In Conversation With: Martha Watson Allpress

Content warning: abuse

Editor Imy Brighty-Potts got the incredible opportunity in the run up to VAULTS, to interview writer Martha Watson Allpress, who has created the new play: Patricia Gets Ready (for a date with the man who used to hit her).

With VAULTS festival on the horizon, London is abuzz with talk of the shows gracing the stages, their writers, directors, themes and what is really pushing the boundaries of theatre. Martha Watson Allpress is an actor in training at Royal Central and she will be presenting her first full-length originally written piece: Patricia Gets Ready (for a date with the man who used to hit her).

In synopsis: “Patricia has spent a year crafting a kick ass speech while recovering from an abusive relationship. But when she bumps into her ex on the street, and accidentally agrees to have dinner with him that night, she’s got some big decisions to make; What to wear? What to say? And whether or not to go? Join Patricia as she gets ready for
the dinner date while she shares stories of her past, how it has affected her present, and looks honestly at her future. This one woman show aims to shatter the weathered stereotype of the ‘broken woman’’ and instead presents a survivor in all her colours.”

The one-woman show performed by Angelina Chudi, explores all things being a woman, a victim of abuse, self discovery, really covers a lot of ground in only 60 minutes. I was lucky enough this week to interview the Shadows of A Stranger actor and writer of this play and we talked about the themes explored in the play, one woman shows and her writing experience.

Imy: Can you give us a brief summary of your play and it’s themes?

Martha: Patricia bumps into her abusive ex on the street and, in her state of total shock, accidentally agrees to dinner with him that night. The whole play is Patricia getting ready in her bedroom. It’s a proper intimate hour.

Imy: How would you break that down in three words?

Martha: Oh my gosh?! Three words, eek! Funny. Honest. Tough.

Imy: So, what lead you to want to write such a sensitive and emotional play about something like abuse?

Martha: I was in a really horrid relationship in my late teens/early twenties, and when I came out the other side of it, I found myself totally at a loss. Self care just seemed to be baths and face masks and it didn’t cut it, and all abuse survivors I found in art were diminutive and fragile. It just didn’t sit right with me, so really writing the play was my form of self care.

Imy: Do you think personal experience is integral to writing convincingly about trauma?

Martha: I definitely think, with something as heavy as trauma, if you have personal experience it ensures you are writing in a sensitive, considered, delicate way. I’d hate the thought of a trauma survivor having to watch something inaccurate and reductive.

Imy: Do you think we have entered an era of mainstream one woman shows because of the success of shows such as Fleabag?

Martha: I think Fleabag is phenomenal and definitely helped legitimise the genre. BUT I think we have to be really careful of comparing all one woman shows to Fleabag. Women have more than one story to tell and can’t all be compared to that one successful show. 

Imy: Why is it important that the voices of women like Patricia are heard?

Martha: Isolation is perhaps the most effective tactic of abuse, because it leaves your abuser as the only person you can turn to. Giving survivors a voice in theatre, in any art, means they’re heard…they’re not isolated.

Imy: How did you find the writing process of such a moving show?

Martha: Oddly calming…it’s just a big stream of consciousness with the occasional banging tune thrown in haha.

Imy: As the writer who created her, what would you say to the character of Patricia about her predicament?

Martha: I’d say to take her time. That it’s fine if she’s not fine for years and years and years, and it’s also fine if she recovers in a month. I’d say it’s her journey and no one can dictate where it goes.

With such insight about such difficult and upsetting issues, which are handled so sensitively, we can’t wait to see what Martha writes next.

Stay tuned for our review of this innovative play.

Catch ‘Patricia is Getting Ready (for a date with the man who used to hit her)’ from 5 – 9 February 2020 at VAULT festival, Crypt, Greek St, London SE1 7AD 9EF.

photo’s for this article were taken by Libby Mai.

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