Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Tatty Hennessy: A Hundred Words For Snow

By | Published on Friday 1 March 2019

You might already have heard about, or even seen ‘A Hundred Words for Snow’, as it had a very well received run at last year’s Vault Festival. Fortunately for those of you who missed seeing this brilliant monologue, it’s being performed at Trafalgar Studios for most of March.

To find out more about the play, and the talented creative behind it, I arranged a quick chat with playwright Tatty Hennessy.

CM: Can you start by telling us a bit about the narrative of the play? Whose story does it tell and where does it go?
TH: The play tells the story of Rory, a fifteen year old girl whose father dies very suddenly. She decides to help him have one last adventure, and runs away from home with his ashes to the North Pole, without telling Mum.

CM: What would you say are the primary themes of the show?
TH: Grief, being an explorer in a world that’s melting, and being a teenage girl in a world that doesn’t think all that much of teenage girls.

CM: Is it a political play? If so, what points are you trying to make?
TH: Every play is political. I don’t think about using the play to make points – its about telling a story, and the story explores several areas and I hope encourages an audience to reflect on things – on how we now engage, and how we have historically engaged, with our planet and with each other, and if there’s a way we could be doing this better.

CM: In what respects is it feminist?
TH: Unfortunately, it still feels like quite a radical thing to take the desires, longings, fears and experiences of a teenage girl seriously as a subject for art, and this play puts it front and centre.

CM: What inspired you to write a play on this subject matter?
TH: I’ve always been a bit of a geek for stories of exploration, but the most famous and celebrated always seemed to be dead beardy men. I wondered what would happen if you put a very different hero at the centre, and Rory was born.

CM: Did you do a lot of research before writing the play?
TH: Yes! So much. It’s my favourite stage of the writing process, immersing myself in the world of the play and its themes. I now practically have my own library of books about the Arctic, climate change, explorers…! I was also very lucky to receive a grant from the Peggy Ramsay Foundation to travel to Svalbard myself and walk in Rory’s footsteps, which was instrumental in describing the arctic landscape, and the profound effect it has on Rory. I came home from that trip and rewrote a LOT.

CM: I am really jealous to hear that you’ve visited Tromso and Svalbard, as I’ve fairly recently been browsing airbnb listings in both locations… can you tell us a bit about what Svalbard is like?
TH: It’s terrifying! I was expecting it to be a profound experience but I wasn’t at all prepared for how it felt. The landscape is like nothing I’d ever seen before, it exists on a scale of size and time that’s so inhuman.

CM: The play has already had brilliant reviews for previous runs, of course, so it’s no wonder there was a desire to get it back on stage. Are there plans to take it further afield…?
TH: It’s already been translated into Greek and performed in Athens, which was so thrilling. It’s a play very close to my heart so of course I’d love for it to have a long life. And a few actors have got in touch with me saying they’ve used it as their audition piece for drama schools which I’m always so excited and touched by. Who knows what’s next!

CM: Can we talk a bit about you now…? Was writing and directing always your planned career? How did you get to this stage, career wise?
TH: Ever since I figured out as a child that the books I loved to read were written by people, I wanted to be one of those people. I was lucky to find my way onto the Gate Theatre Young Writers’ Programme when I was 14, it was a real turning point for me to be taken seriously by a real life theatre, to get to work with actors and directors and see shows. I also attended the Royal Court Writers’ Group while still at school. I was so lucky to be living in London and able to take advantage of those opportunities. After university I took any job I could in theatres before going to LAMDA to do an MA in Directing, and I’ve been writing and directing ever since.

CM: Do you have a preference for directing or writing? Do you see yourself continuing to do both?
TH: I love them both!

CM: What hopes or ambitions do you have for the future?
TH: To keep on writing plays and telling stories and working in this mad, brilliant industry for as long as I can get away with.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
TH: I’m directing a brilliant new play, ‘Mary’s Babies’ by Maud Dromgoole, at the Jermyn Street Theatre in March/April, and working on a new play for the National Youth Theatre.

‘A Hundred Words For Snow’ is on at Trafalgar Studios from 5-30 Mar. See this page here for details and to book tickets.