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Edinburgh Fringe 2022 
Interview

Kristin Mcilquham 
Headcase
Pleasance Courtyard (Beside)

Aug 3-8, 10-14, 16-21, 23-28, 15:35 /  Tickets
July 13, 2022

Actor and writer Kristin Mcilquham can't seem to finish a list. Get an agent. Tick. Get a therapist. Tick. Get a boyfriend... Call her dad. As Kristin approaches 40 she is forced to confront, kicking and screaming, some of the unfinished business in her life and work out why she just can't seem to tie up any of her loose ends. A funny and moving true story about the aftermath of her father's brain injury and the impact that it's had on their relationship, her life, and well... pretty much everything really.

Hi Kristin, thank you for taking the time to talk with The New Current, how does it feel to be heading to Edinburgh Fringe and Pleasance Courtyard this year?

 

My pleasure, thanks for inviting me. I'm super excited to be up at the Fringe. I've been so many times as an audience member but this will be the first time performing my work. Thrilled to be at the Pleasance Courtyard too -  it is such a fab place to perform at, there’s always such a buzz there and an incredible mix of shows.

 

Congratulations on recently directing Thank You For Reminding Me at The Barbican Centre, what was this experience like for you?


Thanks so much. It was a really rewarding experience to work with some members from the brain injury charity Headway, especially because the members I was working with were so generous and warm. It was such a different and illuminating experience to find new ways to make theatre with people that had memory loss. I learnt so much from them and had loads of fun as well. 

 

How important has the relationship that you have created with Headway London been for you in not only creating Headcase but in being able to better understand your fathers brain injury?

 

It's been super important. I started working with the charity as the wrap-around activity for Headcase involved doing some acting and improvisation workshops with its members.  I never dreamed it would culminate in me directing their piece at the Barbican.  One of the staff was kind enough to read the script for Headcase and they gave me quite a lot of emotional support too.

Growing up I never saw any other families going through the same thing as ours. I had no idea just how common brain injury is. Apparently, every 90 seconds a person is admitted to hospital with a brain injury – so it affects literally thousands of people and their families. I wish I’d known about the company when my father and our family were experiencing the impact of his brain injury.

 

Can you tell me how Headcase came about, what made you want to bring this true story to the stage?

 

Initially I wanted to produce a play that I could be in, as an actor it can be frustrating waiting for the phone to ring. I was at the fringe in 2019 and saw so many one person shows and it struck me as a brilliant way to tell a story concisely and with impact. It was then that I said to my friends “I’m going to come back with my own show”. And here I am!

Did you have any apprehensions about writing and performing a show that comes from a deeply personal place?

 

I actually wasn’t worried about sharing my side of the story but I was worried about what my family would think.  Before I did a sharing of the R&D I was so nervous. I gave my family the option to read the script before I put it on so I could change things if they weren’t happy, they refused though. Luckily they loved it!

 

Has it been cathartic for you looking back at this time?

 

I guess it was at first. However since speaking to survivors of brain injury and their family members I have learnt to look forward.  I have also been lucky enough to work with a really talented team who have all put their creative stamp on the piece. So now it feels like an important (and funny) piece of theatre rather than my story.

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"I like to write privately but putting my work out there to an audience is a whole new thing and seemed daunting for a while."

And what would you say have been the most valuable lessons you have taken from the journey you’ve been on with Headcase?

 

There are two parts to this question, what I have learnt about being a family member of someone with a brain injury & what I have learnt as an artist.

 

The first I think you will see in the show, so I won’t give that away.  There are some elements which are specific to my experiences and elements which are just universal to anyone that is in a family full stop. Family dynamics have long been an area for theatre and the arts to explore – with good reason! . The second is to find a team that really connect with you & your ideas.  AND wherever possible add slash curtains! 

 

Do you allow yourself much flexibility once a show is running or do you like to keep to what you’ve planned? 

 

There are parts of Headcase that are improvised which allows for a feeling of freshness every night but I completely trust my director Laura  - who brings with her so much insight and experience (including being Associate Director of the amazing company Wise Children) – and wouldn’t want to deviate from what she has created.

 

Headcase is directed by Laura Keefe, when working on a show like this how important is the collaborative nature of theatre making? 

 

It’s the most important.  I spoke to a lot of people about writing a play and the ideas I had (there were quite a few ideas before this one!) but it wasn’t until I spoke to Laura that something really clicked.  She instinctively knew the story I wanted to tell and how I wanted to tell it and she treated it with such care and compassion. She is also a great laugh.

 

Have you always had a passion for writing and performing?

 

I’ve had a passion for performing for as long as I can remember but writing is a new thing. I like to write privately but putting my work out there to an audience is a whole new thing and seemed daunting for a while. I’m ready though and excited to hear what people think.

 

Do you have any tips or advice you could offer any emerging playwright or performer?

 

Life can be surprising, so just bloody go for it. Oh, and don’t forget to have fun.

 

And finally, what do you want your fringe audiences to take away from Headcase?

 

As above but in addition, if everybody in the audience walks away from Headcase either having learnt one thing about brain injury or thinking about something in their own life slightly differently, then I will be very happy.