BLUE TIGHTS, RED KNICKERS AND AN ‘S’ ON HER VEST, tells the story of Jenna. A woman being bullied at work and is struggling to cope with her anxiety. Her best friend is on the other side of the world and not speaking to her, and no one seems to think anything’s wrong. The play iexplores the lengths one person will go to, to be perfect and the toll it takes on their health.
The Bread & Roses Theatre Production & Marketing Manager, Roman Berry had a candid interview with co-founders Liam Ashmead (Director) and Writer/ Performer Laura Shoebottom. Both shared their passion in new writing and the importance of sharing mental health awareness in theatre and beyond.
What led you to establishing Thematic Theatre & how did the name evolve?
We started thinking about forming a company in our last year of drama school. We’re both so passionate about creating our own work and the idea of doing that together sounded incredible. The name came from a passion for writing in response to a brief or theme. We’ve both had experience in that area and it’s something that excites us both a great deal.
Who are the people behind Thematic Theatre?
To quote the song “Just the two of us!” We both have our own individual roles within the company but the two of us are taking on the production and administrative side of things which is a lot of fun, we’ve learnt a lot from doing it!
We’ve also got a fabulous support network. Phil; who’s done all our recordings, has been brilliant and so have the rest of the cast. They’re wonderful to work with and have really brought the other characters to life. The Bread and Roses have been absolutely fantastic as well. It’s daunting putting on your first show, there’s a lot involved and they’ve made us feel so welcome and been incredibly supportive.
As it is your debut production, what sort of issues/ theatre does Thematic Theatre focus on or passionate about?
We are a new writing company and that’s we’re our passion lies. We’ve been incredibly fortunate to have had so many new writing opportunities during our third year of drama school and that really inspired us to build a company around new writing for a brief. We both wrote our own monologues for our showcase, our own plays for our dissertations (which is where Blue Tights began) and in our last term we got to work on a new play ‘The Real Estate’ by Freddie Machin, where we were also involved in the initial R&D workshops. The whole experience was invaluable and so much fun. Having had very little experience of R&D before training, it’s great to have been a part of it before graduating. We’re hoping to hold an R&D session for our next production so now we know how it works we can make sure we all get the most out of it.
We like to write about lots of things, but mental health awareness is something we’ve always been passionate about. We think it’s so important to have constant access to support and that’s why we wanted to raise money for Mind. They’ve been really supportive of the play as well which is so lovely.
There are so many that we’d probably need a full page of A4 to list them all! The main ones have been being in a rehearsal room with one of your closest friends because the whole process has been so relaxed and a lot of fun. We know we can be 100% honest with each other and add, change or cut things and no-one’s going to take it personally.
We’ve also loved connecting with so many people from new companies and theatres. The amount of support we’ve had from everyone we’ve been in touch with and worked with has been phenomenal and we’re really grateful for that.
Any major stumbling block?
Thankfully, no. We’ve been very lucky in that sense. We’ve had to deal with small issues in the moment, but we’ve always managed to deal with them efficiently. Working with just the two of us has made things a lot easier; we have been close friends for a while and we therefore know exactly how each other works. Laura being the writer means we have a lot of freedom to use the text exactly how we want. The biggest obstacle, we’d say, was trusting ourselves to do this. With this being our first production, we’re learning a lot about the process, especially the business side of it all!
What led you to The Bread & Roses Theatre to debut this production?
We’ve seen many shows at The Bread and Roses and have always loved the space. It’s always been theatre we’ve felt close to as our drama school was also in Clapham. We also really like how many opportunities it offers to all types of creatives; it’s very accessible, especially for people just starting off in the industry.
What’s next for Thematic?
We plan to create a monthly scratch night whereby we put a call out for writers, directors and actors, give them a theme and get them to create a 10 min piece of theatre based on this theme. We want to collaborate with other companies and creatives and we feel this is a great way to do so. We also then plan to take Blue Tights to The Vaults Festival and The Edinburgh Fringe next year.
Be brave, go on, call out someone by name: Who should see this production?
Can we say everyone...? Everyone and anyone! In all seriousness, our play focuses a lot on mental health & anxiety and this is a subject not spoken about enough in our society. If this is something you are passionate about also, then this is the show for you. If not, then come along anyway; I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!
Thematic Theatre presents
Blue Tights, Red Knickers and an ’S’ on Her Vest
by Laura Shoebottom
Directed by Liam Ashmead
July 10 – 14, 7.30 pm
Tickets and more information