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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Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents..The Launch

Way back in July 2012 as Olympic fever was getting under way, here at Whoop ‘n’ Wail we were getting rather excited about the work of Anita Sarkeesian’s Feminist Frequency blog and in particular, her post on the Smurfette Principle – that there is a common tendency for, in this case screen writers, to only include one female character in their principle cast – http://www.feministfrequency.com/2011/04/tropes-vs-women-3-the-smurfette-principle/

As you’ll remember from our post back then (http://wp.me/p2JuqT-n) Ali & Debs were inspired to write My Bloody Laundrette, which was later selected for the 17percent ‘She Writes’ showcase.

And now, in our latest project, Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents.., we are asking playwrights to go beyond the singular Smurfette by including at least two named female characters, who affect the plot by talking with each other about something other than a man. Inspired by Alison Bechdel’s now famous 1987 comic strip, The Rules, the Bechdel Test has become the benchmark for gauging fair representation on stage and screen.

For Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents…The Launch, Ali & Debs have invited six wonderful playwrights, some established and some emerging, to kick off this inaugural event by each writing a 15 minute play, on any theme, that passes the Bechdel Test. Six wonderful directors, have been matched to each piece and having cast the roles are, as we speak, busy in rehearsal for the main event.

We are so excited to be returning to Waterloo East Theatre, London and we look forward to seeing you there too.

Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents..The Launch

Waterloo East Theatre, Brad Street, London, SE1 8TN

Monday 17th & 24th November, 7.30pm

Tickets: £ 8 (£6 concessions)

Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents.. is produced in association with 17percent

“A bunch of women talking about whatever it is women talk about”

What do women talk about? Whatever it is, it has got to be different from what normal people talk about, right?

While Ali and Debs were preparing to launch Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents… (more of which later) they were more than a little amused to read a quote from Jenifer Kessler’s book,  “Why film schools teach screenwriters not to pass the Bechdel test”. While a scriptwriting student at the University of California, Los Angeles, Kessler was told by professors that the audience “only wanted white, straight, male leads” and not, as she quoted a male industry professional as saying, “a bunch of women talking about whatever it is women talk about”.

So, what is it that women talk about? Well OK, we all know that women talk about all the same stuff that normal peop.. oh, er, sorry, I mean men talk about: daily routines, kids, what to have for dinner, the politics of the day, the latest health scare, how serious the threat of rising sea levels really is, the best and worst ways to go about tackling global terrorism, how gentle is the breeze that softly ripples the…… you get my drift! Of course I have to admit that over my adult life I have talked with some frequency to a wide variety of female family members, friends and colleagues about my period, whereas the only men I have spoken with on this subject are my husband and my doctor – and purely on a need-to-know basis you understand. And I’m quite sure that there are some things that men prefer to discuss in a male-only environment too. Oh, now I’m rather interested – what do men talk about in ladyless company? Girls, six packs and sport? Probably. And all the other stuff as well no doubt.

So now that we have established, once and for all, that men and women talk about the same stuff and occasionally about different stuff, can we please move on?

Whoop ‘n’ Wail promise you innovation and entertainment, don’t we? So… wait for it… we have a real treat for you in store for you, something rarely seen before, something so unheard of it will blow your mind, as we prepare to bring you the very best in… I said wait for it!…. This November, we present to you……..dum dum duhhhhh……male and female writers, directors and performers. IN ONE SHOW. Talking about whatever it is they all talk about!

There – I said it was a treat!

WnW RepresentsThe Launch

Waterloo East Theatre, Brad Street, London SE1 8TG

Mondays 17th & 24th November @ 19:30

For more details watch this space or visit our website: www.whoopnwail.com

We love deadlines!

Working to a tight deadline can often be a daunting task, but here at Whoop ‘n’ Wail HQ we welcome the challenge!

We are currently putting the finishing touching to our new short play, including finalising the title (we don’t think ‘Untitled’ is going to fit the bill…) and will be submitting it at the end of this week. Exciting times!

Meanwhile, our friends at 17 percent have published photos from the recent ‘She Writes’ Showcase, which included our short play My Bloody Laundrette.

As always, there is a lot going on so make sure you watch this space!

Ali & Debs

Fantastic showcase of plays on the theme of art

17percent

Tonight we showcased 7 plays that have all responded to our theme of ‘What is art?’ in different ways.

Sally Whyte’s play ‘Joined at the hip’ was written in response to a painting by Frida Kahlo ‘The Two Fridas’. Maggie Drury’s ‘The arrangement’, Karen Bartholomew’s ‘Who knows art?’ and my own play ‘Graf’ were all musings on the question of what exactly art is, and who has the right to define it.

‘My Bloody Laundrette’ by Ali Kemp and Deborah Klayman interpreted the theme in a magical realist way – Princess Leia, Mona Lisa and Juliet Capulet, all women created by men, who decide to give themselves and each other a voice.

Sioned Jones’ ‘Drawing a blank’ and ‘Pink Lady’ by Tracy Harris were both about relationships. But with unexpected twists and shown from different angles.

One of the criticisms as to why theatres won’t commission work by women is that…

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Whoop ‘n’ Wail at ‘She Writes’

This evening we travelled to Whitstable in Kent for the 17PercentShe Writes‘ showcase where our new short play, My Bloody Laundrette was performed for the first time.  It was very exciting as we had no idea how the piece had been interpreted or how it would be received by an audience.  The theme of the event was “What is art?”, and a total of seven plays were performed by a talented group of actors and superbly directed by Sarah Davies.  The evening was introduced by 17Percent founder Sam Hall and the running order was:

Joined at the Hip by Sally Whyte

Drawing A Blank by Sioned Jones

Graf by Sam Hall

My Bloody Laundrette by Ali Kemp & Deborah Klayman

The Arrangement by Maggie Drury

Pink Lady by Tracy Harris

Who Knows Art? by Karen Bartholemew

We are delighted to say that our play was well received, and that all of the plays and performances were excellent!  Also, it was a real pleasure to be a part of the showcase and to meet so many committed, talented people who are as passionate as we are about new writing by women.  We look forward to attending the next event on 5th December and intend to submit another play on the new theme, Passions, for consideration shortly.

Both of us would like to say a big thank you to Sam for including us and making us feel so welcome, and to the fabulous actors that performed our piece tonight.

Ali & Debs