The writer and performer chatted to LLLC’s Emma Clarendon about bringing ‘Armour’ to the Vault Festival.
For those who don’t know – what is ‘Armour’ all about?Armour is a coming-of-age comedy about being young and dealing with change. Susie is 14 and her life is falling apart. Her dad just left (coming back a week later for the freezer), her sister’s moved out to live with her boyfriend, who washes up using his sleeve, and her mum has fallen for Jesus. She’s stuck at a new school, a Catholic school, in the middle of nowhere and, to make matters worse, her mum just got a perm. All Susie really wants to do is play hockey at the Olympics – and for everything to just go back to normal – but can your dream come true when your life is a nightmare?
How did the idea for the play come about? Armour began as an image in my head, of a girl, dressed head to toe in hockey goalie gear, trying to be brave. It was loosely inspired by traumatic teenage memories of sport – I once faked a blackout on sports day to get over the shame of tripping over my own legs. And I remember being 13 and my mum turning up to watch me in a netball match with a perm and just wanting to die from humiliation. As an adult, I look back and wonder why, as she rocked that perm and never missed a match. Mostly though, I wanted to write a show about a teenage girl that doesn’t revolve around body image or boys or something really dark and terrible. I feel responsible as a writer to leave people with a massive smile on their face and a sense of hope. I was keen for there to be a lot of hilarity and joy even in moments of teenage trauma and the despair that comes with being allergic to shaving cream.
Was there anything in particular you wanted to say through ‘Armour’? That teenage girls are the best: the imagination of a 14-year old girl truly has no limits. They are resilient, fiercely devoted to the people they love and brilliantly funny. I wanted to take the audience back to that moment in time when we were young, everything felt so out of our control, and we had to make the decision between trying to run away from everything that scared us, or to face it, get through it, survive it, and come out the other side.
How excited are you about the play being part of the Vault Festival?Vault Festival is genuinely the highlight of my year and I’m so happy to be a part of it for a second year in a row. It is the best place to hang out in London between January and March – the talent in those tunnels is mind-blowing and the atmosphere is addictive. Also, the upstairs bar has beanbags.
What has it been like getting ‘Armour’ ready for the stage? As I write this we’re three weeks away from opening and in the process of getting it up on its feet. I work full-time so the biggest challenge is feeling like I have enough hours in the day! Josh, my director, is truly brilliant. He’s also wonderfully calming when I start to panic that I’m prematurely ageing and can’t pass off being a teenager anymore.
What does the play mean to you?It means a lot actually. It’s my first solo play, so both incredibly exciting and really challenging for that reason. I’ve found it surprising how vulnerable writing and performing alone makes you feel. Other than the perm incident it’s purely fictional but I can’t help but feel really attached to Susie and what she goes through in the play and I really want audiences to love her and understand her – in spite of all her flaws!
What’s next in store for you?Not unlike Susie, I’m about to go through a massive period of change, but a really exciting one. At the end of this month I’m leaving my job in the artistic team at the Almeida Theatre to go freelance as a writer. It’s been such a mad few months leading up to now that I haven’t exactly got my life in order but the plan is to work as a part-time script-reader, researcher and copywriter along the way, leaving enough time to focus on writing projects. I’m currently developing a new play for Almeida Participation, for a group of amazing 5-10 year olds to perform in the summer, inspired by the 16th century pirate Grace O’Malley. I’m also part of the Channel Four Screenwriting Group 2019 and will spend the next six months developing my idea for a television drama. For this reason, I keep forgetting I’m getting married in June, so I need to block out some proper time in the diary to remember to actually do that. It’ll be fine, right?!
By Emma Clarendon
Armour will be performed as part of the Vault Festival on the 15th and 16th February.