Winners of the Cambridge University Press “Channel the Bard” competition!

In 2016, as part of their Shakespeare 400 commemorations, Cambridge University Press invited submission of short plays inspired by the works of the Bard. Ali Kemp and Deborah Klayman of Whoop ‘n’ Wail Theatre Company submitted their short play, My Bloody Laundrette to the “Channel the Bard” competition, and were delighted to win!

The full interview and playscript can be found here.


 

An Interview with Whoop ‘n’ Wail Theatre Company

Deborah Klayman and Ali Kemp (L-R) photo credit -Gianluca Romeo 1

Deborah Klayman & Ali Kemp (L-R). Photo credit: Gianluca Romeo

You can read their winning play entry for free here


In this interview we talk to Ali Kemp and Deborah Klayman, the co-founders of Whoop ‘n’ Wail Theatre Company, who won our competition with their winning entry My Bloody Laundrette.

CUP: Why did you decide to set up Whoop ‘n’ Wail Theatre Company back in 2011?

Ali Kemp: Well, first of all Deborah approached me because she had an idea of something that she was really burning to write, and you really wanted some help to get that going, didn’t you? That was it really, that was the birth of our first play, eXclusion in 2011, and we’ve carried on working together ever since.

eXclusion by Ali Kemp Deborah Klayman Photo Credit Rakesh Mohun

eXclusion by Ali Kemp & Deborah Klayman. Photo credit: Rakesh Mohun

Deborah Klayman: We enjoy writing plays that are funny (we hope!), but they do tend to have a bit of black humour.

AK: Yeah, we’re kind of drawn to social issues.

CUP: Why is Shakespeare important to you?

DK: We’ve got a very particular affinity with Shakespeare because, as actresses, Ali and I actually met working on King Lear.

AK: So Shakespeare is fundamentally important to us!

DK: That was in 2006, so it may be Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary, but it’s the 10th anniversary of us working together. That year we did a world tour of King Lear and we really hit it off straight away. That led us down the path really.

AK: We’ve worked together many times as actors, but also as a writing partnership and subsequently as producers, so Shakespeare gets the credit for that, I guess!

DK: One of the things we are drawn to in Shakespeare’s plays is that he writes quite black comedy at times, and that’s something that we like to do with our writing as well.

With some of the tragedies you also find that, whilst there are obviously some upsetting moments, you do have moments where there are quite ‘light’ parts (for instance with King Lear). Even in the comedies you have some quite dark moments. Twelfth Night is a good example, where you have comedic scenes and then you have what happens to Malvolio.

AK: Although it depends on how it is played and how it’s produced, how it’s interpreted by the actors and director.

DK: Yes, and implicit in the text there is quite a lot of scope for that. With other writers you don’t necessarily get so many options for how to play it, and I think Shakespeare really gives a lot of different opportunities, it’s got that light and dark, which is reflective of all people.

AK: And I suppose that never gets old, because of the endless numbers of possibilities for interpretation.

DK: Yes, I think people always talk about the themes being universal and relevant, but I think the characters are intrinsically like that as well because they are so rounded.

Shakespeare really gives a lot of different opportunities, it’s got that light and dark, which is reflective of all people.

CUP: What inspired you to write My Bloody Laundrette?

AK: It was a response to a shout out for short plays by an organisation called 17Percent for their SheWrites Showcase –

DK: On the theme of ‘What is art?’

AK: Yep, and we had quite recently been introduced to ‘The Bechdel Test’ when we’d started thinking about the play, and thinking about the number of roles for women in the Shakespeare canon. We found it interesting to think about the role of men creating art that is telling female stories, so that’s kind of where it came from initially, and then it developed. We started looking through Shakespeare’s plays to find the characters, and settled upon Juliet.

DK: I think our original concept actually was that it was going to be three Shakespearian women, so they needed to be really recognisable. Juliet was an immediate choice because she’s such an iconic and well known character.

AK: It seems to me that so much happens to her – instigated by men – so she was a really good choice to start with.

DK: Yes, and everyone talks about her and makes decisions for her. And obviously she does talk quite a lot with the nurse and so on, but again, generally speaking it’s about men.

AK: Hm.

DK: Yeah.

madjesty-14

Ali Kemp, Gerri Farrel, Tom Neill & Ian Crump (L-R) in “Madjesty” by Ali Kemp & Deborah Klayman. Photo credit: George Riddell

AK: So originally we were thinking that we were going to write about three Shakespearean women, but then we kind of threw it out a bit further –

DK: I had watched something – because we’d been looking at The Bechdel Test at the time – and somebody had talked about the fact that Princess Leia represents everything! She’s a fantastic female character, I mean she’s a wife and a mother at various points throughout the Star Wars canon, however she’s also a senator, she’s a politician, she’s a rebel, she’s a fighter, she’s a general.

