Edinburgh Fringe 2022
How to Build a Wax Figure
Venue 17: Assembly George Square Studios - Studio 4
Aug 4-9, 11-15, 17-22, 24-29, 12:55 / Tickets
July 27, 2022
Girl meets anatomical wax sculptor. Anatomical wax sculptor meets girl. They fall in love. Or something like that. Bea's older neighbour was her first love, her first cigarette, her first prosthetic eye. When Bea is invited to the Wellcome Collection to speak about her expertise making glass eyes, she finds herself unable to untie Margot from all that she does. As she tries to unpack her mentor's effect on her work, Bea must dissect for herself what love really looks like.
Hi Isabella, thank you for talking to The New Current, it’s a very English thing to say but…how have you been coping wit the weather?
I feel like each complaint about the heat lowers the temperature 5 degrees. So, my strategy has been whining to my housemates and wearing a sopping wet shirt to sleep.
Before we start I hear congratulations are in order as Methuen has just published How to Build a Wax Figure, what is the feeling you got when you held a copy of your play, fully bounded, in your hands?
Ah, thank you! It was a really surreal experience. I cried just a little bit, but in a chic way. But actually, I’m so enormously grateful for all the people that helped make that a reality.
How to Build a Wax Figure also had a sell out run at The Pleasance in London, did you imagine you would get such a resounding response to your play?
The audiences at the Pleasance were absolutely incredible — as was our incredible originating producer team of Sarah Jordan Verghese and Sophie Kilgannon for getting them in. I love them all. It was really exciting for me to get to lurk in the background and hear how each audience responded differently to the play as well — when people laughed, when they were listening, etc. It was also right on the tails of omicron wave one so having that many people show up was really special.
Your play is produced by November Theatre who are making their debut at the fringe Fringe, are there any nerves setting in ahead of your run at Assembly?
Oh, yes, I would say I’m deeply anxious but also so very excited. It’ll be the first fringe for all of our team, and I think there’s something nice about that because we’re all going in together.
What is it about Edinburgh Fringe that is so special to you?
I was supposed to take a play of mine (Jawbone) to Fringe in 2020, but obvious pandemic events derailed that. I’ve learned an enormous amount over the last two years and feel like we’re at a good place now to really showcase what we’ve been working so hard on.
Also, my mum and grandma emigrated from Scotland, so they’re quite happy that we’ll be premiering the play up in Edinburgh. Feels like a nice bit of roundabout migration there.
As an Oregonian you must have some fun and energetic ways to promote your show on the Royal Mile, are you prepared for it?
As an Oregonian, I am prepared for rain and hail in August which aligns well with Edinburgh’s forecast. Also, maybe it’s the West Coast in me that has prepared me to accost absolute strangers on the Royal Mile with words such as “ocularistry,” “tertiary syphilis,” and “queer coming-of-age”.
What are you most looking forward to take away from your time at Edinburgh Fringe?
A fully rested and relaxed body and mind. Just kidding. The opposite.
Can you tell me a little bit about How to Build a Wax Figure, what was the inspiration behind this new play?
How To Build a Wax Figure sees protagonist Bea trying to find who and what she loves as she tries to get away from the memories of her sexy anatomical wax sculpting mentor, Margot.
When I started writing, I’d been thinking about the power dynamics and grey area involved in a queer age-gap relationship. Then somehow I came upon a video on anatomical wax sculpting, and it felt like an apt metaphor for how we impact/mould each other. Everything just kind of spiralled from there.
Due to the ongoing trend of cancel culture as a playwright do you ever have any apprehensions about writing a play that deals with themes or subjects that could be controversial?
I think that good theatre invites conversation and debate. If a play didn’t deal with any themes or subjects that could be controversial, it would probably not have a lot of dramatic action. That said, I’m not trying to write plays just to be controversial. For me, it’s just the questions that I’m thinking about in my own life that feel meaty enough to be explored through a play. So, in presenting an age-gap relationship on stage, it was important to me that the audience feel uncofortable sometimes — thinking is this okay or is this not okay?
When writing a new play how much do you allow your own lived experiences to inform the characters you create?
Yeah, I’d say I don’t tend to write fully autobiographical things, but definitely do think my own lived experiences inform what I write. They’re probably more like seeds that then the characters/play grows from if that doesn’t sound too wanky. It does, but whatever.
What has the experience been like working with your director Nell Bailey?
Nell is a brilliant, gorgeous director and human being, and I firmly believe everyone should hire her. But really, it’s been such a remarkable thing to have a director so on the same page of what this play is / the characters’ minds. I feel fully comfortable handing it over to her, and that’s not always easy.
How vital is this type of creative collaboration, does it help to be somewhat flexible with your text during rehearses, previews and its eventual run?
I love love love actors’ questions in the process. I’ve been super lucky to get to hear this script with four different sets of actors now, and I learn something new about the text each time.
Have you always had a passion for theatre?
Yes! My mum is a fabulous actor, so I grew up surrounded with theatre. She tried her best to have me do literally anything else, but here we are.
"Now I'm actually paying attention to structure pretty early on and it is saving me a lot of time and paper."
What have been the biggest changes to your writing approach since you started out?
I used to write my way into things and just kind of wander about until I found what I was really asking, and then quite literally take scissors and cut up the text and structure it and rewrite. Now I’m actually paying attention to structure pretty early on and it is saving me a lot of time and paper.
Do you have any advice, tips or suggestions you would offer a fellow playwright?
The ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ Soundtrack. My Spotify #1 for three years and counting, baby.
And finally, what do you want your fringe audiences to take away from How to Build a Wax Figure?
I’d like them to come away questioning what makes a relationship work, and thinking about how people in our lives weave in and leave these huge impacts on who we are and maybe that’s not such a horrible thing.