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Hugo Lau - interview

Deciphering the methods by which we cope with grief, Magic is an upcoming play this month at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre, London. In a narrative that asks the audience to thoughtfully question the subjects at hand, the death of a sibling poses ideas about whether getting drunk and trying to forget is really a feasible mechanism.

Hugo Lau has a big part in bringing the production to the stage and has kindly told us more about how it's come to be.


What is your role in the creation of Magic, and why is the piece important to you?

Hallo Hannah! Thank you for speaking with me about my baby today. I'm Hugo Lau (he/him), I am the writer, director, and sound designer, and I'm playing the roles of Lowell and Ralph. So I'm all over this thing! I started writing it in 2016, so it has been a part of my life for a long time. It is utterly surreal that it will soon be born and I am very excited to see what the people make of it.

How have you found the development process, and what will be most rewarding about bringing it to the stage?

My usual job is as a hospital social worker, so this has been a very different experience for me! Actors are such wonderful, enthusiastic creatures. Seeing my words come alive in ways I never could have imagined, and seeing how much the characters mean to them and how interested they are in portraying them in a way that feels real, has been so rewarding. I have had to remind myself that I wrote it!

How is this show particularly unique?

'Particularly unique' - gosh! Well, one thing is that the play is super queer, but it's not 'about' being queer. We have tried to strike a balance between showing the world as it is, and showing the world as it could be. The play is 'about' grief, in a word, and I hope that we have something to say about it that has not been said before. The play is set in Dublin and all the Irish characters are played by Irish actors. The Irish are very good at grief and we walk the tightrope of humour and sadness in a way only the Irish can.

When tackling the topic of grief, how do you manage the emotions behind it?

For me, this has been a very cathartic experience; a chance to channel the emotions that I deal with on a daily basis at work. We also have my gorgeous partner in crime, Harriet Bevan (she/her), who is the producer and welfare lead. Her usual job is as a psychotherapist, so! The most important lesson I have learned about resilience is: 'boundaries boundaries boundaries,' and to know what makes you feel good and do it. More difficult than it sounds!

How do you manage to provide depth on such thought-provoking subjects within just 80 minutes?

I've been with this script and these characters for a long time and I'd like to think that I have packed a lot in there! Destigmatising grief and end-of-life care is a great passion of mine and I'd like to think I have brought that passion, along with some of the issues I often see when working with people who are dying and grieving, to this play and to the way that we have facilitated rehearsals.

Which moments or scenes do you find notably powerful or meaningful and why?

I think every scene is a corker, so you're asking the wrong guy! I also don't want to give anything away. I'll tell you how the play begins, sure: Natalie comes home at around 5am on Halloween night, totally drunk, out of her mind. Her mum, Fiadh, is at the kitchen table waiting for her. She tells Natalie that her brother, Lowell, has just died. Natalie replies: ’I lost my wallet.’

Encouraging the audience to question their ideas about grief, what is your main message, and what do you hope they take away from seeing the production?

I hope that bearing witness to Natalie grappling with complex grief will make people feel less ashamed and alone in their grief, now or in the future, and that it will encourage people to wade in and be there for people in their lives who are grieving. It can be so difficult to know what to say or do - and you can't make it better, as much as you would like to - and so people will too often shy away from people who are grieving because they don't want to get it wrong. Or, you know, they don't want to remind the person of their bereavement so they endeavour never to bring it up - as if the person has for a second forgotten that their loved one has died! I'd like to think it's just about being there and knowing that there is no 'right thing' to say and that that is ok! The magic and healing come in the attempt. Woof!

How would you sum up the show in 3 words?

Umm... Sad Funny Grief?


Many thanks to Hugo for some great answers and insight into your production and its themes - it's been lovely hearing from you! Best of luck with the show and beyond.

Get your Magic tickets here:


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