In her first project as our Artistic Development Manager, Jane Ryan will be introducing us to some of today’s most exciting playwrights! In our ‘Interviewing Playwrights’ series, Jane will be chatting to various writers about themselves, their inspiration, and their latest projects. This week, Jane sits down with Megan Smith to talk about her latest play, Girl on Girl.
“I still think I have so much to learn, but I have to remind myself I belong in this amazing but crazy industry and I have just as much right to be here as anyone else.”
It is midweek midday and Smith arrives – wrapped in a yellow dress brightening up the coffee shop on Regent Street. We meet here as it is close to her day job. “I don’t think you can escape being an artist, writer, actress and not have a day job – and if you can you are so lucky”, she says.
Megan Smith has many strings on her bow. “When people ask, I always say Actor, as that is what I trained to do. I love performing and bringing characters to life. However, my career has relied upon me producing my own material and I do spend a lot of my time writing – so I suppose I am a writer too.” Her play, Girl on Girl, is going to be staged at the King’s Head Theatre, London and I ask how this started. Her enthusiasm for the process to get this off the ground accentuates her passion for stories with meaning, with her new play exploring the theme of everyday sexism from a female perspective. She likes writing that is a collaborative; “If you gave me a title and put me in a room with people, that is what I love”.
“About two years ago, I had come across the play The Women by Clare Boothe Luce. Set in the 1920s, it gives a glimpse into the lives of Manhattan socialites and the gossip that drives (and harms) their relationships. When I was reading the play, I was struck by the language and the characters that were in the script. The script is almost 100 years old. Yes, some things were different. We aren’t wearing corsets and have the vote – but in terms of the dialogue and stereotyped characters, it seemed nothing had changed. Don’t get me wrong, I think women are incredible and so good at supporting one another – but we are also each other’s harshest critics. As women, our behaviour is so ingrained into our way of being. The more I thought about it, the more I realised I wanted to develop the idea. I asked my good friend Lily Howkins, if she wanted to start writing together with these themes in mind. We started off sending each other bits of dialogue, monologues and observations, and slowly Girl on Girl began to take shape.”
Smith’s doesn’t come from a theatrical background. Her mother is a French teacher and father is a journalist. She spent most of her childhood outside of London in Sawbridgeworth (called Sawbo to the locals). Her parents encouraged her to play sports, learn musical instruments and pushed her to engage with languages: “I loved performing. I was the bossy family member who would take it upon herself to direct every Christmas show, making sure I had at least one singing solo. I got into National Youth Theatre and was always asking to do drama courses or be taken to the theatre.”
She went on to read Combined Arts (French and History with other subjects), whilst embracing the theatre scene. This lead on to spending a year in Paris as part of her degree and then a post graduate acting course at Mountview.
She began writing soon after drama school, with a comedy sketch group called Mixed Doubles. “We took a couple of shows up to Edinburgh and performed on BBC Radio 4. I loved the feeling of making people laugh and also saw the benefits of being in control of your own show and material. Our sketches were very observational, but there was always a part of me that wanted to write something a little more reflective of the world I was living in. Girl on Girl has been amazing to write with someone else and it has now given me the confidence to start writing by myself on other projects for next year”. she says.
The short time I was with Megan, she came across driven, passionate and open, “I still think I have so much to learn but I have to remind myself I belong in this amazing but crazy industry and I have just as much right to be here as anyone else.” The plays she wished she had written vary from Low Level Panic by Clare McIntyre, The Acid Test by Anya Reiss to Linda by Penelope Skinner. She has inspiring ambitions. I ask where she would be like in ten years; it can be as extreme as she wants and she replies, “On a professional level I hope I’m still writing, putting on productions and acting. My dream would be to tread the boards at The National Theatre someday with an all-female cast in a play I’d written. Never say never….”
Girl on Girl will be at the Kings Head Theatre on 11th and 12th July 2019 at 8pm.
You can purchase tickets by clicking here.