Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Róisín McBrinn: Typical Girls

By | Published on Friday 1 October 2021

Regular readers will know that we’re big fans of Clean Break, the theatre company that works with women in prison, and stages shows that focus on the topic of jailed women, not least because we ran a very informative interview in the summer about their forty year anniversary exhibition.

The company is currently staging a production of Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s ‘Typical Girls’ at The Crucible in Sheffield, and – on 6 Oct – the show will be livestreamed for audiences to watch online.

To find out more, I arranged a quick chat with director Róisín McBrinn.

CM: Can you start by telling us about the narrative of ‘Typical Girls’? Whose story does it tell?
RM: ‘TG’ is about a musician called Marie who goes into a special unit in a woman’s prison to work with a group of women with personality disorders to try and help them form a punk band. We learn about all the women she engages with and about how her experience in prison changes her too.

CM: What themes does the play explore?
RM: The play looks at lots of the issues women face when they are sent to prison – issues around mental health, the impact of separation from their children, unaddressed problems with addiction – and contemplates the elevating power of music.

CM: How did Clean Break come to be staging this play?
RM: Clean Break commissioned Morgan Lloyd Malcolm over five years ago and then brought her into a unit similar to the one the play is set in. We then worked closely with Morgan on the development of the play.

CM: What made you want to direct it? How have you approached it?
RM: For all the dark places the play looks at, it is essentially a really joyous offer. And the music is brilliant! This combination was irresistible to me.

CM: I think lots of our readers will have heard of the playwright Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, but for those who haven’t, can you tell us a bit about her?
RM: Morgan is an amazing playwright who has written a number of plays, but is best known for her West End smash ‘Emilia’. She is particularly adept at making essential issues – often around female oppression – simultaneously hilarious, accessible and enraging.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the cast?
RM: They’re fantastic!!

CM: The show is going to be able to reach wider audiences via a livestream. It’s something that’s become more popular since the pandemic – do you think it’s here to stay?
RM: I think it depends on the show but I certainly hope that it is. We often talk in theatre about making work more accessible and livestreaming is a big win to get people to experience shows that wouldn’t normally.

CM: Does the knowledge that it will be going out digitally have any effect on how the production is staged?
RM: No. We stage it for a live audience and then work with experts to optimise its filming.

CM: Can we talk about you, now? Can you tell us about how you began your career? And what inspired you to become a director?
RM: I wanted to make work that changes audiences’ hearts and minds and to use theatre for social change. I worked as an assistant director and slowly started making my own work.

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future?
RM: I love working at Clean Break and I’m looking forward to our next productions.

CM: What’s coming up next after this?
RM: We’re hoping to announce a new project before Christmas.

‘Typical Girls’ is on at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield until 16 Oct, and the show will be livestreamed on 6 Oct to watch online. Click here for the live shows, and here for the livestream.

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