Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Ella Carmen Greenhill: Made In Britain

By | Published on Tuesday 6 January 2015


This week at the Old Red Lion Theatre sees the staging of ‘Made In Britain’, a two hander dealing with the political disillusionment of today’s youth, penned by talented up and coming stage and television writer Ella Carmen Greenhill, an alumni of the Royal Court Studio Writers’ Group who has previously worked with both the Liverpool Everyman and Paines Plough in collaboration with Channel 4.

With an election around the corner, it seems like a good time to produce a piece dealing with the frustration and anger of those who feel they’ve been let down by successive governments. I sent some questions over to Ella, to find out more about her work, and specifically about ‘Made In Britain’.

CM: Can you tell us a little of what ‘Made In Britain’ is about?
ECG: Danny and Nina have both been let down, one by society and the other by a parent, and they are finally fighting back. Ultimately though, it’s a sort of love story; about our need to connect. They are both searching for answers and for someone to save them and then they find each other.

CM: What themes does the play explore?
ECG: The play is about disillusionment and fear. The play explores the idea of protest and what that means; what happens when we feel like we don’t have a voice.

CM: How did you come up with the idea for the play? What influenced you or inspired you in the writing of it?
ECG: Made in Britain began life as a thought, an idea, animatedly talked about in a pub. Without giving away the ending, I just wanted to explore the idea of protest. What protest means in this country and how it differs in form and expression from culture to culture. I also wanted to write a male protagonist, and that was actually really fun.

CM: Disillusionment and political apathy seem to have been increasing since the Thatcher era, with fewer and fewer people feeling that those in government have any relevance for them. Do you think the current younger generation can be persuaded to engage politically?
ECG: It certainly appears that there exists a modern malaise that particularly affects young people with regard to their interaction, and view of, mainstream politics. I wouldn’t like to speak for a whole generation but I certainly hope more people can become engaged politically. I suppose it may be less about ‘persuasion’ and more to do with examining why young people are disillusioned.

CM: Is the play a call to arms? Do you think it’s possible to effect political change and influence people’s politics through the arts?
ECG: It’s not a call to arms, no. It’s a play that explores disillusionment and political engagement and asks questions but it doesn’t provide solutions. The question is the key thing for me. Why do people feel disenfranchised and how has it happened? The question for me is always the heart of the play as opposed to the idea of a solution.

Yes, I think it probably is possible to effect change and influence people’s politics through the arts but I think it’s an incredibly delicate thing to negotiate if that’s what you’re setting out to do. As an individual I have views and obviously, as everyone does, I feel they’re correct but I would never want to write a play that was politically prescriptive or left an audience feeling that they’ve had a lecture.

CM: Did you always want to be a playwright? Do you just write plays, or do you do other kinds of writing, also?
ECG: I thought I wanted to act then I realised I hate people looking at me so that went out of the window. I didn’t really go to the theatre as a kid but my mum used to buy me plays to read. The first play I remember reading was A Taste of Honey and it just made me want to write. Recently I have been getting into writing for TV which is really exciting too.

CM: What advice would you give to young aspiring playwrights?
ECG: Get yourself out there! Write the five minute shorts for scratch nights because you never know what will come of them. Get used to rejection but don’t let it stop you. Always be a bit scared because it will push you to be a better writer, but not so scared that you won’t send your work out.

CM: What’s next for you? Do you have more projects in sight?
ECG: I’m one of Theatre 503’s Five writers in residence so I’ll be writing a lot for that in the next year or so. In April my play, ‘Plastic Figurines’ is touring with Box of Tricks and I’ve just been chosen as one of the winners of ITV’s Original Voices Scheme for BAME writers which I’m really excited about. I’ve got a few other projects in development too, with a couple of great directors.

‘Made In Britain’ is on at Old Red Lion until 11 Jan, see the venue website here for more info and tickets.

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