Q&A with Melanie Pennant
What are the themes of your play?
Motherhood and loss; the lengths a parent will go to in order to protect their child; how one’s inability to let go, even of falsehoods, has the potential to cause irreparable damage; racism – how deeply entrenched it can be, how it manifests itself and the far-reaching consequences it can have.
Why did you write it and why now?
Whenever brutal crimes occur, people want to know who the victims and the perpetrators friends, family, mothers, step-fathers are. And those family members and associates are analysed, picked apart and in some cases implicitly blamed. There is an expectation that a victim’s family must behave in a certain way and if they don’t that the crime is somehow lesser. I wanted to explore what the world might look like for those families.
This summer, as I was enjoying time in my local park with my family, a group of young boys riding by on their bikes called us monkeys. I never wanted my children to be exposed to that and I can’t believe that this is still with us in 2017! Where did that come from? Who told those boys that was acceptable? The play explores how hateful comments and “harmless” jokes can manifest themselves years afterwards and how racism, in its many forms, can pass down from one generation to other with potentially fatal consequences.
Which playwrights are you influenced by and why?
It’s been said many times before but debbie tucker green. I love the rhythm, raw energy and emotion of her language and the edge that she brings to all her work. I love her ability to get inside an issue, tear it apart and bring that to the stage. I love her courage in never being afraid to confront all of the issues nor compromise on what she brings to the audience; Arthur Miller, in particular, “The Crucible, which has stayed with me since I first studied it at school – his analysis of how powerful societal norms can be and how difficult it can be to stand against them. Finally, Lorraine Hansberry, I’m inspired by just how insightful she was and her ability to bring the truth. “A Raisin in the Sun” is a wonderful play.
What do you want to achieve as a playwright?
I want to touch people in unexpected ways. I want to bring hidden stories and voices to local and national stages. I want to surprise, challenge and inspire audiences and raise questions that nobody else is asking.