Theatre

"I hope it makes them reflect on this blind spot in the feminist debate- in our all-important battle to have equality with men, we have yoked ourselves to a timetable that is based on male fertility not female fertility, and this is problematic."

1st Springboard: FESTIVAL FOR EMERGING ARTISTS 
29 March - 23 April, 2022 
Interview

Simona Hughes
About 500
19 - 23 April | Book Now
about500.com
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Clem is 37 when she starts trying for a child with her partner Luke. Two unsuccessful years later, she realises that, like many other women, she’s been out-manoeuvred by a timetable that ignores women’s finite fertility….  

 

Hey Simona, thank you for talking with The New Current, how is everything been going?

It’s been a bit of a roller coaster getting here, but we feel like we’re in a very good place now….

About 500 is set to run at The King’s Head Theatre as part of SPRINGBOARD 2022, what does it mean to you to be part of such an amazing line up of theatre?

 

We are truly honoured. Both to be part of such the great and diverse line up that is SPRINGBOARD, but also to be playing at The King’s Head Theatre – the ultimate London Fringe venue with its long and rich history

 

With the cancelling of VAULT Festival this year how essential are opportunities like SPRINGBOARD for new theatre?

 

Initiatives like SPRINGBOARD, and similarly the VAULT transfer season that straddled Omnibus and The Pleasance theatres (which we were part of), have transformed the prospects shows like About 500 were facing in the bleak first weeks of January. The commitment and generosity these theatres have shown has been deeply heartening at such a tough time for the industry. 

You had an amazing response to About 500, what has meant to be able to revisit this production and will much change since the last time you staged About 500?

About 500 was ‘oven ready’ 2 years ago (for its premiere at VAULT 2020). It has had a long hibernation and we’ve made lots of changes during this pause - most significantly bringing on board designer Nic Farr and lighting designer Ryan Day, both of whom have transformed the look of the piece. We were delighted with the response the show got both at The Union and The Omnibus, and now to finish our ‘London tour’ at the King’s Head, opening up the piece to audience on three sides, feels like the perfect climax to this stage in its journey.

Can you tell me a little bit about how About 500 came about, what was the inspiration behind your play? 

About 500 was developed as part of my graduation research project for my MFA in Advanced Theatre Practice at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. As part of my research, I interviewed over 20 women of diverse ages, cultures and sexualities about their relationship with their fertility. 

The idea came to me because I had been reflecting back on just how much of the big decisions in my life have been driven by a constant fear of missing my fertile window. This led me to think about how, for women who want children, their finite fertility consciously and unconsciously dominates their lives. Men never have to face this dramatic loss of opportunity. I became a bit fixated on this injustice and how (to quote the play) “feminism has given us a lot, but because of this massive difference in our fertility, we’re fucked…”

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What have been the biggest challenges you have faced bringing About 500 to life?

COVID

 

Do you allow much flexibility with your text/performance once a show is running?

Yes. I continue to give notes for the first few performances and then I enjoy watching the show grow and develop in the hands of the actors- you have to let go at some point. It’s a bit like being a parent.

 

Where did your passion for theatre come from and how much has your approach to your work changed since you started out?

I’ve been making theatre since I was 5, but I wasn’t brave enough to make it my career until my 40s. (My first career was in psychotherapy and child mental health). Doing the Masters at Central has had a huge effect on my approach and my creativity.

 

What has been the best piece of advice you have been given and is there any advice  or tips you would offer any emerging playwright / director? 

A director on the course at Central said “As a director, if you can visualise it, you can make it happen”. I found this simple piece of advice to be so liberating and empowering as a director.

 

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from About 500?

It really depends on their age and if they intend to have children.

For younger women who want children, it can be a real wake up call.

For older audiences or for audiences with no interest in procreating, I hope it makes them reflect on this blind spot in the feminist debate- in our all-important battle to have equality with men, we have yoked ourselves to a timetable that is based on male fertility not female fertility, and this is problematic.

I hope it alerts all audiences to the serious mental health consequences for so many women who are childless not by choice.