Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Kristin Mcilquham: Headcase

By | Published on Friday 8 April 2022

I’ve always had a soft spot for one person plays and monologues – I feel like the connection between audience and performer becomes so intimate with productions of this kind – which means I’m always interested when I hear about new and promising ones. 

That being the case, I pricked up my ears when I heard about ‘Headcase’, a solo show from writer and performer Kristin Mcilquham, which is on this week as part of the Essex On Stage showcase that is taking place at the Bush Theatre this month. 

I spoke to Kristin, to find out more about the show and about the performer herself. 

CM: Can you start by telling us about the narrative of the play? What story does it tell?
KM: The story is told from my perspective. As I approach the big 4-0, I am forced to confront – kicking and screaming – some of the unfinished business in my life. It’s a funny and moving true story about the aftermath of my father’s brain injury and the impact that’s had on my life, our relationship, and, well, pretty much everything, really.

CM: What themes do you explore through the play?
KM: The play looks at family, relationships and getting older. We explore themes of anger, resentment, joy and hopefulness.

CM: What inspired you to write about this topic and these themes? What made you want to use your own experiences like this?
KM: I didn’t set out to write a play about my own life or my father’s. I explored and workshopped many different ideas before I settled on this one. It wasn’t until I met my director, Laura Keefe, who gave me the push and confidence to tell this story in a funny and truthful way.

CM: To what extent does the play reflect your own experiences? How much of it is real and how much is fictional?
KM: It constantly mirrors my own experience and I would say about 75/80% is real. We have added a little more drama and comedy for your entertainment though.

CM: Did you always intend to perform it yourself?
KM: Yes. That much I knew. As an actor, waiting for the phone to ring, I wanted to create a one person show so that I could use it as a vehicle to work on my craft and still develop as an actor. I don’t like the feeling of relying on someone else to get me work. Although typically, since I’ve been working on this, the phone has rung more than ever.

CM: Who do you think the show will appeal to?
KM: There is so much in the show that I think will appeal to a wide range of people. Are you a fan of the 80s and 90s? Garage music? There’s a bit of that. Even though we are talking about a difficult subject matter, there is lots of lightness and humour. So, it should appeal to anyone looking for a good night out in London. 

CM: Shall we talk about you, now? Did you always want to work in the arts?
KM: I did. I always wanted to act, I had a dressing up cupboard growing up that I loved. I created an acting group in the street I grew up on and we would put on shows in my mum’s front garden.

CM: What have been the highlights of your career thus far?
KM: This show by far. I never thought I would get the support from the Arts Council I did, nor did I think I would work with the team I have. And now we are at The Bush! I’m pinching myself.

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future?
KM: I would love to take ‘Headcase’ on a studio tour or perhaps up to Edinburgh. 

CM: What’s coming up next – for ‘Headcase’ and for you?
KM: I have two bits of really exciting news. One has arisen from me performing ‘Headcase’, the other is about me as a performer.  Unfortunately, I am unable to tell you either at the moment. Sorry! But watch this space and all will be revealed. 

‘Headcase’ is on as part of the Essex On Stage strand at the Bush Theatre from 11-16 Apr. For more information and to book tickets, see this page here.

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Photo: Cam Harle