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Meet the Playwright: Camilla Whitehill

24 July 2017

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What is the project you have just worked on with Boundless Theatre?

I was a writer on the Commissioners project. I went into a school, met a class of Year 9s, and wrote a play for them based on their interests and what they’d told me.

 

What can you share with us about the classroom?

Every time I left that classroom I had way more energy than when I’d got there. It was a very invigorating environment. The best thing about teenagers is that they’re so straight with you. If they don’t like something, they’ll make it obvious. I love that. I hate bullshitting.

 

What have you learned about young people?

They’re much funnier than I remember being at that age. A couple of them were funnier than most adults I know. And they’re obsessed with demon possession. Also a lot of them thought cats were evil, which was a blow.

 

“An extremely fun way to let teenagers into your creative process.”

 

What surprised you the most about working on this project?

Probably how well I got on with the kids on a one-to-one basis. When faced with them all as a group it was a bit daunting, but when I went around and chatted to them, I was so pleasantly surprised by how fun and nice they all were.

 

Did you enjoy seeing your play performed to your ‘target audience’? 

It was exciting making work for a specific audience, then watching that specific audience watch the work. There were details and jokes in there I took directly from things they’d said to me, and I think that was fun for them.

How would you sum up the Commissioners experience in a sentence? 

An extremely fun way to let teenagers into your creative process.

 

What made you want to become a playwright?

I love theatre. It’s my favourite thing in the world. I actually wanted to be an actor, then halfway through training the head of Acting sat me down and was like – look, you’re not going to be an actor. You’re going to be a writer or director. I was really pissed off at that. But then I graduated, acted in some dreadful fringe play, hated it, and thought – well I might as well try writing a short play. Which turned out to be much more fun.

 

How important is it to make theatre for young people?

Theatre is not a thing where I grew up. My school barely offered it as a subject, there were no theatres nearby (other than a commercial theatre that houses Chuckle Brothers tours and awful pantos). I was just lucky that my Mum has loved theatre her whole life, and she’d take me up to London to see shows. But that shouldn’t be the way – theatre can give so much to people and you shouldn’t have to have a parent who can afford to take you once a year to access it. I always think of theatre as this open space where you can sit in the dark and just feel things – really feel things, bigger than in real life, and cry and laugh and absorb the liveness of it. Plays can do things for you. A play once made me quit smoking. Everyone should be given the opportunity to love it, and school-age kids should be exploring it as much as they are literature and science.

(I was terrible at science so I might be biased on that).

(From left to right) Actors Kiké Brimah, Serael Asphall and Michael Ballard

 

Read more about playwriting here.