Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Laura Lindow: Pause

By | Published on Monday 5 July 2021

My interest was very much piqued when I heard about ‘Pause’, a play being performed at the Alphabetti Theatre in Newcastle, but also livestreamed to audiences at home.

It’s set in a video shop (remember those?) in Scotland in the 1990s, and looks like it will take those of us who do remember on a bit of a nostalgia trip back to that decade courtesy of 90s film references and trivia.

Though of course, there’s more to it than that, as it touches on a number of different themes through its narrative. To find out more about the play, I spoke to writer Laura Lindow.

CM: Can you start by telling us a bit about ‘Pause’? What’s the premise and where does the narrative take us?
LL: Pause is set in 1998 in Stellar Vision, an independent video shop in Clackmannanshire, the smallest historic county in Scotland. We meet the owner, Wallace, who is piercing through her own story. Through her, we get to know the colourful characters who have shaped her world, and the journey both she and her hometown are on.

CM: What themes does the play explore?
LL: It’s really about finding yourself inside. How it can be when you don’t see yourself reflected. Obviously we have taken the opportunity to cram it full of 90s film references and trivia, if you can call that a theme. We look at relationships in their many guises.

The play is also set against the backdrop of the political changes in Scotland at that time. I suppose independence or autonomy is a theme, both personal and national. And living up to expectations. And what happens when you want more?! And how old is too old to be ‘coming of age’?!

But ultimately the play explores the role of stories in our lives. Oh, plus we hope to make you laugh as well.

CM: What was the inspiration for the show? Where did the idea come from?
LL: Paula Penman and Mark Calvert were asked to create a piece for Alphabetti. They are such a brilliant and inventive team. They decided that it would be fab to make something that tapped into their own love of films and the impact films made on them growing up. They had the idea of a video shop with a sole curator.

Then I came on board as the writer.

I loved hearing them talk. I decided to go back in time to explore the late 90s, which was such a time of change in so many different ways – the near progression from video to DVD, the emergence of new businesses to capitalise, and a crucial time for Scotland and the UK.

And I found myself writing about some of my own passions and concerns too. The story formed from there.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the creative team behind it?
LL: So the incredible Paula Penman is the solo performer who brings a cast of many to life! Mark Calvert is director extraordinaire; Jeremy Bradfield is the amazing musical director – and film-making genius; and then there’s me, Laura Lindow as writer.

CM: To what extent have COVID restrictions affected the staging of the show? Are there extra things to bear in mind when presenting work to socially distanced audiences? Does it affect the dynamic, do you think?
LL: “We’ll see”, is the short answer. It certainly affects the creative journey in that the responsibility we feel to offer a solid and sensitive experience for the audience is greater. The thought that the piece could give our tired brains an hour of respite, but also that we might reconnect with one another, is just so special.

CM: The show will also be streamed digitally. Does that make any difference to your approach to the project? Do you have a sense that there are things that will or won’t work for audiences tuning in from outside?
LL: I hope that in terms of content it’s a story that will speak to everyone. Whilst it has particular references and follows a particular narrative, hopefully everyone will find a resonance.

Practically, it’s a journey we are negotiating as artists, so we’ll be troubleshooting as things arise and making the most of the gifts that the streaming offers.

CM: There’s a lot of show streaming going on at the moment, because of the pandemic, but I feel as though it might be a practice that could continue, given that it has the potential to tap audiences that were previously hard to reach. Do you think theatres will/should continue to offer this option even once social distancing is relaxed?
LL: I think so, but I furrow my brow about what that means. I feel passionately about the live experience and what it offers. One mustn’t replace the other. And we mustn’t think that streaming should slow us, become an ‘easy option’ in trying to get live work out to audiences and to make work that is appealing to bring new audiences in.

But the reach that streaming offers is significant and I think our digital adventures will be one of many things that will go forward into times ahead.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about you now? What’s your background in theatre and how did you end up working in this area?
LL: I’m a writer, director and clown doctor. I’m also Associate Director for Open Clasp Theatre Company.

I’m from Edinburgh originally, but have lived and worked in the north east for over 20 years. I’ve been really lucky with my career – the opportunities I’ve had and the people I’ve worked with.

I was fortunate to be the recipient of Writer Of The Year in 2019 from the Journal Culture Awards, which, having started behind the café bar in a small theatre as a bit of a lost teenager, felt like a massive point in what has been a brilliant journey to date.

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future?
LL: I’m taking each day as it comes right now.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
LL: I’m directing a piece with Open Clasp in the coming month. I’m also currently wand-deep in scripting this year’s magical Northern Stage family Christmas show, ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’, with Maria Crocker directing and Katie Doherty composing the music.

Having just reshaped my play ‘Credit’ in the light of COVID – for Cap-a-Pie, a piece looking at the impact of Universal Credit – and treasuring my opportunities to visit the children in hospital – for Tin Arts, as Dr Lulu McDoo – I’m totally tuned in to how crucial stories are in lifting us all, helping us to connect and recover, and informing how we might want to reshape our world.

‘Pause’ will be performed at Newcastle’s Alphabetti Theatre from 6-17 Jul, and every performance will be live streamed to audiences at home. See this page here for info and to book your viewing.

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