Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Tania Amsel: Blood Orange

By | Published on Friday 13 December 2019

Currently showing at the Old Red Lion Theatre is a new one-woman play focusing on junior doctors and their work in A&E over the holiday season.

It’s a show which, you might possibly have noticed, we recently recommended in our Three To See tips.

I was intrigued by this very heart-felt sounding piece, which is performed by its writer Tania Amsel. So I arranged a brief chat to find out more.

CM: Can you start by telling us what ‘Blood Orange’ is all about? Whose story is it, and where does its narrative take us?
TA: ‘Blood Orange’ was inspired by the dedication of NHS Staff and is a personal journey full of humour of how mental ill-health and losing a loved one affects junior doctor Amy and explores her journey to move forward with hope.

CM: What themes do you explore through the show?
TA: That comedy and tragedy aren’t far apart: finding the real emotion and understanding how that can resonate with an audience is a challenge but I think I cracked it. It’s laughter that can release the darkness and lifts everyone up.

CM: What inspired you to write a show about this topic?
TA: Junior doctors are people like you and me. They do amazing jobs under pressure and that takes its toll. Christmas is a joyous time but also full of stress for a lot of people. ‘Blood Orange’ tells that story.

CM: Did you always intend to play the role of Amy yourself?
TA: Writing for me is a way to get to act in stories that I think are meaningful and have strong female characters who also show vulnerability. Amy is exactly that and as her journey developed, I felt a responsibility towards her to do her story justice, so I had to play her!

CM: What’s it like, working with your own script, as compared to working with those written by other people?
TA: Writing a play with several characters is all about developing individuals and creating great dialogue. Writing a one woman story and playing the sole character is like constantly having two heads or actually two USB sticks: one is my writing self and one has all my actor skills and instincts. It can be frustrating and confusing but I have learnt to trust the process as it all comes together at the end. I have always found the moment from first to second draft is the hardest: seeing very clearly the changes that are needed and letting go. Being an actor with someone else’s script is a different challenge; being truthful to the text and finding the character is a fascinating task.

CM: How does the fact the you are the writer affect the dynamics of the relationship between you and your director?
TA: I am lucky to work with Hamish MacDougall, who is an actor and experienced director with great insight. We’ve worked on ‘Blood Orange’ since before previews in August. Once in the room it’s a great way to explore what works and what doesn’t and my writing can be changed instantly. It makes for a very dynamic process. Ultimately the most important question is: is this serving the story and will this make the play the best it can be?

CM: Did you have to do a lot of research to inform the play?
TA: I read, talked with medical professionals, and learnt so much. My admiration grew so getting the medical facts correct and redrafting the script was the least I could do.

CM: How would you describe the show in terms of its approach…? Obviously you are dealing with serious issues, but would you say it has a comical side…?
TA: ‘Blood Orange’ deals with big issues of bereavement and cancer in a personal relatable way through Amy’s journey. Where there’s heartache there’s also humour and a great way to access difficult topics is by making the context funny. The humour often acts as an escape valve, a release and then letting go. ‘Blood Orange’ has laugh-out loud moments immediately followed by shock and sadness, all of which is very much part of life.

‘Blood Orange’ is on at the Old Red Lion Theatre until 4 Jan, see the venue website here for more information and to book.