Caro Meets Musicals & Opera Interview

Fran Bushe: A Gig For Ghosts

By | Published on Sunday 16 October 2022

Beginning a run at Soho Theatre this week is ‘A Gig For Ghosts’, a heart-warming, folk music filled queer love story about loss and loneliness and ghosts. 

This entrancing sounding piece of gig theatre has been created by a hugely talented team and is brought to you by woman-led theatre company 45North. 

To find out more about the show and the creatives behind it, I spoke to writer Fran Bushe. 

CM: Can you start by telling us about the narrative of ‘A Gig For Ghosts’? What story does it tell? 
FB: ‘A Gig For Ghosts’ is a big, warm, queer love story, about loss, loneliness and ghosts.

Freshly arrived in London, Lily is ready to live the life she’s always dreamt of. Step one, find a girlfriend. Worn down by London, Amy finds it hard to make real connections, because she mostly works with dead people. Today they both have plans to not end up alone.

In the busy city of London where it is too easy for things and people to be lost and forgotten, three women come together, to make sure that nobody falls through the cracks.

CM: What themes are explored through the show?
FB: I haven’t quite worked out a way to talk about this show without it sounding incredibly sad. It explores loneliness, family rifts and grief… pretty sad business.

And there is definitely sadness in there, but it is nestled against the absolute joy of falling in love, the power of a community coming together and what it means to completely be yourself.

It’s funny and hard and hopeful at the same time.

CM: Can you tell us about the music? What genre or style would you call it?
FB: I knew I wanted songs and music to be a huge part of ‘A Gig For Ghosts’ and had written lyrics with a folky feel. Becky CJ composed the music during lockdown – and a little bit last week, when we decided to give the show a whole new finale song… because why make it easy for ourselves?!

Becky’s sound is haunting, uplifting and contains incredibly powerful harmonies. We’ve all been walking around the rehearsal room singing the songs, because they are so catchy and beautiful. There is violin, piano, guitar, bass and… a triangle. Is any theatre show complete without a triangle?

CM: What was the inspiration for the show? What made you want to create a work with these themes? 
FB: In 2006 I read about Joyce Vincent, whose death tragically went unnoticed for more than two years in London.

That story really stayed with me for years. I was angry that something like that could happen in a capital city, but could also completely see how easy it would be to slip through the cracks. People drift apart, families lose touch, the city is fast and it can be difficult to find community here.

I made a small start on the play based on those themes back then in 2006, gave up, put it in a drawer, thought about it every so often, but mostly it stayed in the back of my brain.

Then in 2018 I knew I wanted to write a love story about two lonely women and I opened the drawer back up. We’ve just been through such isolated years and so now feels the perfect time for this play about finding community.

CM: Have you been involved in the production of the show in an ongoing way? 
FB: I’ve been having a wonderful time sitting in the rehearsal room. This is the first production for a really long time where I’ve not been on the stage myself. It’s amazing seeing all of the talent and dedication happen around me.

I am answering your questions on my last day in the rehearsal room and I can safely say I have learnt so much by being here.

CM: Can you tell us about the cast of the show? 
FB: ‘A Gig For Ghosts’ is performed by Hanora Kamen, Rori Hawthorn and Liz Kitchen. I have been wowed by their talent and dedication every single day of rehearsal. They not only act, but sing, play multiple instruments and ask incredibly deep questions about the characters and the show – they’ve really made me think and made me a better writer.

Huge shout out as well to Philippa Hogg, who is the Musical Director on the show, she’s really deftly and delicately held and fleshed out the musical world of the play. The production has a 100% female and non-binary team.

CM: And can you tell us a bit about you? How did you end up pursuing a career in the arts? Was it what you always wanted? 
FB: When I was little I wanted to be a part-time builder, part time ballerina, so I think the arts were always there in my ambitions. I was an actor for a while, but waiting for the phone to ring with news of auditions, and hearing rejection after rejection, just made me miserable.

I’ve always loved writing and reading and watching theatre and making my own work felt like I was taking control back of my career. I love storytelling in all forms, there’s nothing better really.

CM: What have been the highlights of your career thus far? 
FB: I think it’s often the things you never expected to happen that end up as huge highlights: seeing my book ‘My Broken Vagina’ in a library, hearing a Waterstones employee recommend it to someone, or being told that a book club has chosen to read my book that month.

Being on set for the filming of my Channel 4 short ‘The Diary Of My Broken Vagina’ was also amazing, a real ‘pinch me’ moment, watching the actors say my words on the monitors.

I think the moments where I look around and am amazed to see all the incredibly talented people in the room, who are there because I sat down and wrote a thing – it’s a really good feeling.

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future? 
FB: To keep making work I’m passionate about. It’s been such an uncertain, tumultuous, difficult few years, particularly for theatre, that I think we all are just overjoyed to be back and making work. I think there’s a magic show in my future. I’m also working on a novel and a feature film.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
FB: I am very excited to be the writer in residence at Soho Theatre for the month of November.

It’s really rare to be given the gift of thinking time as a writer, but I have a whole month to sit and ponder what I really want to write next.

I might have written a whole show by the end of it, I might have just doodled a lot and eaten biscuits… but the thinking time is so invaluable. Come back to be at the end of November and let’s see what I’ve made.

‘A Gig For Ghosts’ is on at Soho Theatre from 18 Oct-12 Nov, see the venue website here for information and to book.

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