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Interview: An Avalanche of Questions

Emily Woof chats about her hit show Blizzard

This week we are in a flurry of excitement because we get to interview Emily Woof whose hit one woman show Blizzard is coming to Soho Theatre from 7 May. Did you catch it when it opened in Edinburgh last summer? Well if not it’s shortly off for a New York run as well, so be quick this time round!

Emily, it’s so great to chat with you about Blizzard – thank you. Can you tell us about its premise and the title of the production?

Great to chat to you. Thanks for having me! So my new show Blizzard is a piece that uses neuroscience, philosophical ideas and emotional storytelling. I was reaching for something both theatrical but emotionally real. Like all my work, it’s always about trying to make sense of how we live – partly because it confuses me so much! But the premise is simple. A neuroscientist becomes ill on the eve of an important conference in Switzerland where he is supposed to be giving the keynote lecture and asks his partner to go on his behalf. She knows nothing about his research and hates speaking in public but agrees to go. When she gets to Switzerland her life begins to unravel. I don’t want to give the story away but she has a mind-blowing adventure which involves dance, sex, Nietzsche, loss and natural disaster.

So if it’s a story about neuroscience is it going to be super-cerebral? Will the everyday theatregoer find something in it to relate to from their own life? Are there any laughs?

Absolutely! It’s aimed at the everyday theatregoer, not academics at all. The tone is both poetical and comic. Our narrator takes the audience with her every step of the way and there are lots of laughs. At least there were in Edinburgh and I hope there will be again. We’re also working on new projection and lighting with Imitating the Dog who are bringing a whole new visual level to the production so I’m super-excited. It’s a show that will touch your heart.

As well as being an accomplished scriptwriter and novelist you have trained in physical theatre. Did you find that binary skillset useful when discovering the shape of the storytelling?

Definitely. The theme of the show is the tragic dualism which rules most human thinking and splits body and mind, human and animal, good and bad etc so using my body and my language skills at the same time is key. I use dance and I use storytelling and move between both at will. I’m thrilled to be developing the dance element of the show with choreographer Sian Williams.

The story is not only about one woman, but also her relationship with her husband, and it’s actually your husband, Hamish McColl, directing the play. Are there any parallels going on here we should know about

Hmmm..  well there’s biographical truth in everything you do at some level but I don’t want to be reductive about it. The crucial thing about working with Hamish is that we share a sensibility. It’s a kind of shorthand we have developed over years of working together.

With such a successful background in TV and film, how does it feel now being on a fringe stage, performing in an intimate space with a live audience?

Honestly it feels amazing to be back in the theatre and making my own work again. I love film acting, but it is a completely different process to shaping my own stories. This show is my voice, and the theatre is where I feel free. I feel responsible to entertain and challenge audiences; to take people on a journey. Of course I was terrified at first to go back on stage – it felt like jumping out of an aeroplane without a parachute – but I’m getting into it… it makes me feel alive.

We mentioned earlier that you’re taking Blizzard off to New York. Can you tell us where you’re going, and how it came about?

We’re going to Theater 59E59 as part of the BRITS OFF BROADWAY season. I’m not exactly sure how it happened to be honest. They saw the show in Edinburgh I think. Their response was instantaneous: they wanted to host the show. I’m really excited to go there. 59E59 is a great theatre and perfect for this show which is deft and intimate.

Thanks very much to Emily for taking the time to tell us about this fascinating show. Blizzard runs from 7 – 25 May 2024 at Soho Theatre. Further information and bookings can be found here.

About Mary Pollard

By her own admission Mary goes to the theatre far too much, and will watch just about anything. Her favourite musical is Matilda, which she has seen 16 times, but she’s also an Anthony Neilson and Shakespeare fan - go figure. She has a long history with Richmond Theatre, but is currently helping at Shakespeare's Globe as a steward and in the archive. She's also having fun being ET's specialist in children's theatre and puppetry, and being a Super Assessor for the Offies! Mary now insists on being called The Master having used the Covid pandemic to achieve an award winning MA in London's Theatre and Performance.