On Writing ‘A Secret Life’

Before I met Jo, the artistic director of Baseless Fabric, last year to talk about the possibility of collaborating on a new promenade play, I couldn’t have imagined that six months later, we would have produced a script with verbatim stories from South Londoners as old as 92, which gets delivered to the audience via a smartphone app.

As a playwright, I’ve so far written what you may imagine when you hear the word ‘play’: people sitting in seats, watching actors on a stage. I’ve been to immersive theatre and promenade theatre before, but writing the script for A Secret Life is the first time that I’ve helped create a play that moves — the actors go on a journey out in the world, and you follow them. Read more

Cast announced for ‘A Secret Life’

We are delighted to announce the cast for our upcoming production of ‘A Secret Life‘ at Theatre 503, 10th – 15th May 2016.

Phoebe McIntosh

Phoebe McIntosh

Phoebe McIntosh

Phoebe McIntosh is a London-based actress. Since graduating from the MA Acting course at London’s Arts Educational, Phoebe has gained many diverse and exciting credits.
Her first short, Still Born, was nominated for Best Film at the Black Filmmakers International Festival 2009 when it was screened at the BFI. She has gone on to star in the debut music video for acclaimed artist Emeli Sandé’s single, Heaven, directed by Jake Nava (Beyoncé -Single Ladies) as well as a slate of varied and well-received short films ranging from sci-fi to comedy.
In 2012, she worked under Creative Director, Danny Boyle, as a member of the ensemble cast of the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony, where she performed in front of a live audience of 80,000.
This year sees the release of her debut feature film, The Long Road, in which she plays lead female love interest, Rosie.
Phoebe is also a writer and in 2013 she penned, produced and performed in a sell-out run of her first play, The Tea Diaries, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival before it made its London fringe debut at The Tea House Theatre, Vauxhall.
As a voiceover artist she narrates audiobooks, corporate films and video games.
Phoebe is represented by Michael Keane at Elaine Murphy Associates. Read more

“I was a bit of a loose cannon. I was expelled for not turning up…”

We’ve had a busy few months with our outreach for A Secret Life. We’ve been meeting many wonderful local people and hearing all about their teenage years – and I’ve been popping into Wimbledon Guild so frequently recently I feel like I’m almost part of the team there now! We’ve heard about people’s very different school experiences and yet how career options for women in particular were so very limited for so many years (mostly nursing or secretarial or working in a shop). We’ve interviewed people aged 65 years to 92 years old (the wonderful Derek) at both community centres and individually. The ladies at Merton & Morden Guild kept us laughing with their hilarious first date stories, while at the Katherine Low Settlement we heard what it was like growing up gay when being gay was still illegal…

Meanwhile, it’s also been great fun engaging young people with the audio recordings of elderly people’s memories and how it compares to their own experiences. I think some of the Year 10s at St Marks Academy, Mitcham were surprised to hear Jim (age 82) started smoking when he was 12 and gave up when he was 14, while Jane’s story of not wanting to go to a party because she couldn’t afford the ‘right’ thing to wear resonated with some of the girls. We talked about their stresses about exams and career choices and the pressure on image today, especially with the positives and negatives of social media.

If you’re coming along to see A Secret Life (and you should because it’s going to be great!) you’ll get to hear the words of some of the real people we’ve spoken to as part of the script that Tamara Micner is currently beavering away at putting together. You can book tickets here.

For now, we’ll leave you with a few of the things we’ve heard:

“I had several boyfriends but this time they all came to the door together at half past seven. All to pick me up. My mother was fuming…I was a proper flirt. I just knew when to stop.”

“I wasn’t allowed to go to the cinema, my mum and dad didn’t approve of going to the cinema til I was probably 13 or 14 probably, and that’s when I can remember Elvis Presley films coming out, and being an Elvis Presley fan and wanting to see all his films so that’s when we had to take our little white socks off and get in the queue and hope we’d get in even though we were under 15.”

“I was a bit of a loose cannon. I was expelled for not turning up…I did frustrate them, I know I did. I just went and did things that drove them crazy.”

Our residency at Wimbledon Space

Wimbledon Space Residency

Wimbledon Space Residency

We had a fantastic time during our residency at Wimbledon Space exploring new digital theatre piece A Secret Life for Theatre 503 for the Wandsworth Arts Fringe in May. We learnt loads about the directions the piece might go in and the support from the lovely students was brilliantly helpful.

This is a project about the elderly’s memories of adolescence, connecting teenagers today with those memories and how they compare to their own teenage experiences. We have been interviewing and audio recording some amazing local people in Merton and Wandsworth and hearing their varied stories about being a teenager – whether that’s growing up in a men’s club and being taught billiards, hating school and playing netball was the only thing that got you through it, not being able to afford the right thing to wear to a party and so not wanting to go, or the joy of first love. There’s differences in what people went through as a teenager – and yet a lot that is the same years later.

Wimbledon Space Residency

Wimbledon Space Residency

So, Tamara, our writer, and I started off our residency by listening to our audio recordings so far, writing down anything that might be interesting for our play and putting them on A4 paper in coloured pens on the wall – we separated them into topics such as family life, school, hobbies, figuring out who you are…

Meanwhile, Francis got to work on the app for the piece. Our audience will hear the inner thoughts of a character via audio through an app they have downloaded to their smartphone. The students tested their design skills in a new way helping us to design the user interface of the app to make it not only look good but also be simple and clear to use.

About half way through the residency we also realised that some of the students at Wimbledon College of Art are still teenagers so we could get their responses to our elderly people’s audio recordings and their own thoughts on being a teenager (again more coloured pens and big bits of paper on the walls). We tempted people in with the lure of biscuits (who doesn’t love a chocolate digestive?!), asked them to watch and listen to the audio recordings with added pictures projected onto the walls and recorded their responses via questionnaire.

Overall, thank you so much to Wimbledon Space for this brilliantly useful and productive residency! We learnt a lot and consumed a lot of biscuits.