Boundless Digital Producer Debora Katia Tutta sat down with Judy Upton, writer of Confidence shortly after we opened the play at Southwark Playhouse. Judy talks about her experiences of writing the play, what inspired it and how it feels having the play on stage for a new generation.
Debora: What inspired you to write Confidence?
Judy: Confidence was inspired by growing up at the seaside near Brighton and by how run down things were at that time… and people were struggling to get jobs and everyone was doing everything that they could to get by… but I didn’t write the play until the 90s in Seven Oaks with other playwrights. I started writing it to amuse the other writers in the evening… it started out almost as a series of sketches about these characters and the play evolved from there… so it just sort of happened.
Debora: Is there any character that is based on someone you’ve known or on a real person in general?
Judy: Not hugely in this play, but just the whole spirit that we had at that time of getting by in any way we could and to make a bit of money really and survive.
Debora: Where do you think this kind of spirit came from? What was the political and social situation at the time that led to this kind of youth spirit?
Judy: I think it’s just because, particularly down on the South Coast, everybody was going on holiday to Spain and it got a little bit run down so we were kind of making our own art scene. We felt a little bit left behind and a bit out of it but we were sort of determined to do things.
keep going… keep going, but not as Ella does. Don’t let people down, be nice to people on the way up, be always nice and help people alongside you, but keep trying. We all have those little moments where everything goes down, even then keep going, keep persevering and be resilient.
Debora: If you were to name the themes of Confidence, what would they be?
Judy: Ducking and diving, also friendship, particularly in a small area where everyone is working together… and rivalries and just doing things that are barely legal sometimes to get by.
Debora: What do you think about Ella? She’s obviously a bit of a con-artist so she’s not the ideal example of how one should behave…?
Judy: I like her because I really wanted to write a play where a woman leads the action… I’d been watching so many plays where the woman was still just the girlfriend or the beautiful flatmate that the guy wanted to get off with and didn’t… so I wanted to write a play where the woman moves things on and I always liked novels like Vanity Fair where there is a leading female heroine scheming and pushing the action on and trying to get her own way, so I kind of admire Ella for that… but also she is a person that does sort of pay for not being terribly moral, she doesn’t end up with deep friendships so you get the feeling that she’s drifting through this kind of scene many times and she really hasn’t found values in life.
Debora: How do you think this play reflects the moment we are living in now in 2018, so 20 years after Confidence was first seen on stage?
Judy: Possibly we are going back that way again with it being a great struggle for young people to actually find what they want to do and also the opportunities in the job market not being terribly good, but people are setting up themselves with start-up companies and people setting up and doing their own thing seems to be the way people are going and they are asking me lots of questions about being freelance… I have always been freelance and never had a proper job for longer than three weeks. I’ve always done my own thing, whether it was selling crafts or getting on with my writing.
Debora: So you could say that Confidence is also inspired by who you are.
Judy: Yes, I never felt like doing a 9 to 5 office job and go on to become a secretary or something like that. I wanted to become a writer since I was about 12 .
Debora: If there was one lesson you get out of Confidence, what do you think that would that be?
Judy: Maybe resilience… keep going… keep going, but not as Ella does. Don’t let people down, be nice to people on the way up, be always nice and help people alongside you, but keep trying. We all have those little moments where everything goes down, even then keep going, keep persevering and be resilient.
Debora: Do you have a favourite character?
Judy: I think I have a soft spot for Ruby, who always tries to do the right thing and she shows great compassion. She’s very loyal to Edwin, she knows Ben has been unfair to her friend by sacking her and she spots Ella for what she is as soon as she arrives. I think admire Ruby for her strong moral compass really.
Debora: Last question. How does it feel to have Confidence back on stage?
Judy: It’s just fantastic to see a new generation of actors perform it and bringing fresh ideas to it. It’s just great. I really enjoyed it the first time round and now I am really sure I will enjoy it this time around.
If you want to learn more about Judy, her other plays or current projects then head on over to her website.
Confidence by Judy Upton
23 May – 16 June 2018
All photography: Helen Murray (@helenmurraypix)s