Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Maddie Rice: Pickle Jar

By | Published on Friday 12 October 2018

We first came across Maddie Rice through her work at edfringe with theatrical comedy outfit zazU, which we much admired, and so when we knew she was headed to Edinburgh with her own self-penned one woman show in 2018, we were obviously interested.

That interest was entirely justified, of course, and we liked it so much we gave her a ThreeWeeks Editors’ Award.

Those of you who weren’t in the Scottish capital in the summer may have missed out then, but here’s the good news: Ms Rice begins a run of ‘Pickle Jar’ at Soho Theatre early next week. I arranged a quick chat to find out more about the show.

CM: So let’s start by finding out what the show’s all about. What’s the story?
MR: ‘Pickle Jar’ is a dark comedy about a teacher who is trying to maintain some semblance of her responsible, mature, sensible ‘work self’ while her personal life crumbles beneath her.

CM: What themes did you want to explore through the play?
MR: It’s hard to talk about without spoiling the plot so I’ll be vague. ‘Pickle Jar’ shows what happens if you don’t deal with things as they happen; when the pot boils over and you’re left in a puddle on the floor with a piña colada and a truckload of issues. It looks at grief, guilt, responsibility and society’s reactions to them. It also considers how we sometimes confuse our sense of self with our jobs.

CM: What inspired it? What made you want to write about this particular subject?
MR: I wrote a lot of short stories about what was bugging me, as well as stories that provoked a strong reaction in me: made me laugh, cry, get angry. When I looked at them all together I found the characters I wanted to use and the themes organically grew out of them. I created the world through them.

I think ‘Pickle Jar’ ended up focusing on a teacher because I wrote it while I was living with my best mate, Megan, who is a teacher with the best stories. I was interested in how young people who have jobs in the service sector have to be responsible while often having a youthful, fun and potentially reckless lifestyle. Where does that line of responsibility and work stop and your social life begin? What happens if the two are inextricably linked and who gets hurt?

CM: I want to ask if this is political, but political seems like the wrong word, really… but is it? Are you making a point about social issues?
MR: Definitely. I think it is almost impossible not to be political in the theatre. By writing a play you are literally asking people to listen to a point of view. This play asks a lot of questions that I don’t necessarily know the answers to. They are provocative and I hope will make people think. I talk a lot about blame and responsibility. I want to push the audience to think about who should be blamed for the situation and consider the reality of misplaced guilt. At the moment, I think as a society we need to look deeply at how we have completely internalised the rules of the past. ‘Pickle Jar’ looks at how deep-rooted shame and guilt can destroy people.

CM: How do you enjoy being on stage alone? How different is it than being part of a team?
MR: Doing a solo show, I find myself really missing having other actors to warm-up with and debrief with after the show – it’s a weird anti-climax to come off stage on your own. However, I never feel alone on stage as the play is a conversation with the audience. I love how different the people and their reactions are every night and it helps me to tell the story in new ways and keep the excitement and energy flowing.

CM: You were recently performing Phoebe Waller Bridge’s ‘Fleabag’, of course – how does performing your own words compare to performing someone else’s?
MR: I was! What a job that was. I loved every second of performing ‘Fleabag’. Doing my own show has been a really interesting experience. It took me a while to be able to act it through without picking at the writing and cutting lines all the time but, for the most part, it is amazing. I get to play to my strengths and keep it entertaining; Katie Pesskin, who developed and directed the show, teases me a lot about the dance I have written in for myself. But I say, I want to have a bit of fun, take a break from talking, and I love a bit of Jason Derulo! Why not!?

CM: You recently performed the show in Edinburgh, of course, and so we know how good it is. How did the run go from your perspective?
MR: It was wonderful. I was so incredibly nervous about doing something I had written and I went up shaking like a leaf but after a few shows I relaxed because the audiences were so excellent. It is so fun performing something in Edinburgh because people are really taking a punt on you and they want you to do well. It’s really supportive and exciting when they get on board. Edinburgh is also the perfect place for a comedy drama because they’re so ready for a laugh there! I think humour is the most important thing in story-telling – no one wants to listen to someone being serious for an hour, do they? Unless it’s a really really good Ted Talk, but then still, one or two jokes gets everyone warmed up and listening.

CM: Have you made any changes to the show since then? Has your performance changed or developed since you first started playing the role?
MR: We have tweaked a few lines because Katie Pesskin and I are perfectionists and can never stop changing anything – which I love. Performance-wise, I feel a lot more ready as it’s had time to settle. Before Edinburgh, with no one new to react to it, we forgot it was funny for a while. But now we’ve had more time to rehearse and experiment while knowing how certain bits land in front of an audience.

CM: Obviously you’ll be concentrating on these London shows at the moment but do you have anything planned for the future? Any grand ambitions to realise?
MR: I have lots of writing projects on the go and doing a bit of acting for TV which is a nice change. But next, I am desperate to do a HUGE musical or a Shakespeare with a twenty strong cast. That’s enough one woman shows for a bit!

CM: What’s coming up next after your Soho run? Any imminent new projects in the pipeline?
MR: Who knows? Hopefully, Steven Spielberg will call.


‘Pickle Jar’ is on at Soho Theatre from 23 Oct-10 Nov. See the venue website here for more information and to book tickets.


Photo: Amelia J Dowd