Playwright Sharon Byrne talks about her show ‘Gutted’ showing at The Marlowe Theatre and The Irish Cultural Centre!
We have a long way to go, however seeing discussions focused on women’s rights is a step forward in the right direction. In 2018, according to the Crime Survey of England and Wales, 7.9% of women experienced domestic violence, that’s roughly 1.3 million of the population and 28.9% aged between 16 to 59 have suffered some form of domestic abuse from aged 16 – 4.8 million. The Police Service of Northern Ireland have reported a worrying increase in domestic violence incidences, reporting a 5.4% rise from October 2017 to September 2018 and the highest since records began in 2004/2005. However as this topic is complex, and is often hidden, it’s difficult to quantify just how much this occurs. We’ve also witnessed conversations on the personal topic of abortion take place, Northern Ireland currently in the process of decriminalising it, ensuring regulations regarding abortion services are put in place by April (BBC News). Playwright and screen writer taps into these pertinent issues in her current play ‘Gutted’, set four decades prior to now. Ahead of the show’s run starting from Friday 4th October & Saturday 5th October at the Marlowe Theatre, Sharon tells us more about what to expect.
Hi Sharon, your play Gutted will tour around London and Kent throughout October. How are you feeling ahead of the run?
I am excited but it’s always nerve wracking putting your work out there. It’s a black comedy so I hope people will enjoy the play.
Gutted explores themes of family, trust, love and loss as well as touching on the topical issues of domestic violence and abortion. What inspired you to create a show exploring these particular themes?
I grew up around these issues and I’m surprised there hasn’t been much change – last year abortion was voted on in a referendum in Ireland. Women are still fighting for equal rights in the home, the work place and to choose what’s right for their bodies. The issues in Gutted are still prevalent today.
Gutted started off as a play, and was then adapted for the screen, having been shortlisted in the Moondance Film Festival. It premiered at the Marlowe Theatre in 2017 and has been staged at the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. How have you found the process of adapting Gutted as a stage play into a stage play?
It was actually written as a play first. I adapted for screen with my friend and co-writer Melissa Garner Lee. It was great to get it shortlisted but still looking to have it produced. I hope with all this exposure that can become a reality. It’s a story that needs to be heard.
What have responses been towards the show?
People smiled a lot during the play. And afterwards a lot of people really wanted to share a story about themselves or their family. Every family I think, and probably every Irish family, has instances they know of from the generations above, which were perhaps a secret, maybe something that is now an hysterical story, but at the time was really difficult for the person enduring it. And because the play is 3 young women, which is still unusual in terms of characters from the 1980s, a lot of people wanted to tell stories to us about their family and things that had happened in the 80s or earlier.
We got four stars reviews in Edinburgh, so I’m feeling positive.
Have you learned anything new from creating the show?
Yes. Producing and co-producing is hard work. Writers like myself need more support in the industry. Playing the role when you’re a writer is added pressure. And not as much fun as writing and creating. I would love a big producer to take it on board.
What can audiences expect from the show?
To laugh first and foremost and to cry – feel empathy for the characters and their stories.
What would you like for audiences to take away from the show?
An understanding of the Irish sense of humour, how we deal with adversity and what growing up in the 80s was like for young women.
What advice would you give to aspiring screenwriters/playwrights?
Keep at it!
Questions by Lucy Basaba.