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Edie Walwyn- interview

Coming to The Cockpit theatre this month, Tipsy is a play detailing the effects of heavy drinking on an overworked and stressed young woman, who visits a nail bar for a manicure, and lets it all out. Sharing a whole spectrum of emotions with the audience on board, Maria uses alcohol to alter her perceptions of the world when it starts getting tough.


As the writer and producer of the show, Edie Walwyn gives a great interview about the piece - read on to hear more.

 

What inspired you to create this piece, and why do you think the concept is stageworthy?


Tipsy is inspired by an incident in which I had a few too many glasses of wine whilst getting a manicure, and subsequently turned the whole affair into some kind of weird, boozy therapy. Although the events of Tipsy are in no way realistic, the sentiment will resonate with anyone who struggles with their sense of self, or anyone who’s had their head scolded at the hairdressers and said, ‘That temperature’s great thanks!’ (which is probably about 99% of British people). Beauty and nail salons are unique spaces ripe for comedy. When I go for my waxing appointments, Iulia (who is incredible by the way) and I will be immersed in a serious conversation about the climate catastrophe, mental health, inflation, or party politics, all whilst she’s waxing my arsehole. What’s not stageworthy about that?




How did you find the progress of writing the script, and what have you most enjoyed about bringing it to fruition?


Writing Tipsy has been a journey, and not always a smooth one. When I was writing the play in collaboration with Rugby School’s Drama Department, I wanted to rip my own hair out in frustration. Luckily that all ended and the real writing could begin. However the collaboration required the play to have a cast of eight and as a result, I was pushed to ensure that all eight characters had a meaningful and impactful role, and admittedly the play is so much the better for it.


The short film, and early drafts of the play, were entirely focused on the protagonist. Between ‘Tipsy’ the short film I wrote back in 2019 and ‘Tipsy’ the two-act play we have today it’s been so enriching to see the other characters come alive, and I’m excited for audiences to meet the entire ensemble. As for bringing the production itself to fruition; that’s up to our director, Zara, who I worked with closely on later drafts of the script. After all, it’s the creative team who ultimately make the magic happen!




What drew you to the genre of dark comedy, and why does this appeal to audiences?


I recently had to listen to someone tell me that Gen Z ‘own’ dark comedy, that dark comedy is a new thing, that Gen Z are the only generation that can laugh at death. Aside from the fact that all this generational hoo-ha is divisive nonsense, I took delight in smugly listing text after text that uses dark comedy all the way from Ancient Greece, to Chekhov, to the present day. Dark comedy appeals to me as a writer above all else, and to audiences too, because I think it depicts the complex human condition in the most accurate and captivating way and as such, connects us to others not only across countries and cultures, but throughout history. Taking a look at sad, bad and horrible things through a humorous lens is nothing new, and there’s a good reason dark comedy endures in such a way.




How do you think the show reflects drinking culture, and how are the emotions that are revealed as the performance progresses impactful?


Maria (Tipsy’s protagonist) drinks to become what she believes is a more palatable version of herself, which in fact has the opposite effect as alcohol turns her into a drunken, clumsy buffoon. London is a city for drunk people. After a certain hour in London, it feels like you either keep drinking or you go home, whereas in, for example, Valencia, families are still out eating dinner until late at night. Maria’s relationship with drinking is one of escapism, of masking; and the inescapably boozy city she resides in only fuels that further.




What effect does the connection with the audience have when addressing them, as this changes over the course of the hour?


In the original ‘Tipsy’ short film script, the audience was given access to Maria’s thoughts by way of a voice over. When I adapted what would become Tipsy for the stage, addressing the audience was a useful way to convey those thoughts without losing pace and becoming too monologue-y. My hope is that by being addressed directly, the audience will also feel like an extension of Tipsy as they watch it unfold. Just like the nail techs and customers around Maria, the audience too becomes embroiled in her shenanigans just by being there. It also holds symbolic significance too, as the act of addressing the audience becomes an act of addressing the ‘self’.


As you rightly say, that relationship changes over the course of the play, which in turn has implications for the ‘self’ for those characters who address the audience. Ordinarily, when a character interacts with the audience, it acts as an inner monologue. However, for characters who struggle to marry their ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ selves such as Maria, those lines become blurred.




What message does Tipsy convey, particularly about becoming overworked, and immersed in our thoughts?


Tipsy protagonist Maria’s experience of mental exhaustion means that she’s both hypersensitive to those around her, and extremely selfish without a care for others. It’s an inner conflict that only starts to be relieved once she starts shedding some of the burdens she is holding onto when she first walks through the nail doors. It's all fine and well to say, ‘I’m going to treat myself to a glass of wine and a manicure’, but if one is struggling with mental health as much as some of the characters in Tipsy are, as much as I was when I wrote it, simply burying the problem won’t solve it. These

things have a habit of spilling out, whether we like it or not.




How do you anticipate audiences feeling when leaving, having been part of some honest and deep conversations?


Generally speaking, I don’t like to ponder how audiences will feel when leaving something I’ve written, that is out of my control. There are certainly themes that I hope to convey as a writer, particularly around gender, mental health, sexual health, the list goes on. However, ultimately, as much as I hope the serious themes seep in, I just want people to leave Tipsy having had a fun night out. With everything being so expensive, going to the theatre is seen as a luxury when in reality, the cost of a ticket to Tipsy is the same as 3 cheap pints. So, what I really hope is that people leave Tipsy with an appreciation of the value of theatre.

 

That's sounds like a great note to end on! Many thanks to Edie for some wonderful answers and wishing you the best of luck for your upcoming run.


Get tickets here:


Additional thanks to Georgina Carter for coordinating this interview.

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