PlayPen Writers Profile: Julie Bainbridge

Julie Bainbridge

Julie Bainbridge

Julie Bainbridge is an MA Scriptwriting student at Bath Spa University. After living in Greece for many years she recently completed an undergraduate degree in English Literature and Creative Writing in South Wales. In 2009 she was selected for a National Theatre playwriting project and her play Sons of War was directed by NT director Lisa Spirling at Venue Cymru, Llandudno. In 2011, Black Boots and Petticoats was produced by Cilgwyn Theatre Company and more recently she has been mentored by the playwright and dramaturg Kaite O’Reilly. Julie also writes poetry and is currently working on an anthology to be published in 2014.

Tell me what your play, Zoo, is about?
This is a play about how three women, each with breast cancer, respond to their diagnosis.

How did you get the idea?
I was interested in exploring how the response, by many women to breast cancer, is defined and shaped by the male influences in their lives. I find it intriguing that in an era of equality and gender enlightenment, women, when confronted by breast cancer,  tend to think more about the impact it will have on the men in their lives, rather than considering the impact on themselves. This isn’t intended as a feminist work; rather as an exploration of the decisions women make about their own lives when faced with a potentially terminal diagnosis.

What was your favourite thing about writing the play?
I particularly enjoyed writing the distinct voices of the three women; getting inside their heads; understanding their priorities and the reasons for their choices.

What do you think were the challenges of writing this play?
When a play comprises of monologues there is a danger that the piece may become static. The challenge is to capture and maintain the audience’s interest in the characters; to ensure the monologues weave a spell of enchantment. As a writer, I want my audience to recognise and identify with the women in this play and leave the theatre thinking about what influences the important choices we make in life

What were the challenges of writing a one-act play?
Well, for a start, there are so many definitions of a one-act play. This can sometimes be intimidating for a writer.  I think you have to be true to your story – it’s as long as it takes you to get to the end of your story. Sometimes you won’t know the structure or form until you reach the end.

For the last two showcases, Beginnings and Town with No Traffic Wardens, a theme or subject was given, how different was it writing without rules and limitations?
There are pros and cons for un-themed writing briefs. It can be quite liberating to have the freedom to write about whatever you want. But usually, writers have so many ideas teeming through their heads, it would be unusual to be unable to adapt an idea to a theme or brief.

How did you create the characters?
My characters generally begin as people I observe or meet.  People watching and snooping offer a wealth of material. When a strong character begins to emerge, I live with them for a while; get to know them; listen to what they have to say; listen to their voice. Then capture it on the page.

What writing tips would you offer to someone interested in writing for theatre?
Get to know your craft. It’s hard. It’s competitive. Don’t waste time trying to get there by trial and error. And it’s true what they say, once you know the rules, then you can bend them. Oh… and you need to have something to say.

What difference has the writing group made to you as a writer?
Belonging to a writing group gives you the opportunity to receive valuable, honest feedback from people who understand the craft. It can force you to face up to what you tried to sweep under the carpet, out of sight. It’s hard to hide anything from another writer!

Julie Bainbridge’s play Zoo, will be performed on Friday 1st February. Information on booking tickets is available here

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