Sally MacAlister on She Can't Half Talk
Bedlam Fringe's 2019 programme is host to a diverse collection of emerging creatives at the early stages of their artistic career. One such talent is Writer and Director Sally MacAlister, a student at the University, who is bringing She Can't Half Talk to the festival after a successful term-time run at Bedlam Theatre.
This five-star monologue show explores the conformities of gender and sexuality in modern day society, through the wickedly absurd lenses of The Foetus, The Camera Girl, The Victim, The Drag Queen, The Cougar and The Actor. Each character brings something new to the societal table – their fears, their loves, their hopes to come and their experiences past. With a series of six monologues, with three per performance, the audience are shown how the effects of gender change and redefine.
The title – She Can’t Half Talk – inspires feelings of indignation and frustration at a common trope so often directed towards women. Where did the idea for the play come from?
The play was produced as a thought experiment in order to try and explore the basic dilemmas and issues feminism finds within our own considerations of gender and sexuality through the most unconventional lens possible; the foetus was the first monologue written, then the cougar, and then the other monologues fell into place! It was important to me that none of the monologues went the way you expected them to.
The play explores the conformities of gender and sexuality in modern day society through six different monologues, one being The Foetus. How do you go about building a character such as The Foetus?
I wanted to create a character that reflected the ideas of the pro-choice movement for starters, and the Foetus felt like the strangest way to do that! The foetus’ undeniable character trait is that she is completely and utterly besotted with her mother, and isn’t really sure of anything else. In constructing the monologue itself, I liked to play off of the fact that because of her mother being a lecturer at university, she has all these hollow facts that she’s overheard and has nothing really to back them up, so we get this ridiculously intelligent and yet completely inexperienced and naive character. All in all, the foetus is a really useful motif because she knows nothing for certain, except that her mother deserves the best.
With a cast of current and recently graduated University students, tell us about some of the talent you have on the team for this production.
There isn’t one person in the cast who doesn’t completely deserve to be there; they’re a lovely mix of current and graduated University students, and I think what makes them all perfectly suitable for this show is that they are capable of finding a balance in the emotions required for each monologue. For instance, Kirsten Millar, our camera girl, is very comfortable to indulge in the loneliness of her character, even in the parts of her monologue that definitely come across as humourous, and even in the darkest monologue, The Victim, Aine Higgins is able to pick out the light hearted moments. It’s so important in monologues to find actors who are comfortable with this balancing act, because otherwise they can lag.
What do you hope that audiences will take from the production?
I really hope it starts arguments. This sounds ridiculous but if people come to it with their friends and they take an entirely different stance on how each character came across and what it meant, I’ll be happy. These characters are supposed to be multifaceted and confusing, and if people struggle to wrap their heads around how it makes them feel, they’ve done their job.
You debuted the show at Bedlam Theatre and are bringing it back for the Fringe. How have you benefitted from your involvement in the Edinburgh University Theatre Company?
I’m incredibly lucky to be part of such a wonderful community; it’s given me links and connections that I’m sure other people wanted to get started into the arts industry could only dream of. It’s also introduced me to so many people that have creative ideas that are fun to riff off, which is always a plus. It’s easy to forget how much of a privilege it is having such a wonderful theatre as part of a university society, but this year in particular it’s been so predominant in both my personal and university life that I haven’t been able to.
In one sentence, tell us why people should come and see She Can’t Half Talk.
It’s a refresher for people who’ve forgotten how important this discussion is.