Hidden – Writer and performer Laura Lindsay talks about the play Hidden which begins a national tour at Harrogate Theatre on Tuesday 28th January to Saturday 1st February 2014.
The play’s co-writer, Laura Lindsay spoke to Harrogate-News
Hidden started as a one-woman show. In fact, no, it actually started as a three minute monologue. As a recent graduate from drama school I found myself in a standard position for an actor – short on money and long on time, or as we like to call it ‘resting’. Auditions were few and far between and when they did come I always struggled to find audition pieces that really suited me. As an overweight thirty-something female, it is hard to find a monologue. As any actress over 30 will tell you, the over-30 leading female parts are slim in number, and as I was made all too aware from casting breakdowns, slim in build. So I thought I’d give it a bash myself, write myself something – something for which I was irrefutably suitable. The monologue I began writing was a comedic look at the disparity between the cheery exterior and the buried pain and self-loathing of a chubby 28 year-old woman. I submitted myself into a monologue competition, partly to make sure I finished writing it, and partly to make sure I actually performed it – actors are a procrastinating breed, you see. The monologue went down well, despite my incredible nerves – there is nothing more agonisingly nerve-wracking than performing your own work – on stage, at least. I came second in the competition, but this gave me enough of a boost to believe that it was actually ok. I entered another competition a month later and won! Hooray!
Still, where did I go from there? I had a lovely trophy and a monologue primed and ready, but this didn’t make the auditions come any faster or thicker. I had been approached by a kindly man at the end of the evening who enquired if I had considered extending it into a full-length piece. “No” I protested, “I just did it so I had a monologue”. But his suggestion sat at the back of my mind, and over the course of a few weeks, bore its way to the front – “Yes, why not?!” I thought.
I decided I wanted to introduce more characters to give the piece variety and a broader perspective. The unifying thread would be that each character would have something they were hiding. I wanted to explore the difference between what we portray and what we feel; and how little we know about each other’s inner thoughts. The first piece set the tone – it was to be a darkly funny snapshot of modern life – recognisable, ordinary characters with something buried from the rest of the world, through shame, fear, propriety, whatever. I felt setting it “now” was important, as I thought it provided an interesting irony: the modern world of social media – where we are encouraged to provide round-the-clock updates on our mood, thoughts and feelings – seems so open and exposed. When in fact these statuses, tweets and whatnot are often modified, crafted versions of ourselves – constructed identities – belying what is really going on in our hearts and minds.
However, I realised I had done myself and all chubby women, actors or otherwise, a disservice. In Cara (the chubby 28 year-old) I was buying-into the narrow casting-bracket of: lovers must be attractive and slim; successful business people must be skinny and tall; and to be confident you had to be no more than a size 12. Over that, you must have body-issues and constantly apologise for yourself. This is not true and not fair. Yes, some overweight people do have debilitating self-image issues, but for most this is not what defines them, it’s certainly not what defines me. So the other characters I created had to be battling with demons other than the bulge. They just happened to be fat. Just as Juliet could be fat and still attractive to Romeo, just as Lady Macbeth could be fat and sexually manipulative…I could go on. But this was my chance to actually change the casting perspective.
I enjoyed discovering these characters as I wrote, but it soon became apparent that something was missing. The piece centred on private thought versus public persona, but without a second actor it was hard to portray this dichotomy. Also, I don’t like working on my own. I’m inherently lazy, procrastinating and self-doubting – which doesn’t help for producing a one-woman show. It made sense to get someone else involved, to open up the possibility of interaction within the world of the piece. That’s where Pete comes in. We met whilst training at Arden School of Theatre in Manchester where we discovered a mutual love of new writing, an interest in human psychology and a shared dark sense of humour. He was my perfect collaborator. I had already bounced ideas off him for the first piece so he quickly came on-board with the theme of the play and beavered away creating characters of his own.
We shared our monologues with each other and tinkered away to refine and polish. We then set about working on how the characters’ lives could overlap and what relationships could form. This seemed to happen very naturally – the dramatic irony of certain secrets juxtaposed against each other within certain pairings fell into place very easily. And within a couple of weeks we had a play! Hidden was born. After its first couple of outings we worked with a dramaturg to further develop the web of connections between all the characters: from a fellow commuter, to a shop assistant, to a work colleague, to a partner. Part of the enjoyment for audiences of Hidden is to spot the subtle connections and interweaving of lives, where they are party to much more information than the characters themselves. Hidden explores secrecy and isolation in a modern urban world and the concept of constructed identities. Following a sell-out run at Edinburgh Fringe, these are themes that clearly resonate with a lot of people. Perhaps we should talk more.
After all, if the kindly man hadn’t opened up and told me he enjoyed it, Hidden would never have been written.
Hidden runs from 28 Janurary to 1 February 2-13 tickets 01423 502116 www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk