Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Emily Woof: Blizzard

By | Published on Friday 3 May 2024

Emily Woof lit up the Edinburgh Fringe back in the nineties with a trilogy of one-woman shows, and last year returned to the Scottish capital for the first time in more than 20 years with ‘Blizzard’, which – entirely unsurprisingly – won a lot of acclaim. 

A lot happened in between, of course, as the writer and actress became a well known star of stage and screen before stepping back to focus more on writing – including the creation of a number of highly regarded novels – and theatre. 

The show, created by and starring Emily, and directed and dramaturged by Hamish McColl, begins a run at Soho Theatre this week. I spoke to her to find out more. 

CM: Can you start by telling us about the premise of the show? Who is it about? Does it tell a story?
EW: This show is about a married couple who are like chalk and cheese. She loves to dance. He is a rational-minded scientist. Will these two misfits ever find a common language? 

The story – yes – it’s about how the husband becomes ill on the eve of an important conference in Switzerland and so he asks his wife to go on his behalf.

Reluctantly she agrees, and when she gets there, things start to unravel. Her clothes become reluctant to be seen in public. A mind-blowing adventure ensues involving philosophy, science, dance, sex, Nietzsche, loss and natural disaster!

CM: What themes are explored through the show? Is it funny?
EW: Yes it is funny. I think so. I hope so. It’s about philosophical stuff but in a comic, surreal and poetical way. It’s a show for the heart, the mind and the soul. And yeah there are some belly laughs in there.

CM: I’ve heard other people talking about how clever this show is. Can you explain why they think that? 
EW: I’m not very clever at explaining to be honest!

I think it’s because it’s a piece that has been devised and we took some philosophical principles as a starting point – like dualism – which is basically – opposites – you know, or seeming opposites like – good/bad, human/animal.

But it’s really just a long shaggy dog story.

CM: What was the inspiration for this? What made you want to create a show with this topic, these themes? 
EW: So I’d been researching some neuroscience and some philosophy. I was doing a PhD actually – which was a big old excuse to write a new novel – but on the way I went down some real intellectual rabbit holes!

Anyway, the show came out of that, plus there was a spot in a venue in Edinburgh that needed filling so I just put it together there and then. It was quite a spontaneous thing.

CM: This isn’t your first solo show, of course. What do you like about performing in this way?   
EW: I like the freedom. I like the story-telling voice. 

CM: Hamish McColl, the director, is also your husband – how does that close relationship affect the dynamic when working together? 
EW: We’ve worked together for years. It’s like having a short-hand. Yeah sometimes it’s a bit mad and fractious – but the great thing is you don’t have to schedule Zoom calls… God, I’m sick of Zooms… 

CM: Many will know you from your work in film, but it feels like maybe writing has become a more important thing for you in recent times, given your more recent success writing novels. Is that the case? And how do those things compare to live performance? Is there any one thing you are most happy doing?
EW: To be honest, writing novels is pretty lonely. I am loving being back in the theatre. I’m sure I’ll go back to books at some point – but for now – this is a ride.

CM: Did you always want to work in the arts? What made you decide to pursue this career, and how did it all begin? 
EW: I started at uni, and never looked back. I was crippled with shyness as a kid – and I was the youngest and smallest in a busy and boisterous family, so I was like a wound up spring – so by the time I got to uni I was ready to burst with whatever self-expression I could muster! 

I am ashamed to say that I have literally never done anything else in my life. I have always either acted, written, or directed in theatre or film.

There were periods when I wanted to give up – having kids meant I stepped back for a while – and also just the strain of generating work is hard, and it’s not easy to make ends meet; in fact – it’s plain terrifying. But I feel really lucky to be in the arts. I don’t know what else I could do to be honest.

CM: What would you say have been the highlights of your career thus far? What aims do you have for the future? 
EW: I had a brief period of being a bit of a movie starlet on the front covers of magazines, which was kind of fun, but also a bit confusing, so I’m not sure that’s a real highlight.

But I love filming. I love being on a set and being part of the “family” of the crew. It’s a great feeling. 

Other highlights: getting my first novel published by Faber & Faber. Landing Juliet in Neil Bartlett’s ‘Romeo And Juliet’. 

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this? 
EW: Very excitingly my new play ‘For Goodness Sake’ will be produced for Soho main house next year. It’s a six-hander, so it feels pretty epic. I’m also writing a new play for three actors and also a new solo piece.

‘Blizzard’ is on at Soho Theatre from 7-25 May, head to the venue website here for all the details and to book your tickets.