Currently playing at Theatre503 is No Place For A Woman which is written by Cordelia O’Neill and has actresses Ruth Gemmell and Emma Paetz in it.
I’m fascinated to hear how you came by the concept for this story – Tell me about your journey and inspiration for this piece.
Cordelia O’Neill: My Dad and I have a “sort of” book club where we exchange books on the period of history the play is set in. So I already felt like I knew a lot about this period in time, as I started researching more deeply I realised how little I knew and also how little we all know about the horror that is the Holocaust. I always questioned what I would do to survive in those circumstances and how I would survive and I was always continually surprised by what innocent human beings did to survive in extraordinary circumstances. It was also fascinating to discover how music and art were still so alive in the camps, and how at times of near death they magically arrived to remind survivors what humans are capable of beyond destruction.
The idea that beauty and destruction can rub along together was something that sparked the idea of the play, also where the cellist and dancing began to emerge I wanted to give the characters that lifeline that sense of other worlds, of hope beyond their current circumstances.
It strikes me that you want challenge our thought-processes and have many plays to write – when did you discover your desire to become a playwright?
Purely by accident, I trained as an actress and started writing mainly to stay sane when not working and also out of a frustration for the types of auditions I was going up for. I love where you can go as a writer, that any idea counts as long as it makes sense, and I love attempting to make sense of plots, ideas and humans. Delving into worlds unknown to you is the best.
Tell me about your most recent visit to the theatre or performance that left a last impression on you.
I saw An American in Paris recently which was fantastic, the ballet sequence at the end of the show particularly stayed with me. I am always surprised about how much of a story we can tell without words.
4) What’s you earliest memory of reading or seeing something that stayed with you.
I remember reading A Boy Called It by Dave Pelzer when I was 11 and being heart-broken. I couldn’t understand how awful human beings could be, especially to people they love and then as a 11-year-old whose world was very small, the fear that things wouldn’t always be so perfect and safe.
5) What’s next for you?
One fun question:
You can choose three dinner guests for your dinner party (dead or alive) who would you choose and why?
Michelle and Barrack Obama (I’m counting them as one, sorry)
Teresa May – I think it would be good to be around strong open women who celebrate being women and a Man who celebrates women too, it may do her some good.
1) You are an experienced actress on both screen and in theatre – Have you a preference for either?
Working again in Theatre I recognise the luxury of having more time to develop a character – having said that I have no preference and enjoy working in all fields. I think it is the projects that differ for me rather than the medium
2) Is there a particular role you aspire to?
I think just someone who’s complicated
3) What’s the best thing you have recently seen at the theatre?
Living outside London now makes trips to the Theatre difficult but I saw The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time while it’s on tour and I saw the musical “She Loves Me” I have particular fondness for the show because I watched it as a child with my Father, utterly captivated.
4) Do you remember when you realised this is what you wanted to do?
My already burning interest was cemented when on a school trip to see the RSC. A Midsummer Nights Dream. Oberon paused and you could have heard a pin drop. It was mesmerising. My hands hurt from clapping.
5) What’s next for you?
A Perfect Spy for Radio Four and again later with The Pillow Book, written by the wonderful Robert Forrest. A job I just love going back to.