Tell us about Bitch Boxer
It's a one-woman show written and performed by myself, presented by Snuff Box Theatre, an emerging company of which I am one-third. It follows the story of 21-year-old Chloe Jackson, from Leytonstone East London. She's a female boxer who has one more fight to win, the qualifier for Team GB in the Olympics 2012, the first time women have been allowed to enter the event. And it's in Stratford, down the road! We follow Chloe preparing for this physical fight, but we also learn of a big emotional battle she's working through following two life-changing events.
Where did the inspiration come from?
I was lugging boxes into a storeroom at the coffee shop I worked in, when a passerby made a comment about me not looking very ladylike. For some reason the comment stung, and I wrote a rant on my phone on the way home that night. It was a general moan about knowing I'm physically strong and yet living in a world where as a woman I'm meant to behave and look a certain way.
A few days later I re-read it and tidied it up into a monologue, seeing a character really fighting for something she believed in. Then I read in a newspaper that women were boxing in the Olympics for the very first time. It all slotted into place. I developed it at the Soho Theatre Young Writer Labs and a scratch of it was performed there. I got good feedback so started writing more for it and I also started training at Islington Boxing Club for research. I fell madly in love with the sport. I applied for the Old Vic New Voices Edinburgh Season 2012 in collaboration with The Underbelly on the Ideastap website for a laugh the day before the deadline. I got shortlisted, auditioned and I won a spot on the season.
Would you say boxing is inherently theatrical?
Yes, definitely. The ring is a natural stage. I get the same feeling when I'm sparring as I do when I'm performing. That mixture of nerves and adrenaline, knowing you're being watched, knowing you've got a short opportunity to put everything you've practiced into place. Boxers are performers.
Tell us a bit about yourself, how did you start out?
I'm originally from Hemel Hempstead, just north of London. I've always been fascinated by theatre but not really understood why people think it's for posh people. I studied on the Acting and Contemporary Theatre course at East 15 Acting School. It's a course that teaches you to be pro-active, make your own theatre, put it on somewhere and showcase your talents through your work. Much more fun than sitting by the phone! It's where I met my brilliant partners in crime and fellow Snuff Boxers Bryony Shanahan and Daniel Foxsmith.
What made you enter the Soho Young Writers Competition?
I was developing Bitch Boxer in the Soho Theatre Young Writers Labs held monthly there. I applied for the competition to give myself a deadline to finish something. There's a lot of young talent writers around at the moment, particularly in those writers programs, so I didn't expect to win it.
Is it an extra challenge performing as a one woman show?
It's scary yes. I wake up nervous everyday! But I've got a brilliant team slogging away behind the scenes; they made the piece with me and support me through it. The style of the play is one in which I speak directly to the audience, it's very live, so once I've calmed down a bit I don't really feel alone up there. The support from the Soho Theatre, Old Vic New Voices, Ideastap, East 15, friends and family has been amazing.
Would you always like to work this way?
We at Snuff Box Theatre are all multi-skilled ambitious greedy young performers. We all swap roles depending on the project. Our next piece The Altitude Brothers is written by Dan and directed by Bryony. It'll be on at the Brighton Fringe and some other venues so watch out for that one. I think we'll continue to work like this, it makes sense to put the piece first and then work out how to do it. We have a laugh too!
What else have you got lined up?
After the run at Soho Bitch Boxer goes straight on a double-bill-National-tour with Chapel Street written by Luke Barnes and presented by Scrawl Theatre. Snuff Box Theatre are the newly appointed Apprentice Company at Redbridge Drama Centre and we are developing The Altitude Brothers and other pieces there. I'm in talks about writing a new play with the Soho Six program at the Soho Theatre. I'll also be working at the Lyric Hammersmith with Sean Holmes on a new exciting project there. And I'm still training at Islington Boxing Club and hoping to find time to win my first bout.
Any tips for other young writers?
Write! Sounds silly but actually write stuff. Don't censor yourself, don't even read it back straight away just write and write and write. Watch and read lots of plays, develop your own educated taste in theatre. Allow yourself a daydream, what would you like to do if time/money/experience wasn't an issue? Work out how to do it, then do it.
After its run at Soho, Bitch Boxer will visit Winchester, Alnwick, Leicester and York