Playwright Ella Carmen Greenhill discusses her new play Plastic Figurines
PUBLISHED: 00:00 01 April 2015
Ella Carmen Greenhill discusses her career as a writer and her new play which is very close to her heart.
Ella Carmen Greenhill speaks very passionately about her career as a writer, but it was a career in acting that first appealed to her. She studied acting at Liverpool John Moores University where she took any opportunity she could in her spare time to write. She later applied for a Young Writers course at the Liverpool Everyman Playhouse whom she found extremely supportive. “Suzanne Bell, who was the theatres’ Drama and Literary Manager and also responsible for developing writers, was extremely supportive of me and told me that I had a very distinct style. I had an attachment with them which led to an attachment with Paines Plough. It was
then I realised this was the only thing I loved doing.”
Ella has worked with an array of different companies throughout her career working in an assortment of different methods and styles. She once worked with a company called ‘Pop Up Theatrics’ who were a New York based company and one of the innovative projects she took on was via Skype. “We performed a piece for one audience member at a time via Skype. The director was located in New York, the actor was in Mexico and I was in Liverpool.” This fresh outlook to a diverse way of writing and performing proved successful with the project moving from New York, to Edinburgh and Romania. Ella even spent time in Madrid and Budapest. “I enjoyed the experience on the whole, because I always enjoy finding new people to work with.”
It was at a festival in Liverpool called ‘Picture City’ that she first met Adam Quayle (Joint Artistic Director and Co-Founder of Box of Tricks Theatre Company). The festival itself was 5 Liverpool writers responding to a picture of their city, then writing and performing a 5 minute piece about it. “I found it to be a scary process, but it was a brilliant experience.” It was after the festival that she was commissioned to write a short for the company and a relationship blossomed.
In April this year, Ella’s new play ‘Plastic Figurines’ starts a tour in Liverpool and throughout the north. It was a topic that was close to home for her and one that she pitched to Adam. “It was during an event known as ‘Word Play’ in which 6 writers – 3 from the North West and 3 from the South West – are given a word as a visual and then have to pitch an idea and it was during that process that the idea for Plastic Figurines was born.”
“I believe that everything you write is from experience and this story was no different.” The play is about two siblings, Rose and Michael. Michael has autism and the play describes living with autism, not from the point of view of Michael, but from Roses’ point of view. “My brother has autism and the experience of living with him and exploring my grief when my mum passed away was one that inspired me to write the play. It tells the story of two siblings, but they are not my brother and I. They are just fictional characters in a similar situation to us.”
Ella did a lot of research in the initial stages as she found she was suffering from writers block due to the nature of the play and how personal it was with her. “I wanted to speak to different people on different levels of the subject as I felt that the play cannot be written suggesting that this was the answer, but the definitive idea about the subject.”
“I worked with children who suffer with autism and their parents and also read a lot of documentaries and also a blog that stated – ‘If you’ve met one person with autism then you’ve met one person with autism.’ It really freed me because I was bringing my own experiences, I was telling the story and this is my story.” Adam was involved from the initial idea and has worked very closely with Ella to produce the story. “I was very confident to pass the play over to Adam to direct as I felt he knows it so well. We’ve learnt the play together.”
As the play only has two performers, I asked Ella if that made the writing process easier or more difficult. “I prefer to write for fewer characters. If a character has to be there then they have to be there for a reason. If they’re not doing anything then there’s no point in them being there at all. With Plastic Figurines it’s really important that it’s just the two of them.”
It was evident throughout the conversation we had just how much determination and versatility that Ella has in her writing. “I used to spend a lot of time just thinking and scribbling notes and it wasn’t until I was happy that I have thought of everything that I would start work on the script. When that time came it was a very intense process which meant I would block everyone out while I immersed myself in my work and avoid distractions.” Ella has plans for the future and is working on more than just theatrical plays. She would like to write a film one day and she has more recently written the pilot of a TV series that she would like to continue with. She also took part in a writing trial for Coronation Street in January for which she was named as one of the winning writers. “I find nowadays that having various projects helps with the way I work. If I get blocked with one project then I could just move on to another one by which time I would have an idea how to continue with the previous piece of work. It doesn’t matter what you are working on, you are still working.”
She wants people to not only see her work, but to talk about it. That is an aspect of her writing that she feels is really important. “I want to produce a piece of work that will get the audience talking to each other, not just to ask whether it was good or not, but to discuss the content in detail. People want to be challenged. I like projects that challenge me as a writer. It can scare me a little bit, but that’s what fuels me. If a piece isn’t good enough then I want to push myself to ensure that it is good enough.”
Plastic Figurines begins its tour at the Liverpool Playhouse Studio on April 8th. For full details on the production visit the website at www.boxoftrickstheatre.co.uk