Rosie Day: With Instructions For A Teenage Armageddon I wanted to hand the microphone back to young women
The actor makes her playwrighting debut with the show at the Old Red Lion
My first memory of acting is being carried through the National Theatre by Trevor Nunn, the enormity of which was totally lost on my six year-old self. I was performing in his production of Summerfolk alongside Simon Russell Beale and Patricia Hodge and revelled in playing dress up and missing school.
Theatre is where I found acting, to me, it was magic, and it's still the thing that makes my mind tick in the middle of the night. I did a lot of it growing up, more at the National, a play at the Royal Court whilst sitting my GCSEs, but my career definitely veered more towards screen. I've had the chance to do some incredible TV and film projects, alongside actors like Uma Thurman and Sarah Jessica Parker, but being on stage has never left my mind, as I think it's the backbone of our industry.
I am so grateful to every casting director, the hidden heroes and champions of our industry, who has ever got me in, for any work, ever, but I did find getting in the room for theatre a hard task. I could rarely get an audition, for I had a multitude of screen credits and no drama school training. I was just a kid who learnt on the job as I went. Also, the distinct lack of roles for teenage girls being shown on the London stage, became something I started to notice...
I was given the chance to return to theatre by Hannah Price, in Again at Trafalgar Studios in 2018, she would then go on to cast me ‘again' in The Girl Who Fell at the end of last year, and become the person who would inspire me to write. Hannah is the most incredible director. A powerhouse, whose ability to connect and handle humans is unlike anything I've ever seen. And I so wanted to impress her, so when on our first press night, she told me to write a one-woman play for her...I obliged. I took myself to Notes on St Martin's Lane, opened up my laptop... and wrote.
I left shortly after to shoot in Spain for four months, and spent every Saturday, in a cafe, with a coffee, toast, and a whole lot of biscuits as I tried to weave a structured narrative.
I'd always loved writing, making up stories, and had just written and directed my first short film Tracks, as well as drafts of feature films. Screen writing, came naturally... But playwriting? That was a whole new thing.
I knew I wanted to depict realistically the experience of young women, so often teenage girls are written poorly, and rarely are they at the front and centre telling their story. I wanted to hand the microphone back to them. A play for young women. So became a story of adolescence, failed friendships, grief, twisted power struggles, difficult families, and a lot of Scouts... but with some humour thrown in along the way.
It was a chance meeting, with amazing producers Brian Zeilinger and Jack Maple to discuss another play, that led to me sending them Teenage Armageddon, and I was sat in a Frankie and Benny's in Coventry when they told me they wanted to option it and see it through to the stage. I never thought anyone was going to read my play...let alone see it! We did a staged reading at the Park Theatre to get feedback, and I've never been so nervous ever! Five drafts later, (I think writing really is re-writing) and we're almost opening.
As an actor, we have very little power, we wait for 'the' phone calls and plan our lives around production schedules. Creating work became a way for me to re-adjust that balance, whilst still filming, and acting in other projects.
I've now written and directed two shorts and have a feature film in pre production, but none involve me acting, Teenage Armageddon is the first time I'll say my own words. I will always love telling other people's stories, entering their worlds, immersing myself in their characters.... But I like telling my own too.
Give me two months and I may never want to act my own words again, and it's terrifying being judged not only as an actor but as a writer for the first time.... but I figured...it's good to do things that scare you, right?