It’s rare to walk down a high street without spotting either a bookies, or a chicken and chip shop. It’s a sign of our times at present, a marker of 21st century London. Both seemingly unassuming settings, what dramatically could happen? Well, in Lynette Linton’s refreshing new production, Chicken Palace, the chicken and chip shop setting is given a lease of life. Having made her debut at new writing festival, Angelic Tales, 3 years ago with her production STEP, Linton has gone from strength to strength in her writing career. Ahead of Chicken Palace‘s debut, Theatrefullstop were lucky enough to speak to the playwright about her inspirations for the play, working with Theatre Royal legends Rikki Beadle-Blair and John Russel Gordon, and offers advice to aspiring playwrights!
Hi Lynette! How are you feeling ahead of the first performance of your new play, Chicken Palace, due to show at Stratford East Theatre Royal?
Nervous and excited, I’m hoping people will like it and everyone laughs at least once. Fingers crossed!
Could you explain what the play is about?
The play is set in Singh’s Chicken Palace, a new chicken shop that has opened in Stratford. It’s a normal day until an incident down the road sees police shut off the area and our seven characters (and audience) lock themselves inside the shop for safety. But suspicions arise when the key goes missing and it looks like someone inside might have bitten off more than they can chew.
What inspired the creation of Chicken Palace?
After my first play STEP, I carried on doing some improvisation workshops with some of the actors and some of the characters for Chicken Palace came out of those. I started thinking about what situation I could put these people in that would be not only dramatically interesting, but also relatable to an audience – hence the chicken shop. Other characters began to emerge and our co-director Marcus Ellard started to collaborate with us. It’s been an interesting process as the show explores Post-traumatic stress as well as different perspectives, and mob mentality. It starts off (hopefully) really funny and slowly descends into something quite different. It was also important for me to try and think about how to get new audiences in to see the show, which is where the chicken and chips idea came from.
How did you approach writing Chicken Palace?
It was all the other way round really! I worked with the actors first to come up with the characters and then found the situation and story. It was a very interesting process as a writer because normally it’s the other way round and the actors get involved a lot later. Although there are literally about 30 versions of the script! I change it daily- luckily I’m working with people who can adapt quickly.
You’re playwriting debut, ‘STEP’ was performed as part of Team Angelica’s Angelic Tales Festival in 2012. How has that opportunity shaped you as a playwright?
Well I’ve learnt everything I know from Rikki Beadle-Blair and John Russell Gordon when it comes to writing. I’ve learnt so much from them during that process and both of them continue to mentor me now (John was the dramaturg on this play!). Writing is rewriting and you shouldn’t be afraid of cutting. Repetition is boring. Don’t be afraid of what you want to say, the list goes on. I hear them both in my head when I’m editing, they are both very inspiring and Angelic Tales changed my life.
Who or what inspires you as a playwright?
Well Rikki and John firstly, but I have been incredibly inspired by James Baldwin. Also, I’m constantly inspired by the stories they aren’t getting on the stage and so I want to portray unheard voices. There are a lot of people who still believe the theatre is not for them and it’s for everyone! I’m also inspired by Michael Jackson just because he is the King of everything.
What advice would you give to aspiring playwrights?
Keep writing, you have to write that terrible first draft in order to get something good out of it. Also come to the next Angelic Tales at Stratford- it’s an incredible event and sooo inspiring! You’ll meet writers like you and realise you’re not on your own during the struggle! ?
Interview by Lucy Basaba.
Chicken Palace will be showing at Theatre Royal Stratford East from Wednesday 19th to Saturday 22nd August. For more information on the production, visit here…