Amelia Kontesi on her new play, Someone Of Significance
They say that opposites attract, and that is exactly the premise for Someone Of Significance, which comes to VAULT Festival between 28 February and 5 March. Here, one is a prominent left-wing politician, the other a CEO of a multinational corporation. It’s certainly taking opposites to a whole new level, so we thought we’d grab some time with writer Amelia Kontesi to find out more about the play and whether she had anyone in mind when penning her characters?
Besides being about two people from opposite ends of the political spectrum falling in love, what more do we need to know about Someone Of Significance?
Someone of Significance is a story that looks at the evolution of love over time – how we change ourselves and each other within a relationship. It also explores the ways in which these two people succeed and fail in politics and the corporate world, and therefore, the beliefs and societal structures that nurture us and drive our pursuits. It asks what happens when we become so focused on winning that we forget what it is that we were fighting for to start with.
And did you have any specific people in mind when creating your two characters?
The characters aren’t modelled after specific people, but they draw from many public figures who helped shape the economy and political world as we know it today. I was very intrigued by the rise of younger activist politicians as well as by a growing trend in business leaders that saw themselves as drivers of social change. It would seem simple, in theory, for these two sides to work together, but we rarely see it happen in practice. The play was an exercise in understanding who these people might be behind the scenes and who they are before and after being in the limelight.
Our ideas about left and right wing politics has become quite blurred nowadays, how left wing have you created Rosie, the politician in question?
Without wanting to spoil the play, I’ll say Rosie’s politics change over the course of the 13 years that the play is set in. As she grows older and understands the world of politics better, her political ideas and her public image start diverging. As we all grow and become exposed to the “real world,” we realise that most pursuits – whether they are academic, professional or artistic – require compromises. Very rarely do you meet someone who has lived their whole life without having made big or small compromises to their vision. As much as I admire those people, in this play, I wanted to explore the ones who are imperfect, the ones who have fallen and compromised and still find in them the fire to get back on their feet, pursue a greater goal – or make smaller compromises. Rosie and Brad are both people who ask, get and take advantage of second (maybe, even third) chances.
It started life as a short play developed by Chelsea Rep and The Acting Studio, what can you tell us about its early life then?
The Acting Studio produces short play festivals approximately twice a year and has a long-standing commitment to developing new writing. We workshopped the play over the course of a few months alongside Acting Studio faculty, the play’s director and the actors with the goal of creating a clear and layered storyline without veering away from the core of the dramatic action, which is the love story.
Since then, it’s been developed as part of Young Vic’s Neighbourhood Voices Programme, what is that all about then?
I joined the programme in its fourth year and feel very fortunate to have benefited from insights developed in previous years and incredible mentorship from the dramaturgs and producers involved in the programme. By mentoring writers from Lambeth and Southwark over the course of a year, the Young Vic aims to develop diverse writing voices that tell stories focused on elevating local communities. It is an incredible resource for new writers and brings together a truly diverse group of people who each share their own perspective and grow together. I learned so much from the people at the programme and am really excited to be collaborating with Funlola Olufunwa, a writer and actor, who I met through Neighbourhood Voices to bring Someone of Significance to life as she will be playing the role of Rosie alongside Simon Bass who is playing Brad.
How much has it changed from your initial vision for the short play?
The short version of Someone of Significance opened three years ago. That was before COVID. I lived in New York rather than London, was under thirty and with a lot less grey hair. I am joking, of course, but the play has changed because I have changed a lot, and so has the world that we live in. I hope that as the play evolved, it became a lot more intentional in its exploration of what it means to seek love and connection in an increasingly more divided world. The political pendulum hasn’t stopped moving in the past few years, economic inequities have accelerated, and the pandemic really brought out our sense of isolation in a hyper-connected world. We are using this political backdrop to tell a story of Intimacy that comes at a high cost.
The play’s just a few weeks away from opening at VAULT Festival, how are rehearsals going, and has your cast brought in new ideas for you to consider from the earlier incarnation?
It’s such a delight always to hear new work performed by a cast of actors who each bring their perspective to the characters and the story. We are very fortunate to be working with two incredibly talented and experienced actors and it would be a missed opportunity to not incorporate the perspective and unique insights they bring to the rehearsal room. Just this week, we were playing around with a scene and jokingly had one of the two actors practise tai chi throughout. Well, it worked! And we’re keeping it.
Is this now the “final” full length version or is this just another stepping stone towards that?
When is a play really final? We’re hoping to see how audiences react to this version and build towards further opportunities to perform the piece.
And as we’re talking Someone of Significance, any MP’s on either wing you feel might make a perfect companion then?
Ha! He is not an MP, but I would love to have President Obama in the audience one day. A girl can dream, right?
Thanks again to Amelia Kontesi for the chat. You can catch Someone of Significance when it plays VAULT Festival 2023 between 28 February to 5 March. Further information and bookings here.