Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Emilia Teglia: On The Line

By | Published on Sunday 20 November 2022

Coming up soon at Camden People’s Theatre is the staging of ‘On The Line’, a play written and directed by Emilia Teglia, and produced through her company Odd Eyes Theatre.

The play is based on real life experiences and created in collaboration with young people from London, and it tackles some really important issues.

I decided to find out more about the play, and Emilia herself, ahead of opening night.

CM: Can you start by telling us a bit about what happens in ‘On The Line’? Whose story is it and where does the narrative take us?
ET: It’s about two best friends from a council estate going on an adventure to the house of their minted schoolmate. Their Kardashian dream turns into a nightmare, and their life-long friendship is put on the line.

The story comes from the real experiences of a group of young people from Camden and it’s witty, sarcastic, funny, fast and high-risk. And at times it’s incredibly sad too.

CM: What themes are explored through the play?
ET: It’s about growing up at the bottom of the social ladder whilst having to negotiate life-long loyalties, family values, aspirations, and handed-down generational trauma. It’s also about the complex experiences of individuals behind the statistics.

CM: I know music plays an important role in the production – can you tell us more about how that works?
ET: The whole experience is like a music video. So there’s a soundtrack that highlights key events in the story, and most of the time it’s played from the characters’ phones.

There are also a lot of musical references in their speech. There’s mentions of international artists like Drake and Cardi B but also UK drill artists like Central Cee and Digga D, both from Camden; the local heroes that ‘made it out of the endz’.

CM: Can you tell us about how the play was developed?
ET: I started writing it with a group of young people from Action Youth Boxing Intervention in Camden as part of Odd Eyes Theatre’s Creative Debate programme.

We watched ‘#Haters’, a short film I wrote which is based on real events. In the film, a young man gets in trouble because of his brother’s addiction issues.

Afterwards, the group started talking about their own experiences of loyalty and betrayal. Two girls, Cheyanne and Emily, spoke about two friends from the same council estate. Both from single parents’ families, they received different levels of support from their parents with regards to their aspirations, and eventually ended up following very different paths.

We started talking about friendship, family, cultural background and social identity in school, online and in their neighbourhood. When I came back with the first draft, they read it out loud and literally transposed it in their own language; the contemporary London slang of a fifteen year old.

CM: Can you tell us about the cast and creative team?
ET: The staging of ‘On The Line’ is very collaborative. We are a small and relaxed team working side by side. That synergy is reflected on stage in the closeness between the two central characters.

Giorgia Valentino and Zacchaeus Kayode are incredibly versatile actors. They bring to the role strong technical skills – the play is fast-paced and quite demanding for a cast of two – and an essential sensitivity for the themes of the story.

CM: Can you tell us about Odd Eyes Theatre? What made you want to start a company and what are its aims and ethos?
ET: It all started from my encounter with Augusto Boal’s participatory theatre through Cardboard Citizens. I was a down-and-out young woman at the time and this encounter changed my life: I discovered that theatre could be an active tool for social change and not just a two-hour entertainment device.

I got my life back on track and, after earning a degree in Theatre Studies, I set up Odd Eyes with the aim of using theatre and film to open up communication between people from different ages, cultures, social groups and walks of life.

The company now works primarily with young people and people with experience of migration, giving their voices a professional platform through the Creative Debate programme.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you come to be working in the arts? Was it what you always wanted to do?
ET: Before my ‘fall from grace’, I had been writing, acting and performing for years. When I met with Cardboard Citizens and I was very lost, I realised that the arts were the only consistent thread in my life.

CM: What would you say have been the highlights of your career thus far?
ET: I’ve got so many. Going to the theatre to watch plays I wrote and directed, sharing the stories I care about with audiences of perfect strangers.

Having two of my plays published. Watching my name as writer and director at the screening of my first film ‘#Haters’.

And, most of all, watching the enormous joy on the face of some of the young, neurodivergent people I work with when they see their own name in the credits of the projects we developed collaboratively.

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future?
ET: I’m writing a screen adaptation of ‘On The Line’ and I would like to get a great producer on board. When I did that with ‘#Haters’, the story reached even more people and I would love to continue to open up conversations about real issues that go beyond media headlines.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
ET: More of this! We will be touring ‘On The Line’ to secondary schools and art centres throughout January. If the funding gods – and some generous donors – allow it, we might even tour it outside London.

On The Line’ is on at Camden People’s Theatre from 29 Nov-3 Dec. See the venue website here for more information and to book tickets.

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