Acclaimed one-act play Catching Up, which comes to London’s Theatre N16 this month after its Edinburgh Fringe success, is written, performed and produced by Octavia Gilmore and Emily Schofield. The two young women explain how their successful collaboration was born from a friendship started at drama school – and how supportive Theatre N16, now in its new home, is to young companies like theirs. Read our interview below – and then get booking!
Catching Up, directed by Cat Robey, runs at Theatre N16 for a strictly limited season in May, with performances 15 to 17, 21 to 23 May 2018, and a press night on 16 May.
They’ve held each other’s hair back in club toilets, squeezed each other’s back spots and shared their deepest secrets. Becka and Flo know everything about each other… at least they think they do. When their catch up takes an unexpected turn, they discover that their lives are more entangled than they could have ever imagined. Shocking revelations spark betrayal, manipulation and sinister revenge.
Through the unravelling of this friendship, Catching Up explores what it means to be female in the 21st century and asks: can a woman ever have it all? Catching Up is one of the headline offerings in the first season at Theatre N16’s new home at north London arts complex Styx. The fringe venue, led by Jamie Eastlake, had to leave its last home, at the Bedford Pub in Balham, late last year when the premises were redeveloped.
Emily Schofield and Octavia Gilmore are actors and theatre-makers. In 2016, having just graduated from ArtsEd, they formed Biting Block Theatre with the aim to tell stories of dynamic but flawed female characters grappling with the issues that women face today. For their inaugural production, they co-wrote Catching Up, which they performed as a part of Edinburgh’s PBH Free Fringe for two weeks and now bring to London.
How did you meet and become friends?
Emily: We met while studying at ArtsEd. We had similar interests besides acting, and when we were paired together for our singing duet, I knew she was a keeper! We worked brilliantly together and had the same drive.
Octavia: We soon realised we shared a love of hair scrunchies and pea soup so we thought we should be friends. Then we were put together to perform the Guys and Dolls song ‘Marry the Man Today’, and we realised we worked really well together too!
Describe your friend.
Emily: Octavia is someone who I can really trust. I know on the days that I see her, I will always be laughing. She has a wicked sense of humour and I feel so lucky to have met her. Her work ethic is something that I admire – if she’s not busy producing and rehearsing for Catching Up, you’ll find her performing wild and wonderful things in many improv groups.
Octavia: Emily has impeccable taste in writing partners. Only joking! She is the DREAM. She is great fun, smart, driven, proactive, generous, thoughtful and we laugh A LOT together. Oh god, sounds like I have proper girl crush… I probably do.
What was your inspiration for Catching Up?
Emily: I went to see The Wasp by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm at the Trafalgar Studios. It was one of the best pieces of theatre that I have seen. I’ve never experienced an audience vocally gasping at moments during a performance. I was hooked. I wanted to write something that emulated this sense of shock.
Octavia: FOMO*. We didn’t want to be left behind whilst our classmates took shows to the Edinburgh Fringe. We went to a Ruth Sheen Masterclass, who talked about working with Mike Leigh using improvisation – so we decided we would improvise and then write a play and take it to the Fringe that August. (*Fear of missing out)
You co-wrote the play. How did that collaboration work?
Emily: So many people ask us if it was harder writing in a pair. I honestly couldn’t disagree more. Having someone to bounce ideas off was so refreshing. We have a relationship that allows us to be honest with one another. If one of us didn’t like an idea, we would scrap it and move on.
Octavia: The collaboration worked surprisingly well. It’s much easier to pull 13-hour writing sessions when you are writing with someone else. We created a detailed outline of the play and then improvised each section. We recorded our improvisations and listened to them, quite a painful process, as you can imagine! Anything we liked the sound of, we wrote down and from those notes, we started writing. Many, many, many drafts later we had a play.
Any anecdotes from your performances in Edinburgh?
Emily: Chiquito, our original venue, closed down a month before we were due to go. We were rehomed in a basement café that was lovely, but considerably smaller! For many performances, we had people stood all around us and sat on the floor. To say it was hot and sweaty in there would be an understatement.
Octavia: A reviewer once sat cross-legged behind us on stage because the room was so packed out with audience members that was the only way she could fit in.
Why did you want to bring Catching Up to Theatre N16?
Emily: No one can deny that Theatre N16’s ethos is brilliant. As an emerging theatre company, we couldn’t afford to be paying £2000 a week for theatre hire on top of everything else. Theatre N16 allow companies to produce work that won’t cripple them financially before they’ve even begun. Their new home at Styx is an added bonus. A bar and a pizza oven… what more could you want after seeing some theatre?!
Octavia: Theatre N16’s ethos of supporting theatre companies is fantastic. Their policy of box office splits felt fairer and lot more affordable. Plus, it’s new home at Styx is really cool! It has great summer vibes. The outside area feels like you are at a festival. It is the perfect place for a summer drink.
The elevator pitch: why should audiences see Catching Up?
Emily: Catching Up will have you hooked. The play not only contains unexpected dramatic twists and turns, but it also looks at relevant issues that women face today. It’s a play about what people value most. I hope that if you come to see it, it will get you thinking, feeling and talking.
Octavia: It’s fast-paced, compelling and relevant. It explores female friendship and what it means to be a woman in the 21st century. Oh, and there are funny bits in there too!