Q&A with Lorna French
What are the themes of City Melodies?
City Melodies themes concern the fragmented sense of home and the impermanence of life as explored through the experiences of first and second generation immigrants to London. Other themes include the negative repercussions of putting people into boxes based on a prejudiced response to the unknown. Finally, the theme of persevering despite adversity and pursuing your dream is also explored.
Why did you write City Melodies and why now?
I wrote City Melodies because of my anger at the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012 and also the overlooked effects on ordinary people of austerity in Britain. I wanted to explore how black men are stereotyped as threatening and scary (this was inspired by a 17 year old Trayvon Martin who looked very much like my nephew, who was the same age. It struck me that my nephew could be considered dangerous and threatening were he wearing a hoodie and seen merely as a stereotype). My intention was to make personal and individual the stereotypes of the black man or boy and of the immigrant that we are bombarded with by media and politicians in Britain every day. I also intended to show how harmful such stereotyping can be.
City Melodies is important now because the themes in it speak to current issues which are extremely relevant to the UK today, particularly post Brexit. These include modern immigration and differing attitudes to the successive waves of immigrants arriving in London from different parts of the world. Also the challenges of finding fulfilling employment, following your dreams and negotiating clashes between the stereotypes prevalent in our society and the true individual experiences of the people behind those stereotypes are all important issues in Britain in 2016.
Which playwrights influence you and why?
I am influenced by the structural exploration of Caryl Churchill, the poetic immediacy of debbie tucker green, the morality that Arthur Miller’s plays explore and the notion of writing very specifically from within a non-dominant community that Toni Morrison and Sam Selvon engage in.
What do you want to achieve as a playwright?
I want to affect an audience emotionally and intellectually and make them look at something that was previously familiar that little bit differently; to make them ask questions they may not have considered before.