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Isolation Interviews: Lucinda Borrell

Next up taking part in the Isolation Interviews series I have Lucinda Borrell. Lucinda is a playwright and her first development piece received good reviews during a run at The Space in London. Lucinda is also an investigative journalist.

Q - What was the first show that you remember seeing?
A - The first show I remember was Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat. I must have been about five at the time and it's one of my earliest memories. I remember because my mum took me up to Edinburgh with a friend (and her mum) and I was wearing a really lovely red coat. It was Philip Schofield who played Joseph at the time.

Q - What are your favourite plays/musicals? (you can pick up to 5)
A - That's a tough one - and it varies. I do love a good bit of Hamlet - anything which ends in death and disaster - and it has some great speeches in there. I saw a play at Northern Stage almost a decade ago now called Ruby Moon about a little girl who goes missing, and its about her family kind of grieving for her, but not knowing if she's alive or dead and that has really stuck with me. I love a good bit of Les Mis and I remember seeing a fabulous play Romantics Anonymous at the Globe a while back which I came out from and I was buzzing.

I also turned 30 two years ago and my friend Kyra - who actually kind of kicked me into gear to finish writing my own play - she organised a surprise day out and we went to see Consent. It was one of those plays that really got you to think about serious issues but without feeling preachy which is a balance that is so hard to get right. That's the kind of thing I've always wanted to do - so I was gripped. Reading this back, I'm aware a lot of these plays end in misery, or deal with quite depressing issues but I do like happy plays too. I loved Strictly Ballroom when that came out - such fun.

Q - Where did the inspiration come from for writing your first developmental piece?
A - Another tough question. I think it's very rare that you get just piece of inspiration and I think for me its kind of a lot of things that came together at the same time.

There were a few stories in the summer of 2017 that I was working on which revolved around harassment of women and a bit later The Telegraph published their expose on Philip Green. At the time I remember thinking - given everything that was reported and the voice notes that were published - why on earth would his wife stay with him?

Then at the same time a childhood friendship of mine started falling apart in a way that was just un-fixable. Like years of stuff that had been left unsaid - on both sides - started emerging. It wasn't anything nasty, but it was clear we had huge gaps in our fundamental beliefs and values as well as years of grievances I think that both parties had kept quiet about that just came out at the same time.

Q - Can you tell us more about the piece?
A - I think a lot of people think of Us Two as a '#metoo play but I don't think of it like that. I think it's about the breakdown of a quite toxic friendship which takes place in that world - only the stakes for both characters are insanely high.

It's hard to describe without giving the entire plot away what happens - or even the premise but I'll give it a go. So our characters Lizzy and Beth are friends from childhood. Beth is a housewife and stay at home mum, whereas Lizzy is a journalist who absolutely adores her job and her freedom. Prior to the play opening, a big #metoo style incident has occurred causing a huge rift and this meeting is the two of them sitting down and trying to piece everything together and figure out their friendship after a lot of suffering on both sides.

We did the development piece at The Space in London and the actors (Karina Cornwall and Kara Stanley) did an amazing job and actually the response to that was amazing.  We were due to have a short run at The Old Red Lion in Islington but then corona virus happened which put paid to that.

Q - You're also an investigative journalist, did that help you when it came up with the research and developing the script?
A - I think for this in particular I didn't really have to do a lot of specific research which was nice as I was working on quite an intense project at the time of writing.

I think the basic psychology, particularly of both Beth and Lizzy  was formed after spending years and years of working on complex stories with survivors of various forms of abuse. It's an honour that people trust me with these stories, but it also means there was some understanding of the psychological impact of this already there and how abusers operate - so that helped create the world in which the play takes place.

There's also a lot of bits in about media law, criminal law etc. When you do a lot of investigative work, you get a lot of training on this anyway, so the basics is just second nature at this stage. But it kind of comes from years and years of top notch legal training. That was quite crucial to most elements of the plot.

Also, I'm female, and I have female friends and again, you just learn don't know the various complexities of navigating friendships which naturally shift over time.

So while I didn't do research for this specifically, there's a lot of knowledge that has built up over the years that ended up going in to it

Q - You've worked on some of TV's biggest investigative programmes (Panorama, Dispatches etc). What inspired you to get into that?
A - I ended up in journalism because I've written for as long as I can remember. Even as a kid I was telling stories. I'm also annoyingly nosy so print journalism was a natural fit for me. Problem is there's a whole load of issues with print journalism that I won't go into - and investigative jobs are few and far between - and not financially viable, so I ended up shifting over to TV where the bulk of the work is. I actually really love it, you get a lot longer to dig around stuff and I still do write the odd bit for the papers. I've had to really claw my way in - but I'm now lucky that I at least get to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Q -  What's the best piece of advice you've been given?
A - That you can listen to all the advice on in the world, but at the end of the day you've still got to trust your gut. Every time something has gone wrong, it tends to have been because I didn't trust my instincts. Also if you believe in something - fight for it. Like really fight.

Q -  If you could have dinner with 3 theatre-related guests (doesn't have to just be performers). Who would you invite and why?
A - I have lots of friends that work in theatre. Kyra who I've mentioned previously works in talent management/agency work and is a writer and performer herself. I have friends from my front of house days at the Royal Albert Hall. If I'm honest and I had to pick anyone in the world to hang out with over dinner it would be my mates. I totally understand why people do the stage-door thing at theatres - but for me, I like the people I see in the theatre to just remain a mystery. Like if I'm going to watch Hamlet, I want to see Hamlet on the stage, not Benedict Cumberbatch playing Hamlet. Does that make sense... there are some amazing theatre people out there. From directors and writers to actors and stage managers - but I want to just enjoy their work.

Q - Away from the theatre what are your favourite hobbies?
A - I cook a lot. Its very instant is cooking. Like you make something and then in minutes or hours you can see and taste the results. I like that - being rewarded. Also if you are the one that cooks among your friendship group you become everyone's favourite.

Q - Can you tell us something we wouldn't know about you?
A - I have a nephew called Billy. He's only eight weeks old and honestly, it's crazy how much I adore him. If I start talking about him, it's almost impossible to get me to stop.

I'd like to thank Lucinda for her time and for taking part in this interview. You can follow Lucinda on Twitter

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