Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Sonya Hale: Glory Whispers

By | Published on Thursday 16 February 2017

‘Glory Whispers’, a domestic thriller about addiction, loss, and leaving prison, is part of the upcoming Homecomings season at Theatre503. It’s a small festival staged by Synergy Theatre Project, of plays by prisoners and ex-prisoners on the subject of “getting out and getting home”.
To find out more about Homecomings, Synergy Theatre and ‘Glory Whispers’, I spoke to playwright Sonya Hale.

CM: Can you start by telling us about ‘Glory Whispers’? What story does the play tell?
SH: ‘Glory Whispers’ is about addiction and friends and families. It is a bit of a domestic thriller about love and loss and the impact that addiction has on our ability to care for our loved ones. Mina (the central character) is visited by her old friend Glory after three years in prison. She hopes to see Glory’s little boy, and even overlooks Glory’s drinking and possible drug use in the hope that she will get to see him. She wants more than anything to be a family again. However, when her mad boyfriend Jonno turns up unexpectedly the truth unravels and they are all force to face painful and uncomfortable truths.

CM: What themes does it explore?
SH: Getting out and staying out – in terms of prison and addiction. Loss and forgiveness. Denial and responsibility.

CM: What inspired it? Does the play have roots in your personal experience?
SH: I was in active addiction for the best part of twenty years. I used heroin and crack and was in and out of prison. I experienced a lot of pain and loss and heartache as a result of my addiction and hurt my family massively, I put them through hell. ‘Glory Whispers’ feels in part like an attempt to make sense of all that madness and horror and to give all the crazy wonderful people I met along the way a voice and life.

CM: Have you been actively involved with the production? Or as writer, have you stepped back?
SH: Hee hee… I tried to step back but I care about the project too much. ‘Glory Whispers’ deals with some quite big, difficult feelings and issues and as a result rehearsals have required us to pull together as a team more than ever. We have a wonderful, committed, talented team that I am really proud to be a part of.

CM: The play is being staged as part of ‘Homecomings’ because it won Synergy Theatre Project’s scriptwriting competition. How did you know about it, and what are the criterion for entering?
SH: I heard about Synergy Theatre Project through someone I met at Outside Edge (a theatre company run for and by addicts in recovery). That led to me joining a writing course where I started the play. After the course I was encouraged to keep going and submit my play to Synergy’s competition. It was open to anyone who was a prisoner or an ex-prisoner. After winning the competition, Synergy then offered to develop and produce the play,  which has been an amazing experience.

CM: Can you tell us anything about the other new play involved in the Homecomings strand, ‘The Monkey’?
SH: The Monkey is about the crazy dangerous edgy world of addiction and is incredibly sharp, dark and funny!

CM: Can you tell us a bit more about what Synergy Theatre Project does? Why is their work so important?
SH: Synergy Theatre Project works with prisoners and ex-prisoners to inspire change through theatre. They produce work by professional playwrights as well but their main focus is prisoners.

I think that I personally used drugs because of a feeling that I did not have a means to express myself. As a teenager, I had a mental breakdown and hated myself with such a vengeance that I felt unable to speak without drugs inside me. On coming into recovery Synergy gave me that platform to develop confidence to truly start to speak fully and loud and to realise that other people might actually be interested in what I have to say. I genuinely think that this has been so key to my sense of self that without this I simply would not be in recovery.

So for me, Synergy and the Homecomings festival is important as it gives disadvantaged people a place to find their voice and by doing so brings more diversity to theatre generally. Without these different diverse voices coming through, theatre would be so generic and boring. Companies like Synergy Theatre Project keep theatre alive and fresh and happening.

CM: This is your début full length production, which must be exciting, but this is just the start… what are your hopes for the future?
SH: I hope that as a result of ‘Glory Whispers’ my career as a playwright goes from strength to strength. I would love to write for other London spaces and it would be lovely to have a play performed in Manchester as this is the area I grew up. I would also like to branch into writing for different mediums such as television and film. I think it’s a very different, more visual form of writing and I feel that this would stretch me as a writer.

CM: What’s coming up next for you?
SH: I am currently working on the third draft of my Clean Break commission. It is a play about two homeless girls setting up a brothel. It’s a bit of a feminist flick about women, sexuality and their relationship with their bodies. The working title is ‘Blista Touch’.

‘Glory Whispers’ is on at Theatre503 from 21 Feb-4 Mar. See the venue website here for more info.