I had the pleasure of interviewing writer and producer Harriet Madeley, as she prepares to take her touring play ‘The Listening Room’ to CAST.
Words: Emma Gullon
The Listening Room is a play about real life violent criminals meeting the grieving families of their victims years after they’re convicted. What was it like working with the families to create this show?
“It was quite daunting initially, as this is obviously a very sensitive subject and these stories really happened. This was also the first thing I’d ever written and created myself. But the two families we met were very warm and welcoming people, and it was a very inspiring experience. I always like working with real people in general so the creative process is more of a discovery of real lives, rather than making them up.”
We’ve seen all over the news that knife crime in the UK has had scarily high statistics in recent years. Do you think the stories told in this play are relevant to that?
“I do. the criminals in this are all young men, whose crimes come about largely as a consequence of the cultural surroundings that they find themselves in. Knife crime is complex and there many different reasons for it, but anyone can get into it if it’s normalised and promoted within their social environment. They had also all got into drink and drugs, which adds fuel to a lot of violent crime.”
Without giving too much away, do we see both perspectives of the victims and the perpetrators? How do you want the audience to feel about that?
“There are three stories in the show. One we just hear from the perpetrator, one is the family’s view and one that has both sides I think there’s a range of emotions you’ll feel as the play goes on. I don’t want to apologise for the criminals, but I also want people to understand the impact of going to prison. I really wanted to lay bare the pain left behind after a crime and put the people involved centre stage.”
And finally, what would you like the audience to take away from The Listening Room long after they’ve left the theatre?
“Ultimately, it’s a play about communication and empathy. Today with such political divisions etc. it’s becoming harder for us to empathise with others, and I want people to have a fresh perspective on those two things. I want people to think about the toxic power of anger too, and think about who it is really aimed at. And is it really worth holding on to? I also want them to realise empathy can be found… a fresh perspective on what could be possible, even in extreme circumstances.”
‘The Listening Room’ will be performed by Crowded Room Theatre Company at CAST on 11th June at 7:15.
In conjunction with this performance there will be a Artist Co-op networking event hosted by Rosie Clark Cast’s Assistant Producer, Rosie has invited writer Garry Lyons to discuss developing creative writing for the stage, especially verbatim pieces. Garry has written for TV shows such as Heartbeat, The Bill and Holby City. He was also the writer of The Last Seam, which had a sell out performance at CAST last year.
As well as meeting other local artists and listening to Gary, you will also have a 10% discounted ticket for ‘The Listening Room’.
Tickets cost £11 (£9 for under 26 and £9.90 with Artist Co – Op)
Click HERE for CAST tickets.
Click HERE for more information on Artist Co – Op events.
Click HERE for the full ‘Listening Room’ tour dates.