Soho Theatre and Writer's Centre is one of the hippest theatres around, both in terms of its work and its location in Dean Street, Soho. Theatrenow went there to interview Jonathan Lloyd, an Associate Director of the Theatre and the director of a new one-woman show, Julie Burchill Is Away, that is already attracting press attention way ahead of its opening on June 10.
Can you tell us something about Julie Burchill Is Away?: "It's a one-woman show, starring Jackie Clune, and written by Tim Fountain, the author of Resident Alien, the one-man show starring Bette Bourne, about Quentin Crisp. I'm directing it here at Soho."
Directing a one-person play must mean a particularly intense relationship with the actor?: "Yes! Julie Burchill Is Away is, in effect, a triangle with myself, Jackie as actor and Tim as writer. Tim and Jackie know each other very well in any case and have their own production company, which is co-producing the play with Soho."
What role has Julie Burchill played?: "She's worked quite closely with Tim, in that she has let him quote from all of her work, and has been to some rehearsals. She's very relaxed about it all, however, as she has a lot of confidence in us as a team. The play isn't a knocking piece, but it isn't a hagiography either — and she's happy with that." Soho is obviously a successful theatre that attracts a young audience, but the fact that it's a writer's center as well must single you out from a lot of other theatres?: "The writing aspect is an essential part of what we do. We have seminars and workshops for young writers, a writers' room, writers' nights with group discussions, two seminars specifically for under-25 year olds, and a team of readers that works through the 1,000-or-so scripts that we get sent every year. We have writers' attachment programs that link young writers who we feel have interesting 'voices' with Soho theatre, education programs — and in November there's a playwriting competition as well, so a lot of our work is spent identifying, helping and promoting new writers, as well as actually staging plays."
Julie Burchill's career as a journalist took off because she had a very distinctive 'voice' as a commentator. How do you think people will react to the play? "I think everyone has a distinct attitude towards Julie, whether pro or anti, and they will inevitably bring that to the theatre with them. What Julie Burchill Is Away will do, I hope, is to challenge their view — whatever it is — and make them think about her in a different way. That's the strength of Tim Fountain's script, and is in a way what Soho is all about — working with writers to produce plays that surprise people as well as entertain them."
—By Paul Webb Theatrenow