The underground theatre scene in Liverpool is currently thriving, with lots of weird and wonderful work being produced and tried out. 81 Renshaw Street offers an Edinburgh fringe experience, all in one bar and all year-round. It is here that 10 million hardbacks met local writer Jamie Mcloughlin. Jamie is part of Lantern Writers, a collective of fifteen+ local writers who all formerly staged work at the Lantern Theatre. Since its closure in 2016, they have organised several scratch nights at The Black-E and 81 Renshaw Street and are now based at the Unity Theatre, Liverpool.
10mh: Tell us a joke?
What did the squeaky cheese say when it looked in the mirror?
10mh: What does a typical creative day look like?
I feel awful answering this as I don’t have a special place I go to, or a routine I stick to, or a box where I keep ideas and inspirational objects. Because of that I feel a bit of a fraud sometimes. Genuinely, a creative day is me at the living room table, staring at the laptop screen, letting first-draftness jiggle out of my fingers and on to the keys, then going back to finesse it a few times.
With regard to Spud, the monologue coming up in Boss New Plays, that bubbled out all in one go and was tweaked after feedback during a Lantern Writers session a few months back. But ideas live in my head for so long. There was a scene I had as an inner-brain-movie for ages which is slowly becoming part of the next thing I want to write. I can’t wait until that’s had its first draft. I want it to be properly zippy, reflecting how people who really get on actually talk to each other.
10mh: If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be and why?
When we did Satan & Mrs Smith last year, the cast and I debated during the odd post-rehearsal sherry if the play could possibly work as a musical. I’m squarely in the ‘it could’ camp. Therefore I’d love to meet someone who knows their way around a plot-friendly rollicking showstopper or two who could give it a go. Does Tim Minchin read this?
10mh: The best piece of advice you have been given?
A hell of a lot was achieved before you arrived and a hell of a lot will be when you’re gone. Be humble in the face of that experience and ask if it’s OK to take notes.
10mh: What are you reading at the moment?
I’ve not long finished Armistead Maupin’s Logical Family, his memoirs. Fascinating stuff, I never knew his background was so much the polar opposite of the life he leads today. I’d love to meet him, I imagine he would be a good listener and give very wise advice. I first read Tales of the City in sixth form and it was one of the happiest literary experiences of my life. That and Gone With the Wind. The latter was 1,008 pages long and on page 1,007 I realised I was tearing up because it was almost all over.
10mh: What is the weirdest thing that has happened in a performance, whether in the audience, on stage or behind the scenes?
I’m very new to this so don’t have a lot of examples to choose from. The first time we did Satan & Mrs Smith, it was the same night as England’s World Cup semi-final and against all expectation, we got a full house. Just before the final scene, a group of us exited the stage together and went to 81 Renshaw’s equivalent of backstage, a little euphoric at the reception we’d had. Duane, who plays various roles in the show, was already there. We were buzzing. Then he turned to us and whispered sadly, ‘Croatia are winning two-one…’ and the buzz flopped completely! But we soon got it back after a few beers. That was a brilliant night. You never forget your first time.
10mh: Who are your influences?
I love Jonathan Harvey’s work, he has this way with conversation between friends which is just genius. Somehow, no matter how much vitriol is in there, you know these people love the bones of each other deep down. I’d love to be able to write like Phoebe Waller-Bridge as well. Killing Eve was already phenomenal and then they went and stuck the most boss soundtrack in the world on it too. Hope there’s an album.
10mh: How do you gather your ideas for a play?
Again, I’m new to this so I’ve only got the one play and a monologue to talk about (these questions are giving me serious imposter syndrome) but I can honestly say that the ideas for Satan & Mrs Smith just sort of popped into my head and then the characters led me through the plot. It did, most importantly, underline the importance of scratch nights. Hearing Jen Cartwright play the Brummie PA, Pamela Ashton as Mrs Smith and Phil as Satan on that first night in the Black-E, just those 10 minutes, it gave me voices to work with and it also helped that I knew they really wanted to come back and do the whole play as well. From there, I knew what those characters would do, what they would say and more importantly, what they wouldn’t do and say. Genuinely, that got me to the end of the writing process.
With regard to Spud, the kernel of that was seeing how many established roles – Doctor Who being the most obvious example – aren’t necessarily defined by the gender of the lead actor any more. The subject matter of Spud is important to me and very, very slightly autobiographical but I also wanted to see if it was possible to put a masculine spin on a monologue in a domestic setting. In my head, the closest comparison is Shirley Valentine. I’m nowhere near as good as Willy Russell but I wanted to play around with taking that sort of idea and applying a twist. It’s up to the audience if it’s any cop or not.
10mh: What makes great theatre?
Never having to glance at your watch to see how long’s left.
10mh: What next?
Hopefully, the ‘family sat together and taking the mick out of each other’ idea, to give it its scientific name. It’s an idea that involves fostering to some extent. Not necessarily a play with a message but where the subject features enough that I want to get the research right and not upset anyone. I’d love to sit down with some foster parents and chat with them to see if the ideas I have for the story are realistic. If they’re not, I’ll turn it into something else as I don’t want to get it wrong, it’s too important a thing to write about irresponsibly.
Fostering is something that fascinates me, to be honest. It must be the most rewarding but also the most heartbreaking thing you could ever do. I admire the people who do it so much. Did that sound really patronising? It’s not supposed to. Genuinely, I think it’s brilliant.
Jamie Mcloughlin’s monologue SPUD will be performed as part of BOSS NEW PLAYS two evenings of four pieces – some shorts, some scratch, all NEW at 81 Renshaw Street on Thursday 14 and Friday 15 March. The show runs twice in the evening at 6.30pm and 8.30pm.
A mini fringe festival in the middle of March. Don’t miss it!