Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Florence Keith-Roach: Eggs

By | Published on Wednesday 17 February 2016


Florence Keith-Roach is one of those people you might call a ‘rising star’; very much on the up because of her very high quality and much praised work, she brings her latest piece ‘Eggs’ to Vault Festival this week.
I spoke to the playwright and performer, ahead of the London run, to find out more about this acclaimed play, and a bit more about Florence herself.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the play? What happens in it? What’s the story?
FK-R: ‘Eggs’ is a dark comedy about female friendship, fertility and freaking out. It’s an intimate two-hander looking at the struggle of growing up as a part of Generation Y. It is structured as a series of dialogues between two women in their late twenties, taking place intermittently over the course of a year. Both have been friends since university, but in the years since they have started to make very different life choices and as a result live utterly divergent, almost incommensurable lives.

They also lost a friend a while ago, and in the time that has passed since this traumatic event, they realise that without the link of this “third leg of their tripod”, they actually have very little in common. ‘Eggs’ presents two very complex, intelligent, witty, at times irrational, women, facing life’s obstacles and making bold, but tortured and sometimes quite reckless decisions about how they choose to live their lives. The piece focuses on their friendship, their journey.

CM: What specific themes are you aiming to explore?
FK-R: Both women are at an age where society forces them to confront the “ticking time bomb” that apparently is their fertility, and we witness how these two different women internalise this systemic anxiety. The play deals with broader questions about the link between the political and the personal; it’s about human beings coping with a mounting sense of alienation in an increasingly fragmented world. It’s about friendship, grief, desire and the relationships we have with our own bodies and their sexual choices. It’s also about 90s dance music, a genre for which I am highly nostalgic.

CM: The play seems to be very focused on women. Is it a feminist play?
FK-R: Absolutely. Feminism, to me, just means equality for all genders and there is a shocking dearth of female focused stories on stage and on screen today. So ‘Eggs’, which is about two women, and is also written, directed and produced by women, is consciously addressing this fact.

CM: What was the inspiration for the play? What made you want to write a piece about this subject?
FK-R: I began writing ‘Eggs’ to confront questions and predicaments that at the time felt personal and singular. This was aggravated by the phenomenon of entering my late twenties and being bombarded with more and more information about my biological clock (how do those pop-up adverts know when to suddenly appear and terrorise?). Was time really running out for me at 27?

Of course the answer was no. And the people who reminded me of this were my female friends. These relationships were and had always been my source of my strength and rationale. I started trying to document these connections, their mysterious, mercurial qualities, their volatilities, their dynamism, I wanted to convey the truth of these under-explored relationships, which had been so formative for my self and my understanding of the world.

CM: You also perform in the show, don’t you? What’s it like delivering your own lines?
FK-R: It can be hard. I have been working for a long time to conjure a whole world for both characters, but as an actor I have to forget all that and experience everything from a limited perspective. The director Lucy Wray and I have been working on this a lot in rehearsal. Lucy also stops me from constantly trying to rewrite and improve parts of the script, as this can be impractical.

CM: You founded your own company, Orphee Productions. Can you tell us a bit about it and what it does?
FK-R: Orphee productions is a diverse female led collective dedicated to telling stories that challenge gender disparity, which I co- founded with producer Lucie Massey. We believe that in the arts we all need to engage fully in trying to shift the normalised, everyday discrimination that is rife in our society: be it gender-related, class-based or racially motivated.

We began as a group of friends, who reached out to each other when they needed a hand making individual work. Our collective therefore covers many disciplines and is about building up a team of trustworthy, talented, forward thinking people, who can support each other and hopefully provide a platform for other emerging artists.

CM: You’ve worked as an actor, writer and director in theatre, film and for TV – what do you find most interesting, or fulfilling? Is there any other role you’d like to try?
FK-R: Writing and acting are, for now, the two disciplines that I am most drawn to exploring further. Writing is incredibly empowering and also a huge challenge, demanding all my mental and physical attention. It has taught me so much about self discipline, rigour, and self criticism. Acting in comparison is this huge adrenaline rush. It too can be exacting, but the freedom of inhabiting another’s outlook is so relieving. At the moment these two roles are taking up all my attention and energy.

CM: When did you decide you wanted to do this kind of thing? What made you want to perform?
FK-R: I have always acted and been involved in theatre. I acted at school and when I left I studied acting briefly before going to university where I took part in student productions. I directed a play with a friend when I left, we put on ‘This Is Our Youth’ in an abandoned building in Farringdon. This was a really exciting experience, and afterwards I decided to apply for drama school and got into the Drama Centre.

CM: What’s next for you?
FK-R: ‘Eggs’ might hopefully go on a small regional tour. Being originally from Dorset, I am very excited about the possibility of bringing this rude piece to my local arts centre. I am also currently writing a feature film loosely based on some of the themes of ‘Eggs’ and a TV sitcom. After ‘Eggs’, I am playing a role in a new web series.

‘Eggs’ is on at Vault Festival from 24 Feb-6 Mar, see this page here for more info and to book your tickets.

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