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Durham Drama Festival 2021 – Meet the writers (part 3)

This is our final blog in the series from our student writers. These new plays are being performed online at this year’s Durham Drama Festival.

Owen Kennedy, author of Plumb

‘I would be lying to you if I said that Plumb explores anything that hasn’t already been explored or was particularly radical. I simply wanted to write about the unconscious feelings that attack me every day and many of my closest friends; drawing from the experiences I’ve had with the men I know, including myself, and asking questions about what actually drives the masculinity within us. I don’t need to tell anyone that we must encourage men to talk about their feelings. Why can’t a best friend tell me they feel sad about a break-up? Or a family member tell me they feel lonely? Why does doing a High School Musical dance workout make me feel weird. I couldn’t tell you. It’s my hope that perhaps this play might encourage just one man, also feeling similarly hopeless, to talk. The play is designed to be a complete deconstruction of gendered dialogue and I hope that the gender swap will highlight this; with a male actor playing the dialogue of an older woman, whilst two female actors play the dialogue seemingly reserved for men.’

Francesca Haydon-White, author of Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm

‘I was 8 years old when I saw the graffiti for the first time at the end of my road in Birmingham. I remember repeating the phrase “who put Bella in the Wych elm?” over and over to myself in my head thinking it sounded interesting but having no idea what it meant. The graffiti disappeared but, when it returned a few years later in the same spot at the end of my road, the phrase stuck in my head again and I told myself I’d one day write a story about it. A few years later I finally researched what the phrase meant and discovered the unsolved murder that had taken place in the woods just a few minutes from my house. It wasn’t until 2020 that I realised other people may find the story interesting and that the strange and surprising theories would make for a good script. The process of writing involved extensive research of the theories and facts surrounding the actual events; someone who knows the case well will notice many “Easter eggs” hidden in the show including snippets of original interviews and references to real locations in the area. I’m really excited to present something to audiences which not only represents a true piece of history from my hometown but tells a story that I’ve been fascinated by for years.’

Eric Yu, author of Death of a Disco Dancer

‘I’ve always liked the idea of song titles as play titles. I love music that can make you feel like you’re in a movie about your own life, all indie-14-year-old-I-have-a-poetry-blog type of stuff. Atmosphere is one of the most important things to me- the shift from reality to a stylised reflection of one. Death of a Disco Dancer is a song by The Smiths- I called the play that because it explored a breakdown of the ‘disco dancer’ persona, to reveal the troubled person underneath the facade. On the surface level, the play is about addiction, suicide, friendship, but it runs deeper than that. We all wear masks; to make ourselves feel more confident, to try and appeal to a certain group. I wanted to explore what would happen when a mask becomes so loved and so well known, it feels impossible to take off, even when the real self underneath is crumbling from the pressure of wearing it. Mental health issues are full of contradictions, and though there has recently been a positive movement to destigmatize mental health and communicate more, it really isn’t always that simple. Sometimes, talking about a problem can make it even harder to understand. In Death of a Disco Dancer, the troubled, arrogant and charismatic Mattie uses their friends’ attempts at reaching out to elevate their status as leader of the pack, and tests the boundaries of friendship and sanity to its limits.’

Durham Drama Festival 2021

Full information on Durham Drama Festival 2021

Watch the shows online here

Find out more about Durham Student Theatre

Meet some more of the writers in part 1 and part 2

Owen Kennedy, Francesca Haydon-White & Eric Yu

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