PlayPen Writers Profile: Sandra Bendelow

Sandra Bendelow

Sandra Bendelow

Sandra Bendelow has written two adaptations, Odyssey and Lady Chatterley’s Lover, both for Fallen Angel Theatre Co. In 2012 she progressed to the 3nd Round of the Red Planet Prize -one of the biggest TV Writing competitions in the UK and she was selected for the Ty Newydd Mentoring project with Kaite O’Reilly. She was selected for the Aberystwyth Arts Centre and Sherman Cymru Spread the Word Emerging Writers scheme. Sandra set up and runs the Writing for Performance Group for Aberystwyth Arts Centre and is the Producer for Scriptography Productions. Her play, Split, is about a couple with a damaged relationship returning to a flood damaged house.

What is your play about?
It is about the moment when a woman who has tolerated a bad relationship can’t tolerate it any more.

How did you get the idea?
I know a few people from Talybont who were affected by the flood and everything about that day and everything since that day is such a huge story that I’ve felt I couldn’t not write about it really. So many things stuck in my head. The suddenness of the river bursting. The furniture and possessions all heaped in piles outside the houses. The changing nature of the river from something that ran by people’s houses and was admired and loved to something that was so destructive. People living in holiday cottages for months and what it must be like to live in that temporary situation for such a long time. The pictures of the houses with shelves of things that were still exactly where they were before but covered with a layer of mud. Then returning to a home when it’s been gutted and rebuilt and you have to make it into a home but most of those possessions and belongings that make it your home have gone. With this play though someone mentioned split floorboards to me and the idea just flowed out.

What was your favourite thing about writing the play?
I really like writing about dysfunctional relationships, it’s great to find different ways to reflect how people speak to one another when they’re hiding things, when they’re pretending.

What do you think were the challenges of writing this play?
I have two characters in one room for twenty minutes. The challenge was to have a constantly changing conversation with different dynamics moving their relationship all the time.

What were the challenges of writing a one-act play?
I have always struggled with short plays. I find it difficult to tell a story in 5 minutes, or ten minutes or 20 minutes. I want an hour or 6 hours. It’s been a real challenge and one that I’ve had to face whilst writing for the group. In fact after writing two short pieces for beginnings and the Town, 20 minutes seemed so much easier.

How did you create the characters?
I wanted to surprise the audience with revelations about the characters, to have the audience make decisions about them and then subvert that expectation so it was about creating a surface level character then stripping back to reveal something else whilst keepint the characters believable.

What writing tips would you offer to someone interested in writing for theatre?
Writing for theatre, film, tv, radio is not about writing for the page. It’s for performance. You have to think about the writing moving from your head to the page but then it has to moving around and working in a space. Think about how people really talk, think about what people really do in crisis moments. Mostly though you have to just keep writing. The only way you learn is to get the words down, make mistakes, learn by writing and rewriting, learn by having pieces that don’t work and making them work. Very importantly though find your voice, write about the things you want to write about, not the things you think you should write about, not the things that other people would be writing. Writing is hard and it’s a challenge. That’s what so good about it. It shouldn’t be easy.

What difference has the writing group made to you as a writer?
It offers support, it offers a chance to hear your words read out away from the page. It offers deadlines of showcases. It offers a chance to speak to people who are like you, who understand you, who are struggling like you to be a writer. It’s also really good fun and has proved to be a great place to meet new friends.

Sandra Bendelow’s play Split will be presented as part of the PlayPen project on Friday 1st February. A full list of all plays being presented as part of Playpen on 1st and 7th February is available here

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