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Interview: Taking A Trip Through Time with Free School Lunch

Free School Lunch’s Aurelia Gage on her new play, All This Must Pass

Free School Lunch impressed us last year with their Camden Fringe offering, Sisters Of Charity. They are back again at the Fringe this year with their brand new play All This Must Pass. The play looks an epic exploration through time as a woman tries to find how she came to be.

It certainly sounds an ambitious and exciting endeavour, and you know we love ambitious and exciting new writing here at ET. So it felt a great time to get ourselves some Free School Lunch as we sat down to chat with Aurelia to ask her about the play.

Book tickets here.

The play promises to cover hundreds of years, how do you manage to squeeze so much into just an hour?

Not even an hour: 55 minutes! I wish I was a talented enough writer to do that, but it has required a generous edit. All This Must Pass tells the story of one woman travelling through time and space to discover the people that made her – it is the ultimate family reunion and because of that, it’s very exclusive. We meet celebrated heroes, despised villains, and those who history doesn’t care to remember – but all of whom serve a purpose for our main character.

What made you want to write a play spanning centuries?

I wanted to write about people who would/could never be put together and have them all share the same stage. For me, it was the perfect way to explore all the faucets of one person and properly articulate how they could possibly experience such a life-changing event.

And what is it that will bind all the moments in time together?

Every person, every decision, every moment has led to the life of our main character. She is the thread that binds them together and they, through every decision (good and bad) have created her.

The central theme of the play is the loss of a child during pregnancy, can you tell us a little more about this theme and why you wanted to explore it in this way?

I’ve wanted to explore child loss in my writing for a long time. I couldn’t reconcile the fact that something was so common and yet endless testimonies create a picture of an ordeal people largely navigate alone. I recently lost my father; and the outpouring of love and support was incredible, but what do you do when you’re told “it’s just one of those things” and the world moves on without you? How do you share your grief with others? How do you grieve someone you never got to know? These questions crop up in a quarter of all pregnancies, and for our main character in All This Must Pass. She is left without a map to navigate her grief and so looks to her ancestors to share their strength, their pain, and to know them in a way she couldn’t know her child.   

Last year’s Sisters of Charity was a very Irish based play, and All This Must Pass makes mention of the Potato Famine of Ireland – is there a strong Irish feel throughout?

Irish identity crops up in a lot of my plays, Sisters of Charity in particular was a homage to the Irish women and children who were let down so badly by the Catholic Church. We get to spend some time in Ireland (and discover the best theme park on earth) in All This Must Pass but it’s one stop on a much more expansive journey through time and space.  

Sisters Of Charity was a fantastic play, but very dark in its themes, is All This Must Pass going to follow a similar path? And how do you avoid things becoming too bleak?

First of all, thank you! And yes, there’s no getting away from the darker themes in both my plays. My focus as a writer is to bring light to maligned or forgotten people, but the driving force behind that is the strength, joy and humour people can show in the darkest of times. All This Must Pass in a one-woman show performed by the phenomenal Aidan Morris. Aidan is an actor, dancer and stand-up comedian; the energy she brings to the stage is just incredible. It was important for me to have a living breathing character tell this story, not just a vessel for a trauma. And as much as this is a story of grief, it is also a story of love, laughter and a good old knees-up at a family reunion.  

The play is on at Lion and Unicorn Theatre, how much has the venues support helped (or is helping) in getting this play ready?

Honestly, Sisters of Charity and All This Must Pass wouldn’t have happened without The Lion and Unicorn or David Brady (Artistic Director of Proforca Theatre). In 2021 we were in the midst of a pandemic (and still are), the industry was on its knees, and I had never produced my own play. There wasn’t a question too stupid or a problem too big for the theatre and its team. For an early career theatre maker like me, David and his team really gave me a roadmap for a seemingly impossible task and the all-round support of some really good people.  

All This Must Pass plays as part of Camden Fringe between 18 – 20 August at The Lion and Unicorn Theatre. Further information and bookings can be found here.

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