Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Catherine Cranfield: Flushed

By | Published on Friday 8 October 2021

Back in 2018, up at the old edfringe, one of our reviewers went to see a show called ‘Flushed’ by Theatre Unlocked, and loved it, for its humour, poignancy and important themes. It’s a play about family, motherhood and gynaecological complications, set entirely in ladies’ bathrooms…

I was delighted when I saw that it would be opening at Park Theatre this month for its pandemic-delayed run there.

To find out more about the show, and its creator, I spoke to writer and director Catherine Cranfield.

CM: Let’s start with what to expect in terms of narrative: what is ‘Flushed’ about and whose story does it tell?
CC: ‘Flushed’ tells the story of two sisters, Marnie and Jen, who are navigating the highs and lows of their early twenties when the older sister finds herself confronted with a diagnosis of premature ovarian insufficiency, at the age of 25.

We follow the sisters through various ‘bathroom chats’, which include many hilarious and relatable scenarios, as well as many tender moments and interesting discussions as they grapple to come to terms with this life-changing diagnosis.

CM: What themes are explored through the play?
CC: ‘Flushed’ explores sisterhood, motherhood, womanhood, and the sanctity of the ladies’ toilets – where all the most riveting conversations occur!

CM: What was the inspiration for the show? What made you want to create a play focusing on this topic?
CC: ‘Flushed’ began as a love letter to all of the fantastically weird and wonderful conversations I have shared with other women in the ladies’ loos. From there I decided that such an intimate space was the perfect setting to explore attitudes towards women’s health.

During my research I came across premature ovarian insufficiency, and I was struck by how little I knew about the condition. That’s when I got in touch with The Daisy Network, a phenomenal charity offering support to those affected by POI – I have been working closely with them ever since.

CM: Was there a sense of wanting to further a conversation about these kinds of health issues?
CC: Absolutely. There is a severe lack of representation of premature ovarian insufficiency, and indeed of infertility, and of women’s health conditions in general. This can – and does – really amplify the all-too-common feelings of isolation, confusion, and loneliness that many feel when diagnosed with POI.

I think if the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that human beings thrive on connection, and a sense that you’re not in it alone. Seeing your experience discussed publicly and represented in mainstream media is a huge part of facilitating this. It is also a key when it comes to reducing stigma and misinformation.

I know how important a tool the theatre can be for furthering conversation, that’s why I wanted to explore a POI diagnosis in this way.

CM: Were you always planning to direct it yourself?
CC: Not always, but it became clear pretty quickly that I knew exactly how I wanted the show to be directed and staged. I don’t always plan to direct my own work, but as a writer and a director, it felt right to combine the two roles for this particular project.

CM: It’s been a while since one of our reviewers saw it up at the Edinburgh Fringe – has the pandemic got in the way of staging it again previously?
CC: Yes, this particular run of the show was previously scheduled for June 2020, so we are absolutely thrilled to be back at it again after the postponement. It’s a joy and a privilege to be back in a theatre again doing what we love – especially one as special and supportive as Park Theatre.

CM: The show is part of the ‘Say It, Women’ double bill at the Park Theatre – are you able to tell us a bit about the other play and why the two shows came to be partnered like this?
CC: The ‘Say It, Women’ double bill also includes ‘Sold’ by Amantha Edmead, directed by Euton Daley – a play which tells the story of one woman’s extraordinary journey to overcome the brutality of slavery. The play is described as “a forgotten true story told through theatre, song, live drumming and dance, this masterpiece of black British theatre is inspired by the storytelling traditions of the West African griot”.

I think the two shows have been partnered in this double bill as they are both stories which celebrate female strength. We are honored to have been partnered with ‘Sold’, and cannot wait to see it!

CM: Can you tell us about Theatre Unlocked and how it came into being? What are its aims and ethos?
CC: Theatre Unlocked are a queer-led collective, founded by myself and Elis Shotton in 2017. Elis and I met at Manchester University, where we discovered that we had a shared passion for new writing, particularly comedies, which also have something to say.

We set up Theatre Unlocked as a way to develop exciting new work that challenges the world today and champions marginalised voices. The aim is to continue to do so.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
CC: We’ve got a couple of exciting things in the pipeline, but we’re always on the lookout for new people and companies to collaborate with, so if you’ve got an idea then please get in touch!

‘Flushed’ is on at Park Theatre from 12 Oct-6 Nov, see the venue website here for more information and to book tickets.

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