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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What’s in it for me?

Guest blogger, actress and award winning writer Dani Moseley says  if put yourself out there, you’ll find out.

Dani

Last year summer my best friend had started acting in short, one off theatre showcases and going on about how great they were and how I should get involved. I turned my nose up at the idea, thinking: ‘I don’t need to do work like that anymore’. I know, right, who did I think I was? Lol. But, work was getting quiet and I, wanting a change from just doing youth theatre tours, trusted her so, when director Alice Bonifacio, offered me the opportunity to take part in Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents….The Launch, I slightly reluctantly took it.

Music Box 3

Dani taking notes from director Alice Bonifacio with actress Lizzie Bourne in Three Women in a Music Box by Dan Horrigan

I was cast in an all female three-hander, Dan Horrigan‘s Three Women in a Music Box. The experience was great. I got to work with talented, hard working actresses – Lizzie Bourne and Thea Beyleveld – an inspiring up and coming director and Whoop ‘n’ Wail were really accommodating and approachable with anything we needed to help support the piece. It was great having a tech/dress rehearsal beforehand and having two nights to perform was so nice to learn from. Excitingly, I also received my very first review, which got 5 stars, and that was crazy for me, as I’d never been reviewed in any of the other stuff I’d done.

I hadn’t really thought about inviting anyone to see the show as it was my first time, but amazingly, a director from one of the other plays in Represents… scouted me for The Story Project at the Arcola in Dalston. I performed in The Bird Woman of Lewisham by Chino Odimba, directed by Emily Bush. And from the Arcola, one thing lead to another: I got scouted by a director there for a sight-specific piece in Leicester Square, Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch, directed by Eva Sampson. It was awesome and all from Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents…, the very thing I had turned my nose up at originally.

So, when I heard Whoop ‘n’ Wail were doing another one, Represents…Desire, I was intrigued and then when the same director, Alice, sent through the Nice Jumper script by Daniel Page, I was on board, no hesitation!

Nice Jumper 2

Dani and Lizzie Bourne in Nice Jumper by Daniel Page

The process and experience was even more enjoyable and joining the team was actor Anyebe Godwin. Again we got to see the other plays in the showcase, which is always nice for actors. Again the performances got reviewed and again our play got 5 stars – I even got a double personal mention for my performance!!!

So, for any actors, directors and writers sitting there reading this, thinking that small scale new writing showcases would be of no benefit to them, THINK AGAIN!

Opportunities come from any and everywhere as a creative in the entertainment industry and the fact that you get good writers, directors, actors, reviewers and the chance to invite people to come and see you, what really is of no benefit here?!

So, get off high horse or out of your comfort zone and get involved with Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents... It all adds up to you putting yourself out there and it’s all experience on the ladder to success.

Dani Moseley is an actress and writer, winning an award for the screenplay of The Forty Elephants. She’s appeared in various TV shows such as ITV’s The Bill; BBC’s Eastenders; Sky1’s The Runaway; and London Live/web series Brothers With No Game. She has appeared on stage at the Arcola, The Cochrane, Leicester Square Theatre and The Catford Broadway. Dani’s showreel can be viewed here.
To see the 5 star reviews Dani refers to, please click here: Three Women in a Music Box and Nice Jumper

 

OOs

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“Acting is the reality of doing”

This month, Sienna Miller revealed that she turned down a Broadway play, a two-hander, because she was being offered less than half the pay of her male co-star. Turning down an opportunity like this is a brave move career-wise, and revealing the fact braver still.

As we well know there are far fewer roles for women in theatre, film and TV – and as a result, actresses can ill-afford to be turning any roles down, even if you are a Hollywood star. Emma Thompson acknowledged that, at the age of 56, she took the role of a 77 year old woman in the film The Legend of Barney Thomson – even though it would have been nice for a 77 year old actress to play it – because it was ‘a wildly comic role and I couldn’t resist’. And having been told by a producer that, at 37, Maggie Gyllenhaal was too old to play a romantic counterpart to a 55 year old man, she apparently felt sad, then angry and then laughed.

