Lola Stephenson On ... Writing NIMBY
Exploring what happens when people are forced to choose between their morals and their own quality of life, the play focuses on James and Bea whose ethically-responsible and harmonious life is upset by their proximity to society’s undesirables. For James and Bea it’s all fine in principle but: Not In My Back Yard.
An emerging playwright, Stephenson has written for Theatre 503 (including the Coalition season where she collaborated with Bourgeois and Maurice, and PLAYlist at Latitude Festival) and the Old Red Lion. She is also a graduate of the Royal Court Young Writers Programme graduate.
Stephenson tells us about growing up in Islington, and how it influenced the writing of NIMBY.
Growing up in a place like Islington you are never far from a Jasmine tea-stained Guardian supplement clogging up a table at an organic cafe, nor safe from the oncoming traffic of ethical pushchairs on their way to buy some locally-sourced asparagus for a dinner party.
And if you are lucky enough to find yourself at said dinner party, you are very unlikely to hear someone expressing a negative view about the welfare state, telling a racist joke, or condemning someone less fortunate than them, and certainly not without a barrage of abuse from the liberal majority around the table.
Not that that’s a bad thing at all. That’s a very good thing in many ways. I think that would be a much nicer dinner party to be at than at the sandwich buffet of a BNP rally in Dagenham. I’m just saying that it is quite nice and maybe a bit too nice and maybe doesn’t always leave space to appreciate the reality behind the idealism its projecting. Not that idealism’s a bad thing, idealism’s probably a good thing. Isn’t it?
My play NIMBY, as in Not In My Back Yard, is a comedy which throws remarkably different people together in an extreme co-habitation dilemma, to push them to their limits. But of course the truth is, in a place like Islington and many others in London, extremely different people already live side by side and just next door to the asparagus clad dinner party, something much darker might be taking place.
Maybe there’s a better way to spend your time than counting up the number of air miles you’ve drunk as you nurse the hangover, chuck the seventeen empty bottles of Chablis into the recycling bin and throw the olive stones in the compost. I don’t know what that better thing might be but I think there could be one, if we want to find it.
As you can see I don’t have many answers. Just lots of questions really. And when I knew I was writing a play to go on at the Old Red Lion, I thought I would try and ask some of them. Not answer them, I’m afraid. Just take a look.
NIMBY opened at the Old Red Lion on 11 June (previews from 8 June) where it runs until 25 June.