in WRITING IN THE BODY. More fun to come on 10 Dec, 14 and 21 January as we explore using domestic objects for inspiration, creating strong female characters, and writing autobiography in theatre. We’d love for you to come and join us; tickets can be booked HERE: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/cc/creative-writing-workshop-series-1-4-35149

And we’d love to see you at Shoreditch Town Hall’s The Ditch on the 9th January – it’s a brilliant space reminiscent of a Berlin cellar club, with adjoining rooms. Come and follow Ruby, Laura and Max as their story unfolds in two parallel stories and celebrate with them (and us) at the gig performance at the end of the show.

To BOOK, click here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/puddles-tickets-219325036087

A final note on friendship: I am so glad that Anna and I met and that the stories we shared in the making of this piece have brought us closer together. Theatre is a place where we can explore the things that lie below and connect on a deeper level about our fears and joys. I can’t wait to work with her on the full production of Puddles and on hopefully many other projects in the future. You can also listen in to the Fizzy Sherbet Podcast (Episode 11, out on 17 Dec) where we talk with playwright Morgan Lloyd Malcolm about writing and presenting stories from a female perspective on www.fizzysherbet.podbean.com or wherever you listen to your podcasts.”

Puddles takes place on 9th January 2021. Book tickets here. 

Photo Credit for  Laundrette picture: Sonya Hurtado
Poster Image: Sandra Theresa Buch
Words by Tamara von Werthern

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