AK: She’s a sex object!

DK: And I think if you read about Carrie Fisher, who played her, she seems to have felt the burden of that representation. So she’s definitely an interesting character in that regard because she’s such a strong, such a positive female character, and yet she’s the only one.

AK: And being everything to everyone.

DK: And so differently from Juliet we felt almost that she was over burdened with all of the things that she was being.

AK: We felt actually that you could have had five female characters, but with Princess Leia they were all rolled into one. We felt that she had a very different burden on her.

DK: So, we then thought that if we have these two characters it would be quite interesting to have three different art forms, and the most iconic woman we could think of in Fine Art was the Mona Lisa.

AK: There’s been so much speculation as to what she’s thinking, what’s she’s doing –

DK: And I mean the attacks that she’s suffered over the years!

AK: They’re for real!

DK: She’s even had paint thrown on her.

AK: It’s quite interesting that a painting could generate such a response from its viewers. So, she was the obvious third choice for us.

DK: And once we had the three characters the play kind of wrote itself.

You could have had five female characters, but with Princess Leia they were all rolled into one. We felt that she had a very different burden on her… she’s such a strong, such a positive female character, and yet she’s the only one.

CUP: What projects are you currently working on?

DK: We have quite a few things in the pipeline, we haven’t written a full length play since eXclusion because we have been focusing on new writing, The Bechdel Test –

AK: And Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents… which is ongoing.

DK: Absolutely. Represents… is quite a time consuming venture because Ali and I do all of that. We manage open submissions for plays – which, as I’m sure you know, takes a lot of time and reading! Once we have the scripts then we give two to each director to choose between, and we give a female writer to a male director and vice versa.

AK: Because it’s a gender equal showcase.

DK: So all the plays have to pass The Bechdel Test, but we have three male writers and three female writers.

AK: And we have three male directors and three female directors. It makes the whole experience very much a gender equal collaboration.

DK: Then the director will do the casting and will invite the writers to be involved in the rehearsal process. We normally do two nights of the production (six plays). They are quite work intensive but we have got a huge amount out of doing it.

AK: Personally, but also in terms of working with talented writers, directors and actors – and there’s been a lot of ongoing collaboration between them, so that’s really exciting, introducing artists to each other, which has been very gratifying for us.

DK: We’ve also had feedback from some of the writers that the remit we’ve set has actually influenced them and their craft as well.

Heart's Desire 3

Jonathan Akingba & Caroline Loncq in “Heart’s Desire” by Ali Kemp & Deborah Klayman. Photo credit: George Riddell

AK: Alongside Represents… we are also writing our second full length play which we’ve been researching and it’s now starting to take shape now.

DK: We can’t say too much more about it now – it’s at a very early stage.

AK: So watch this space!

CUP: What is your favourite Shakespeare play and why?

AK: King Lear because we met doing King Lear!

DK: Aw! Well sorry, mine is Macbeth! Firstly, it’s ‘the Scottish play’ and I’m Scottish, but also because I find the characters and the themes really interesting, and it’s the part I’ve always wanted to play – as an actor, Lady Macbeth is the part to play! I do also like Henry VI Part III, which may be a little obscure, but there are some really great speeches for Queen Margaret.

We have quite a few things in the pipeline… so watch this space!

Check out the interview at: www.cambridgeblog.org
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One week to go until curtain up at South Hill Park

This time next week we will be preparing to go on stage at the studio at South Hill Park. Debs and Ali popped down there this week to say hello to everyone. It was Ali’s first visit and she was particularly impressed by the vibrant atmosphere and beautiful location. Debs met with many old friends as she has worked there before on The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry V. They hooked up with eXclusion’s director Paul Taylor, fresh from performing in Cinderella and still covered in glitter! They also met with Adrian and Rebecca who have been working hard to promote the show to local schools and colleges – thank you guys – and were delighted to bump into Tom Neill, who directed both Ali and Debs in Under Milk Wood at Pentameters Theatre earlier this year.

