Can friendship survive the storm?
- Credit: Archant
HighTide theatre festival is all about providing opportunities for new talent. Arts editor Andrew Clarke speaks to Tallulah Brown, an emerging playwright from Aldeburgh, who has new play dealing with the power of the sea
They say that art imitates life but it would be better to say that art reflects life. Theatre, film, art, music and literature all take their lead from the world the world in which we live. The arts reflect the concerns of society at the time that they are written or created.
For Suffolk-born playwright and musician Tallulah Brown, who spent much of the youth growing up in Aldeburgh, coastal erosion and the effects of global warming remain pressing concerns.
Her new play Sea Fret receives a valuable launch at this year’s HighTide festival. She is hoping that the respected festival will act as a springboard for a wider tour.
“It started forming in my head after the floods in 2013. We had dreadful flooding from Lowestoft right down the coast and I decided I wanted to write a play set right on the edge on flood zone. I was reading all these stories of people in north Suffolk and over the border in Norfolk where people’s houses were getting closer and closer to the edge, as the sea eroded the cliffs and the beaches.
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“I was curious to find out who was responsible for looking after these areas and conducted various interviews with people from the environment agency and various individuals from pressure groups to get a clearer understanding of what was going on.”
She said that the trick to producing a good contemporary play, once having completed all the research, is to then push it to the back of your mind and use it to inform a dramatic story rather than produce a theatrical lecture.
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“Sea Fret is about two girls, who are next door neighbours, and they grow up next to the sea. Because of the rising tides and the threat of coastal flooding, there comes a time when they are forced to move but only one of the families can afford to go. The play looks at the pressure that the situation puts on their friendship.
“It’s a coming of age tale about two friends and is anchored in the Suffolk landscape.”
She said that when HighTide were looking for work which reflected the location of the festival, Sea Fret fitted the bill perfectly.
“The play was given it’s first performance in Islington earlier this year but I am really looking forward to it being staged in Aldeburgh, which is its spiritual home. We are performing the play in Aldeburgh Cinema and there is a line in the play about the cinema, so you can’t get closer to home than that.”
She added that as Sea Fret neared its premiere, the play gained an added topicality as President Trump took the alarming decision to remove the USA from the Paris climate change agreement. “I found it very worrying that Donald Trump came out saying that he didn’t believe in climate change just as natural disasters around the world appeared to be getting worse. This, I felt, made Sea Fret even more pertinent and even though it is a very local story, a very personal story about these two girls and their parents, it is also a much alarming global message going on. It’s saying that the changes in the weather, which are affecting these girls and their families are also affecting the lives of millions of others around the world.
“Flooding, hurricanes, storms are all the result of man’s influence on the environment.”
She said that the play will only work if the audience identify with the characters and buy into the story. “No-one will engage with the story if it is just a lecture. You have to make situation real, you have to make your audience care about the people in the play.
“When you are editing the scripts you become aware of the places where there is too much research coming through because they are unnecessarily wordy and the dialogue is clunky. You just have to strip it all away.”
Tallulah said that she wrote approximately six different scripts in order to get this one, final polished play. “I think this has been the play that has changed the most. I produced about a half dozen radically different stories along the way and even during the rehearsal process it was being refined and tweaked. I was wary about producing anything preachy but at the same time there was an important story to be told. Dialogue which sounded false as the actors spoke the lines was changed and smoothed out. I was editing it right up until the final week and we managed to get the script published in time for opening night.”
Sea Fret by Tallulah Brown will be given a semi-staged performance at Aldeburgh Cinema on September 13 at 2.30pm as part of the HighTide Festival.