Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Rosie Poebright and Michelle Roche: Play Inside – Other Mothers

By | Published on Friday 20 November 2020

This week we’re talking a lot about audio experiences – theatrical and otherwise – not least because since we were plunged back into lockdown I’ve been looking into lots of different ways to absorb quality cultural products at home.

So, no surprise that experiential podcast project Play Inside – a collaboration from Splash & Ripple and WeRebel, which recently released its first batch of short pieces ‘Other Mothers’ – very much piqued my interest.

To find out more about the plays, how the project came about, and their hopes for the future, I spoke to creators Rosie Poebright and Michelle Roche.

CM: Can you start by explaining the format of ‘Play Inside: Other Mothers’?
RP: Play Inside is a form of theatrical audio experience that we’ve designed to give audiences a glimpse into the world of other people, from inside their own home. All you need is headphones and a phone, and a bit of time for yourself.

This ‘experiential podcast’ invites the audience to mirror the actions of the main character whilst listening in to the thoughts inside that character’s head – following the character as they both move through different spaces in their home. We hope this will create a shared emotional as well as physical space between the audience and the character.

I think the audiences should expect to be transported to a very personal space, to witness the hidden lives of others; their hopes and fears, their memories and dreams.

We hope that this process strengthens our capacity for compassion. We think it’s a deeply humanising process to be witness to another’s lived experience. And compassion is a human superpower we often don’t get called to exercise.

Play Inside is available as an omnibus – that will take around an hour – or as individual fifteen to 20 minute stories. It’s available for free on most major podcast platforms, including Spotify, or listen online at

CM: There are four stories, aren’t there? Can you tell us a bit about the content of them?
RP: The four stories are drawn from the writers’ personal experiences and interviews with others from their POC and queer communities. The theme of motherhood connects to their sense of what a mother is, or their relationship with their own mothers. Each story is named after their main character.

‘Meesh’ is about someone in their early 40s who’s still not sure whether she wants to be a mother or not. But having just had IVF, life’s about to pull her desires into focus one way or the other. ‘Zoe’ is a love story in two parts, which come together while they’re making sense of their own coming out story alongside having a mum in hospital.

‘Dee’ is coming to terms with her impending full-term pregnancy and the impact motherhood has had on her life. While for ‘Shan’, her life got suddenly much smaller with a diagnosis of Adenomyosis: her story is one of reflection and working to be okay with life as it is right now.

CM: It sounds like each piece explores the theme of motherhood from a very different perspective – is that right?
RP: Yes, each character approaches it from a different angle, as children to their own mothers – exploring how these relationships shape their adult experiences – as a mother, or as someone still not sure whether they want that or not.

For many of us, the mother is the first and most life defining relationship we have, yet in mainstream media it is oversimplified and under-explored. What if you’re ambivalent about being a mother? What one thing have you never said to yours which you’d regret if you ran out of time? What is motherhood in a modern family?

CM: What inspired the stories? Why this subject matter?
RP: Both Michelle and I are a bit done with the same sorts of stories written and produced by the same people. We wanted to create a more active form of storytelling which engages the body, that’s messy and holds space for complexity instead of just the standard hero journey narrative arc.

At the same time, we wanted to amplify and centre voices that are normally left at the side of the room, Michelle and I, as a woman of colour and a queer person, we wanted to bring these stories to the front.

We were also inspired by the idea that in Lockdown One everyone was trapped inside their homes, unable to mix with each other – unable to go to the theatre. Our question was what if we could share people’s experiences with each other, enable them to spend time in each others’ company? What if we foreground the stories that go ignored by the normal commissioners?

The stories arose organically through what is important to the writers, Kat Francois is a world poetry slam champion who suffers from Adenomyosis herself and saw parallels of chronic illness to lockdown isolation; Deanna Rodger is an accomplished poet who’s just had her second child; immersive theatre maker Michelle Roche has spent a lot of time wondering what motherhood actually means; and I’ve been musing and writing a lot about love and loss and the inevitability of both.

CM: Did the format of this creative work come about because of COVID? How did lockdown impact on the project?
MR: Rosie has a long history of making digital immersive performance, and similarly I have been making immersive experiences for around fifteen years. We’ve worked together on various projects for over ten years.

Journeys, both digital and in real life, are something that we know well. Play Inside was a combination of our skill sets, that was also inspired by seeing a need for a platform for voices in the ‘stuckness’ of lockdown.

For the performance to unravel in your own home was definitely something that was a response to lockdown.

Also, once lockdown had eased, Rosie and I only met up twice in real life. We have never met with Kat, Lex and any of the actors. Deanna lives round the corner from me, so we managed to see each other. It was strange to not have had any physical connection throughout the process.

CM: Lots of companies and creatives have responded in clever and innovative ways to the constraints of lockdown and produced great things. Do you think the growth of digitally delivered culture can, or will, continue post-COVID?
MR: Yes, I think that there is an intimacy of creating work that can be ‘performed’ in your own home that I hope will have a life beyond COVID.

I hope there will be space for both, and although we cannot wait for live events to come back, I think that the constraints of lockdown has increased the accessibility of consumption of digital culture.

It’s not just for people that are ‘in the know’ or are ‘tech savvy’, it has become for everyone, and that feels exciting.

CM: How different would your year have looked if a pandemic hadn’t got in the way?
MR: As a freelancer my working world hasn’t changed too dramatically. I have had to transfer my creative facilitation work online, so I have been missing the real-life connection with my students.

WeRebel ran our first online creative playshops for women – journeys of self-discovery through creative play – and we ran a ‘Me And White Supremacy’ support group online with over 50 participants, which was amazing to hold that space, and I don’t think would have happened so easily if we weren’t all now so adept at Zoom! I am now on an artist residency in Portugal working on a show that will continue the Meesh story.

RP: I’m still working on my PhD on the Embodied Story – which this project will inform – but I’ve lost a lot of work I do creating adventure stories with heritage sites. I’m hoping things open up soon, as my company Splash & Ripple has only got a few months left of overheads – although the support from Arts Council for this project has been lifesaving.

CM: What hopes do you have for the future of the arts, and your own part in it, post-COVID?
MR: The world cannot function without the arts. It’s in everything. It would be nice to get more recognition for that. And to not be expected or asked to retrain! There will always be room for the arts. Artists are robust, and resilient and our imaginations can take us beyond any constraint put upon us – and we are all artists…

CM: What do you have coming up next? Anything new in the pipeline?
MR: We will be looking at creating the next series of Play Inside! We hope this is just the first of many!

‘Play Inside: Other Mothers’ is available now via most major podcast platforms or at


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