Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Cat Jones: Glory Dazed

By | Published on Wednesday 1 May 2013


One show that really caught our attention at the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe was Second Shot Productions’ ‘Glory Dazed’, a beautifully judged play about a soldier returning from active service; now Lucky Londoners have a chance to catch the show, because it’s on at Soho Theatre. We put some questions to writer Cat Jones.

CM: You’re the founder and AD of Second Shot Productions. Can you tell us what it does and how it works?
CJ: Second Shot is a theatre and film production company based within the walls of HMP & YOI Doncaster. We’re a social enterprise, and any profit we make goes back into our creative projects. We provide training, education and employment to serving prisoners and ex-offenders, and use the arts to facilitate positive change, so currently we have fifteen serving prisoners at HMP Doncaster and they work for us full-time on all our theatre and film projects whilst working towards a BTEC in Creative Media Production.

CM: You are also Pearson Playwright in Residence at Manchester Royal Exchange. How different is your work there from your work on Second Shot?
CJ: Well for a start, my role at the Manchester Royal Exchange has absolutely nothing to do with prisoners and ex-offenders! I have a blank canvas to write a play about anything, which is both very liberating and completely terrifying. It’s an incredible theatre (the recent production of ‘Cannibals’ is one of the best things I’ve seen in a long time!) so I feel very lucky to be writing for them. But the great thing about the Pearson Residency is that it’s more than a normal play commission. It’s about immersing myself in the theatre, spending lots of time there and allowing that to influence what I write. It’s also about stretching myself to write something bigger and more ambitious than I have before.

CM: ‘Glory Dazed’ is about the impact that active service has on returning soldiers. What made you decide to tackle this subject matter?
CJ: When I started working at Doncaster prison, the Governor, who was also new, asked me whether I’d noticed that a lot of the prisoners had been in the Forces before coming to prison. I hadn’t really noticed it until then, but I did think he had a point, so I did a bit of research. I found that some criminal justice organisations think as many as 1 in 10 of the UK prison population are ex-servicemen, although the government put the figure much lower.

CM: How did you go about researching the play?
CJ: We started with a series of discussion groups with ex-servicemen serving sentences at HMP & YOI Doncaster. They were happy to discuss their experiences of being in the forces and returning to civilian life. There were a lot of different stories, but they revealed problems with alcohol, aggression, depression, multiculturalism and breakdowns in their family relationships.

I took all of the information away and developed a story and the opening section of the play. This was then taken back to the ex-servicemen and at this point, the show’s director ran a number of drama workshops, getting the ex-servicemen to improvise alongside professional actors. This helped develop the characters and the story and from this I was able to write a first draft.

CM: Can you tell us something about what happens in the play?
CJ: ‘Glory Dazed’ tells the story of Ray, a returning soldier who turns up, after hours, at his mate’s pub in Doncaster, looking for his estranged wife. It takes place in real time over an hour as Ray tries to win Carla back, only to discover that she is seeing his mate Simon. It is darkly funny and fast-paced and confronts the dark side of soldiers returning from conflict.

CM: The show had a successful run at Edinburgh last year and also at this year’s Adelaide Festival. Are there plans for further dates after your run at Soho Theatre?
CJ: The project has been in development for over two years now, and whilst we are keen for Ray’s story to reach as many people as possible, and have enjoyed the work we’ve done with ‘Glory Dazed’ and the exposure it has given us, it feels like a natural end to the project, so it will finish at the end of this run, at Hull Truck on 18 May.

CM: What’s next for Second Shot Productions?
CJ: The ideas and stories we explore in our theatre productions tend to be those that have some kind of relevance to prisoners and ex-offenders and this is something we intend to continue developing, not only at HMP & YOI Doncaster, but potentially in other prisons as well to make these pieces available to as much of the prison population as possible.

‘Glory Dazed’ is on at Soho Theatre until 11 May, info and tickets from the venue website here.

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