I went to see Mary Higgins and Ell Potter’s first show, Hotter, with one of my best friends. It ended with us all joining a sweaty dance in the middle of the stage, almost the entire audience packed tight together under heady lights. Afterwards, we walked through Soho. We sat in the dark, eating chips and talking completely openly about our attitudes to our bodies. The show seemed to open up avenues of conversation that previously felt off-limits. I’m very thankful for the show for helping us do that.
I loved chatting to Mary and Ell about sex, bodies, embarrassment and their shows, Hotter and Fitter.
For the cover of the weekend magazine, The Observer published a piece about various types of innovative sex education around the world. I contributed the section on Tackle Africa’s work in Uganda. I had just finished a three month research project on sex and consent education with the WCMT, and was over the moon to publish part of that work here.
Over a crackling phone line, Noma Dumezweni sang a few lines to me in the style of Nina Simone. I had been pacing through the house trying to find the place with the best signal, desperate not to mess this up. I settled on the bottom step and her voice came through beautiful and clear; I wish I could insert a voice note to the piece. It was a real pleasure to do these.
For The Guardian I talked to five incredible theatre makers Tanika Gupta, Fiona Shaw, Sonia Friedman, Rae Smith and Noma Dumezweni- about their dinner party choices. Inspired by Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls, they each had one seat at the table for a guest of their choice from any time and place in history.
All throughout my childhood, my mum has taken me to our local lido. It’s the first place that made me feel truly comfortable with my body. The showers are communal, so everyone just strips off, shivering and chatting. In the water our bodies are tools. It doesn’t matter how they look.
Still, I’d only braved swimming in the winter a handful of times. For this piece, I knew I wanted to swim with Liz (who was making a show about wild swimming), but our interview was planned for February, so I needed to get some practice swims in beforehand to make sure I didn’t die in the middle of the Peak District.
I signed up for the Serpentine with a friend and we started braving the water mid January. We’d stand on the edge of the platform, waiting for the swans to pass, shivering and trying to gear ourselves up for the pain of getting in. She would walk in. I’d dive. For the first ten seconds you really can’t breathe. All of the air whooshes straight out of you, like you’ve been punched in the stomach. Then the water starts to prickle and you’re swimming through shards of glass. It’s simultaneously hideous and astonishing. Half a length in and you’ve never felt better. You get out buzzing.
I loved this hike and swim with Liz. We took her dog and it felt like we were the only two people for miles around.
I’ve since kept up swimming in the Serpentine year-round.
“It was hastily done. A desperate journalist scrawled an interview request on a torn scrap of paper and slipped it under Dan Hett’s door. “I’m very sorry to bother you,” the note began, “but…” It was 23 May 2017, the morning after the terror attack that claimed 23 lives at Ariana Grande’s Manchester concert, and hungry journalists were circling family members of the missing. Hett tweeted a photo of his brother Martyn, who had been at the concert and wasn’t answering his phone. Did anyone have any information? Sensing an opportunity, the famished flock descended.”
For the Anthony Burgess/ Observer Prize, I entered a piece about Sorry to Bother You, the videogame made by Dan Hett after his brother, Martyn, had been killed in the Manchester bombing. It placed as joint runner-up.
Just over 20 years on from its Royal Court debut, Conor McPherson’s haunting drama has been resurrected once more, this time for a co-production by English Touring Theatre and Colchester’s Mercury. In a remote pub in rural Ireland, the locals avoid the solitude of their homes by clinging to each other’s stories, as Adele Thomas’s revival reveals the horror of loneliness to be on a par with fear of the undead.
Put together in under a month and rehearsed in three days, The Words Are Coming Now is a rapid response to the #MeToo moment, presenting 10 short plays (all under 10 minutes long) accompanied by post-show discussions. Featuring established and emerging playwrights, the production avoids the stark polarity of debate about consent that it is easy to fall into on social media. Instead it carves a space for empathy, humour and a multiplicity of viewpoints in a complex area at a time when sexual harassment and misconduct allegations have rocked theatre, film and other industries.