Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Laura Lindsay: Hidden

By | Published on Friday 4 April 2014


We were first alerted to the existence of Black Toffee’s highly acclaimed piece ‘Hidden’ at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, when our reviewer penned some glowing words about the production’s hilarious dialogue and fabulous performances.

I was delighted to hear that the play had embarked on a nationwide tour, and especially pleased to discover that it would be heading to London’s Cockpit Theatre as part of it, so I sent some questions over to ‘Hidden’ co-creator, Black Toffee founder Laura Lindsay.

CM: Can you tell us what ‘Hidden’ is about?
LL: ‘Hidden’ is about the things we think, but don’t say. It delves into the inner workings of our hearts and minds, exploring secrets, honesty, and the need for human connection. It is a darkly funny snapshot of modern life following the interconnected lives of six seemingly ordinary people. All of the characters have something they are hiding, something which is buried from the rest of the world, through fear, shame or simply a refusal to admit it even to themselves.

It is set against the modern exposed world of social media. Social media gives the illusion of us being open and honest with each other but this online presence is often a constructed identity of ourselves. It is set in an urban environment where the characters’ lives all interweave – they are faced with daily interaction with each other, but still fail to actually connect. Oh, and it’s funny. Did I mention that? It celebrates that we’re all as weird and vulnerable as each other, and allows us to laugh at ourselves. Or something like that.

To put it more succinctly: It’s a funny and poignant play about secrets in the modern world. And The Guardian called it “a true gem” so it’s worth a punt!

CM: What gave you the idea for the play?
LL: It started as a single monologue that I wrote to be able to use for auditions. I wanted a comedy monologue which told a story, where the character had a journey and where there was an unexpected revelation. The piece grew from that first monologue; it was well-received and I was encouraged to write a full-length piece. I decided I wanted to introduce more characters to give variety and a broader perspective, but with the unifying thread that each character has something they are hiding.

However, it soon became apparent that something was missing. The piece centred on private thought versus public persona, but without a second actor it was hard to portray this dichotomy. Also, I don’t like working on my own. I’m inherently lazy, procrastinating and self-doubting; which doesn’t help for producing a one-woman show. It made sense to get someone else involved, to open up the possibility of interaction within the world of the play. That’s where Pete comes in.

We met whilst training at Arden School of Theatre in Manchester, where we discovered a mutual love of new writing, an interest in human psychology and a shared dark sense of humour. He was my perfect collaborator. I had already bounced ideas off him for the first monologue so he quickly came on-board with the theme of the play and beavered away creating characters of his own.

CM: Is it a devised piece, or did you just sit down and write a script? How easy is it to write as a duo?
LL: No it’s not devised. But it was very much a collaboration between me and Pete. We wrote the first draft of our own characters and then sent it to the other for feedback and ‘suggestions’ for tweaks. We are quite brutal with each other – if it didn’t further the story or make us both laugh, it was cut! We then set about working on how the characters’ lives could overlap and what relationships could form. This seemed to happen very naturally – the dramatic irony and comedy of certain secrets juxtaposed against each other within certain pairings fell into place very easily. We batted the script backwards and forwards until we were both happy, but in reality the redrafting continued into rehearsals as we found the working rhythm of the scenes. As first time writers I think we’ve both benefited from working as a duo – learning from and challenging each other. This has come from a deep trust that we both just want it to be as good as it can be. That’s not to say we didn’t have some heated ‘debates’ over certain lines and plot points though!

CM: The play features six characters, doesn’t it…? Are you playing three each? Is it a challenge to move between the characters?
LL: Yes we do. It is a challenge, but one that we set ourselves so we can’t complain! It is a challenge we’ve relished, I think it’s something most actors love – to be able to create three distinct characters who are recognisable human beings and not caricatures, using only your voice, physicality and basic costume changes to differentiate. We’ve had an excellent team of two directors, a movement consultant and an accent coach to help us refine the characters. And we’ve got a brilliant musical score and sound design to help set the scenes and make the transitions smooth. It’s great fun switching between characters. Although it can cause a bit of identity crisis in the early days: ‘who am I, and why have I got this sausage?!’

CM: You took the show to the Edinburgh Festival last summer. Have you been to the Festival before, and how did it go for you up there ?
LL: Yes indeed we did. It’s the first time either of us has taken a show up there. I did a reconnaissance mission the previous year to check out venues and get a sense of the task ahead of us. Edinburgh is a massive undertaking – both in terms of financial commitment and sheer stamina – marketing the show, daily get-ins and outs and performing every day for a month. But the effort was worth it because it went really well for us, better than we could have dreamed of, really. We sold out most nights and we had brilliantly receptive audiences. We were pleasantly surprised at the wide range of people ‘Hidden’ appealed to. And, I was able to programme the national tour off the back of the Edinburgh run, so happy days!

CM: Can you tell us something about the aims of your company Black Toffee?
LL: I set up Black Toffee to produce Hidden. Black Toffee is ‘dark and chewy’ and broadly I want this reflected in the future work I produce: an exploration of challenging and interesting subject matters, with a wry sense of humour. I am passionate about new writing and reflecting the world we live in now.

CM: What does the future hold? What’s coming up next?
LL: Black Toffee has been made an ‘Associate Artist’ at Harrogate Theatre (who kindly co-produced the tour and Edinburgh run) and this means that they will support me in creating new work. I have a two-week residency with them in the summer where I’m going to concentrate on writing a piece that combines the accessibility and dark humour of Hidden, but with a more political thrust. This is a challenge I’m both excited and scared about. The great thing about being supported by Harrogate is that I’ve got space and time to play and discover, without any pressure of an end result.

‘Hidden’ is on at The Cockpit until 12 Apr, see this page here.

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