Check out the piece in last weeks Bracknell News about SHP’s studio theatre and their up and coming productions, including of course, eXclusion.

http://www.bracknellnews.co.uk/theguide/goingout/articles/2011/11/24/55484-upcoming-productions-at-the-studio-theatre-at-south-hill-park/

Looking forward to arriving at South Hill Park

Well our time at Waterloo East Theatre sadly came to an end on Sunday. We would like to thank Gerald Armin and all at the theatre, who made us feel so welcome. Also a big thanks to Gareth Radcliffe and Beth-Louise Priestley for stepping in to help out with the tech side of things. Most importantly – a big shout out to all who came to see the show and who gave us some great feedback. Check out the review for eXclusion in the Southwark News  http://www.southwarknews.co.uk/arts/theatre/00,news,25042,462,00.htm

A few early nights later, we are refreshed and ready for South Hill Park, where we will, for rehearsals at least, be reunited with our director Paul Taylor who has been otherwise engaged as an ugly sister in Cinderella at SHP.

Debs and Ali are heading down to SHP next week to meet Rebecca, the Education Manager, who is doing sterling work, publicising the show to schools and colleges in the area. Don’t forget that if you work in a school or college and are thinking of bringing a group of students (not suitable for under 12s), we do have a fantastic educational resource pack including around 20 hours of teaching materials – get in touch with us at whoopnwail@gmail.com if you are interested.

So there is a little over a week to go until the X Factor final. Stave off those post final withdrawals by booking your self a ticket to eXclusion. Who will get your vote?

eXclusion
South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell
Tuesday 13th – Sunday 18th December 2011
8pm, running time 65 minutes
£10, conc £9, members/NHS or HMP staff £8
Students group discount available – contact us or SHP for details
http://www.southhillpark.org.uk/3304/shows/exclusion.html

One more week left at Waterloo East Theatre

We have enjoyed this last week very much at Waterloo East Theatre and in particular our gala night on Thursday. A big thank you to Rachel Halford from Women In Prison, Leah Thorn and Michael Holland for joining us on stage afterwards for a very interesting and stimulating post show discussion. Leah rounded off the evening beautifully with some very moving and uplifting poetry written by some of the women that she’s worked with in the prison system. It was also wonderful to see Stuart Calladine, who is responsible for our graphic design and Rakesh Mohun, our film director/maker and motion graphic designer there too. And we were thrilled that our very own Paul Taylor, eXclusion’s director was able to make the show this afternoon, as he has been very busy rehearsing for his role as one of the [ugly] sisters in Cinderella at South Hill Park.

Many thanks to all who have come to the show so far. May we be so bold as to draw your attention to the Whatsonstage.com Awards – Theatre Goers Choice, as you can now nominate online and eXclusion is eligible this year. http://awards.whatsonstage.com/nominate

Sadly we only have one more week of eXclusion at Waterloo East Theatre but we are looking forward to a great one. If you have not yet booked your tickets to catch us at this fantastic venue then visit the WET website and get your tickets now http://www.waterlooeast.co.uk/exclusion.html

eXclusion’s first week!

eXclusion has had an exciting first week at the Waterloo East Theatre!

If you haven’t managed to make it to the show don’t despair as there are two more weeks to go, followed by a week in December at South Hill Park Arts Centre in Bracknell!

http://www.waterlooeast.co.uk/exclusion.html

no women in prison by 2015

eXclusion is now into it’s run at the wonderful Waterloo East Theatre and we have had a lovely response from our audiences. We would like to extend our thanks to Gerald Armin and everyone at Waterloo East, we have been made to feel really welcome. We would also like to thank our brilliant technical crew, without whom, there would be no show. Great work all.

We were featured in yesterday’s Wharf newspaper. You can read the interview with Ali and Deborah by clicking on this link: http://www.wharf.co.uk/2011/11/prison-play-leaves-verdict-to.html

Tonight, Friday 11th November is ‘pay what you can night‘, so come along and put in whatever you can afford.

On Thursday 17th November we are having a gala evening with a post show discussion with a panel of invited guests and led by Rachel Halford Director of Women In  Prison. It promises to be a fascinating debate, particularly in light of Prisons Minister Crispin Blunt’s announcement yesterday that he is aiming for no women to be in prison by 2015. So come along and find out the panel’s response to that one!

See you at the theatre

Opening night at Waterloo East Theatre Tuesday 8th November 2011

Well we are all set for our opening night at Waterloo East Theatre tomorrow night Tuesday 8th November. It was great to get back into it in rehearsals last week and to get to know the wonderful space at Waterloo East. We were back in there today for the tech and can’t wait to go up tomorrow.

We are also thrilled to announce that we will be having a gala night on Thursday 17th November with a Q&A after the show with Women In Prison and other fabulous invited guests, to discuss the themes raised in the play.

We hope to see you at some point over the next three weeks and if times are tough, this Friday 11th is ‘pay what you can’ night.

Ali & Debs