The Space Arts Centre is always a great place to venture if you are looking for exciting, fresh new writing. Even better now, if you can’t actually get there in person, you can watch all their shows streamed online via their upgraded webcam equipment, opening up a whole new audience to this wonderful old building.
To welcome audiences back in person, they have announced a jam-packed new season. Included in that schedule is Antandre Productions‘ The Cloak of Visibility. This play explores the pressure society places on a woman to be seen to ‘have it all’. As if she didn’t already have enough on her plate as the show goes through final rehearsals, we caught up with writer Louise Breckon-Richards to chat about its central themes and whether it’s really possible for anyone to have it all?
Hi Louise. We’ve touched briefly on what the play is about, but do you want to give us a more in-depth description?
The play centres around a woman Amy, who on the surface seems to have it all, and is living a full, balanced life, but as we follow her story, we realise that all is not what it seems. It explores themes of loss, visibility, disappointment and hope, in a society where she is feeling like she is being slowly erased.
Amy is a more mature woman; do you feel there is generally a lack of writing focusing on older women?
I do. There is still some lazy storytelling written for women over forty, where we are often a stereotype, or a vessel for other characters to have a more fun, interesting journey. I like to put my older female characters at the centre of the story, where they lead the action rather than just react or sidestep it.
Are there any autobiographical elements within the play, or is it based on women you have met along the way?
No, there aren’t any autobiographical elements in the play, but I have met and talked at length with women who have experienced some of the more traumatic parts of the piece. I can relate more to the themes of the play rather than what happens. I have felt deep grief and loss, lack of hope, and have many times felt invisible as I’ve got older, but I also wanted to show the fun, more anarchic side of Amy too, which is definitely in me.
As well as a playwright, you’re also an actor. Did you ever consider playing Amy yourself?
No. I performed a one woman piece not so long ago called Can You Hear Me Running and it was a great, empowering experience, but I’m happier acting with others on stage for now. I would like to write something for myself soon though.
The play is being put on by Antandre Productions, a female-focused production company. Was that important to you when deciding on who to give the play to?
Yes, it was definitely important. Marie (Marie-Elena Nash), who runs the company, put a call out initially, and I sent her the play, which happened to fit with what Antandre’s intentions and goals are. I knew after the first time we did it that I wanted to develop it further with the company and her determination has managed, throughout a very difficult year, to get us this far. I love that she is giving a voice to unheard stories and works hard to be the most supportive producer to everyone involved.
As the writer, do you have much involvement with rehearsals, or are you politely ushered out of the room?
It’s been tricky with Covid, as normally I’d love to be in the same room as the actor, in case there are any questions or alterations needed in the moment. We have, however, done well to have meetings online to talk through the play and any changes that may be needed. I like to get my plays as near to ready for rehearsals, especially as this was a one woman show and I knew Sally (Vanderpump) would need to cement learning it without me throwing anything in at the last minute.
So finally, what do you hope people will take away after watching the play?
I hope they will take away a better understanding of what can easily happen to anyone when faced with a huge loss or trauma. I also hope, however, they will have managed to find the humour and entertainment in the piece. And on another level, after the year we’ve had, I hope the audience achieve a feeling of having been taken somewhere else for a moment, in the way only theatre can: a welcome reunion, sitting with others in an auditorium, finally experiencing live theatre…together.
Our thanks to Louise for finding time to chat to us. You can see The Cloak of Visibility at The Space Arts Centre between Tuesday 1 and Saturday 5 June, with an additional matinee on the Saturday. The show is also available to live stream on Thursday 3 June.
Louise will be taking part in a live Q&A after the show on 3 June, which is available to book for free along with a ticket to the show, either live or online. Full details can be found on The Space’s website via the below link.