INTERVIEW – Fiona McDonald, Tightlaced Theatre ‘writerling’

Tightlaced Theatre are an Edinburgh-based theatre group who focus on new writing: developing new plays, encouraging new writing talent and living up admirably to their strapline of “Fringe theatre in Edinburgh isn’t just for August”.

Here, we caught up with one of their writers-in-residence, Fiona McDonald. Fiona has written two pieces for Tightlaced, both of which will be performed next week as free rehearsed readings. We asked her about herself, the challenges of writing for theatre, and what she has planned for the future.

Tightlaced Theatre

Tightlaced Theatre

Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to work with Tightlaced?

My full name is Fiona McDonald. I’m a Gemini from Duddingston and I enjoy reading, writing and attending the theatre.

I have just graduated from Queen Margaret University where, thanks to a pair of wonderful Playwriting tutors, Colin Mortimer and Gowan Calder, I gained the confidence to write what I wanted to write and sometimes even finish things.

I was also fortunate enough to befriend Flavia and Jen, two kindly directors who share one enormous brain. They approached me about submitting a play for their new series of rehearsed readings and I was happy to do so as I had just finished The Jumblies.

Tightlaced Theatre is all about new writing and giving writers a platform to experiment so I am delighted to be one of their ‘writerlings’.

What and who inspires you to write?

If I want to feel sad, I watch the news, although I do appreciate when writers can tell a sad story that makes the audience laugh out loud.

I always cite John Byrne as my favourite playwright because, despite his dark subject matter, his dialogue is hilarious. When I write, there are usually individual lines of dialogue that I feel proud to have thought up and I am bad for quoting lines that I like from whatever I’m reading.

I’ve just finished a Len Deighton novel where a character was described as being so great, she was like ‘the inside of a freshly baked bread roll‘. I thought that was the most charming description that I’d read in a long time. I need to find some way of using it in a sentence. Probably when a lot of people are around because I’d imagine it would sound disingenuous if you said it twice. I guess I’ve spoiled it now anyway.

I think I’m inspired by any writer who writes funny things but takes them seriously, or who writes serious things but makes them funny.

Tell us more about The Layman’s Terms and The Jumblies? What can we expect from them?

The Jumblies is based on the Nonsense Songs of Edward Lear. It’s taking place in Blackwells on a Saturday afternoon and can be enjoyed by all the family. It will be a performed reading which means fun props and actors moving around. The Jumblies go to sea in a sieve to a magical island so that they can grow taller. On the way, they meet the Owl and the Pussycat, the Dong with the Luminous Nose and the birds who live in the Quangle Wangle’s Hat. It’s very informal and it’s freeeee.

Layman’s Terms is entirely my own story. It’s taking place on the fifth floor of a stern 1970s block in Meadowbank on a Wednesday evening and should probably not be attended by all the family as it’s a bit dark.

It’s about the first female police officer in the UK to qualify for super powers and combines science fiction with office politics. Things do take a nasty turn, but there are still some laughs to be had. It’s a rehearsed reading so it’s also informal and also freeeee.

What do you enjoy most about writing for theatre? And what are the main challenges?

I like writing for theatre as it is mainly driven by dialogue, which I find easy to write. I’m not very good at things like descriptions or poetic language, although I am envious of people who are. I suppose the challenge is to get your story across to the audience in a limited time with a limited space and a limited budget, but finding ways around whatever restrictions you come across can be very rewarding.

I can understand why there haven’t been that many plays written about superheroes, but setting Layman’s Terms in an HR office means I don’t need to ask for aerial wires or actors who are black belts in karate. That’s not to say there aren’t a couple of good fights though.

What else are you working on at the moment; and what else can we expect from you in the future?

I have been commissioned by Tightlaced to write a piece about Madeleine Smith, the girl who may or may not have murdered her lover in Victorian Glasgow. I have never written about a real person who really was alive before so that involves a lot of research and, in this case, I’ll probably have to decide whether or not I think she dunnit. If I get my act together, that will hopefully be performed next year.

Many thanks, Fiona.

The Layman’s Terms will be performed at The Arts Complex, 151 London Road at 7pm on Wed 3rd Nov. The Jumblies will be performed at Blackwells bookshop on South Bridge at 2pm on Sat 6th Nov.

Both events are freeeee

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