I’ve been reading old blog content. Some of it is really bad. Some of it is great. I really, mostly enjoyed reading my interviews backlog. I thought it would be interesting to revisit these people again. Just to see if any wisdom could be passed on. I had to of course talk to Fran. I owe Fran a great deal. She’s done me numerous favours, never said no, always been on time and always been a friend. I’ve followed her recent and ongoing antics from a distance but it really has now become time to break some legs with @motherwriting herself again. And as I’m writing this she’ll be wrapping up her first performance with Monkey Trousers. Exciting.
So how are you?
Very well thank you.
Tell me everything I need to know about Monkey Trousers.
Monkey Trousers Theatre is a Bristol-based theatre company that performs original plays for children. My friend Charlotte and I set it up following a conversation we had a few months ago about how there was a gap in the market for affordable, good quality, purely fun theatrical shows for the kids in our local community. We’re both experienced in non-professional theatre, plus I’m a writer and Charlotte is a puppeteer, so we have the skills in place. It just made sense to pick a performance date, book the venue, and get going. Everything developed at a crazy pace from there. We’ve just done a preview show, and our first public performances coming this Easter weekend have already sold out.
What challenges did you face setting up Monkey Trousers?
All the creative stuff is the easy bit for me – writing, making costumes, rehearsing, performing, set dressing, sourcing props, redrafting scripts, learning songs etc. The challenges come from the business side of things: how to sell our product, how to deal with the money, setting up a website, creating a brand, all the administrative tasks that are a pain in the arse to do. Both Charlotte and I agreed that we’d need help with all that. We’re fortunate to know some super-lovely people who are very generous with their time and talents. At some point we’ll be able to pay them! Generally, the amount of support we’ve had has been overwhelming. Charlotte and I might be the public face of Monkey Trousers Theatre, but we have a dedicated team of Monkeys behind us. Couldn’t have done it without them.
When we first met you were on benefits as a single mother. Looking back from where you are now what steps did you take to realise your creative ambition?
Well I’m still a single mother on benefits. I think setting up this business is a way for me to do a job I love rather than simply seeing it as a money-making exercise. It would be fantastic to think we’d make a fortune from doing this but we have to be realistic! In the long-term there are ways to expand the business and we do have plans. For now, we’d just like to get everything going. I don’t know that this has particularly been my creative ambition, but now I’m doing it, I’m enjoying every second.
At what point did you think “I can actually do this”?
Everything has happened relatively quickly – I’d say within the space of roughly four months I’ve gone from full-time SAHM to actor/writer and co-director of my own theatre company. I haven’t had time to think ‘I can actually do this’! It just got done! With reflection, maybe when I’d finished the first draft of the script it kind of hit me that we had a product – something to sell – and that it was a good, solid idea with a lot of potential – maybe that’s when it first felt real.
What’s it like performing in front of children? Describe your first performance for me.
I get nervous performing in front of adults so it felt natural to be nervous in front of children as well. I was going to say it’s easier because they’re not as discerning but actually that’s bollocks. Kids are harder to entertain. I have a newfound respect for Justin Fletcher. For our first performance, I was more worried about what my daughter would think. She’d never seen me perform before. I’d been prepping her for a few weeks beforehand – ‘You can wave at mummy but mummy can’t wave back’ sort of thing – and I had a genuine fear that she would either storm the stage or get so hysterically upset that we’d have to stop. Yet it turned out that she loved it. I kept glimpsing her face and she was totally engaged. Her concern was that I would still be her mummy after I’d finished being someone else, so I’ve been reassuring her a lot on that point. Some of my friends’ children also seemed faintly disturbed by my transformation. Hope I didn’t give them nightmares…
Has your experience of self realisation made you think/act differently as a mother?
No not really. Not that I’ve noticed anyway. I still face the challenges of parenting – I still get frustrated, annoyed, sad, furious, to some extent – every single day. Me getting fulfilment from a career that ticks all my boxes is brilliant, but I don’t think it’s impacted on how I want to bring up my daughter. I don’t feel that I’ve changed in that respect. Some days I feel like I’m a shit parent, some days not. Hopefully the days when I don’t feel like a failure outweigh the days that I do! I think that’s the same for everyone, isn’t it?
What’s your favourite smell?
I have a few. They all evoke strong memories for me: tomato plants, creosote, Oil of Ulay, frying onions. Bit weird, I know. Should I say something more normal? Freshly baked bread.
If you could rule the world which five rules would you implement first?
This could get messy. I strongly suspect I’d be a terrible ruler – vaguely despotic, utterly power-mad – so I’m going to take the easy way out and say I’d want peace, love, harmony, justice and biscuits for all
A huge thank you to Fran for taking the time to talk to me again. Let’s see what’s happening in another couple of years. I for one cannot wait.
For more Monkey Trousers go here: http://monkeytrouserstheatre.com/ and the FB page https://www.facebook.com/monkeytrouserstheatre, the Twitter account https://twitter.com/monkey_trousers, and Fran’s blog (not that she updates it that often but oh well) https://motherwriting.wordpress.com/