Well, perhaps if you didn’t laugh, you’d cry. How should we respond to this?

Legendary American acting coach Sandford Meisner said “Acting is the reality of doing”. He was talking about an actor’s approach to their craft – living truthfully in the imaginary circumstances of the play. Should not a play then live truthfully within the world in which it inhabits, in order to reflect and engage with the audience, no matter what the imaginary circumstances? So, if it’s all about the ‘reality of doing’, let’s do it!

As Viola Davis accepted her ‘Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama’ Emmy, the first African-American to ever receive the accolade, she made a point of thanking the writers of How to Get Away with Murder for being the people who “redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman, to be black”. On the same night, Orange Is the New Black star Uzo Aduba became the first actress to win both a drama and comedy Emmy for the same role. She expressed her gratitude to show creator Jenji Kohan, thanking her for “making this show, for creating this space, for creating a platform”.

At Whoop ‘n’ Wail HQ, we are very proud of all the writers who have risen to the Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents… challenge since it’s launch in 2014 – because it is that very reality of doing, and of having a space and platform, that will make real change in the future.

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Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents…The Writers

Whoop ‘n’ Wail are delighted to announce the six successful playwrights for their February showcase:

Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents…Desire.

We have been absolutely delighted with the response to our open submission brief, with almost seventy brand new plays from all over the world winging their way to the Whoop ‘n’ Wail submissions inbox.

Our reading team received scripts from Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, the UK and the USA, and were overwhelmed by the innovation and talent shown by the writers as they generously shared their work.

After a lot of hard work, thought and soul-searching – as well as a few heated debates – the final six are:

Nice Jumper by Dan Page (UK)

The Hidden Room by Patricia Reynoso (USA)

The Work-Love Balance by Tom Jensen (UK)

Three AM by Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich (USA)

Would You Let Me Finish? by Leon Kaye (USA)

Heart’s Desire by Ali Kemp & Deborah Klayman (UK)

Congratulations to our successful writers

The directors’ announcement will be coming soon – so watch this space. The six writers will already been notified by Whoop ‘n’ Wail and will shortly be connected with their director.

In the meantime, tickets are already on sale from the Waterloo East Theatre’s website: www.waterlooeast.co.uk. There is a discount for advance purchase – to avoid disappointment please book in early as our last showcase sold out! 

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Represents… tickets now ON SALE

Whoop ‘n’ Wail are getting ready to announce the successful playwrights, selected from responses to our open submission brief.

Our reading team has received almost seventy scripts from both sides of the Atlantic and beyond: brand new plays from Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, the UK and the USA. Currently they are still  locked in debate over which of our ten shortlisted submissions should make the final cut, but tomorrow at 17:00 is the absolute deadline and we will announce here soon after, so watch this space.

In the meantime, tickets are already on sale from the Waterloo East Theatre’s website: www.waterlooeast.co.uk. There is a discount for advance purchase – to avoid disappointment please book in early as our last showcase sold out

OOs

innovation   •   entertainment   •   social justice

Submission Window is now Closed

Many thanks to all those who have submitted their work for Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents…Desire.

Our reading team are going to be working overtime to get through the more than sixty new plays we have received – we are feeling very inspired and excited to see such a variety of subjects and settings that place female characters in central roles.

Watch this space for updates and announcements….

All the best,

Ali & Debs

Whoop ‘n’ Wail

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

2014 was a great year for Whoop ‘n’ Wail, particularly because of the sell-out launch of our new writing showcase Represents…

The submission window for our next night, Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents…Desire, is at 17:00 today – still time to get your short play to us! The submission brief can be found here.

Please remember all plays must pass the Bechdel Test and be sent in Word format to: submissions@whoopnwail.com.

Looking forward to an exciting, innovative and entertaining 2015! The dates for the Desire showcase will be published once the submission window closes.

Ali & Debs

Whoop ‘n’ Wail