Anna-Lisa Maree (or Twinkle as she’s often known) enjoys a varied career both backstage and onstage. Her most recent employment in a stage management capacity included The Rise & Fall Of Little Voice at the Union Theatre and the UK tour of Bad Jews. Anna-Lisa is a great supporter of this blog, and more importantly, she’s a talented writer with so much to offer the arts. Her latest play, What Lies Between Me and Jean, is on the cusp of appearing at the Red Gallery in Shoreditch, London on 5 July.
I caught up with the theatre fairy for a second interview, on this occasion, to find out all about her new writing.
Thank you for chatting to Break A Leg again. Tell me about What Lies Between Me and Jean. Where did the idea originate from and how long has the writing process taken?
Jean Pocket is the female alter ego of Northern Drag Artiste Steven Saxby who is about to embark on his first one Wo/Man UK Theatre tour JEAN POCKET – STITCH BITCH TO THE STARS. Lou Harper is the Production Stage Manager for the tour, and having taken the job as a favour to a friend, ‘ever the professional’ Lou is becoming increasingly exasperated by her challenging artiste and his delaying tactics in actually getting on with the rehearsal process.
Several years ago, I collaborated with a London-based drag artiste and wrote a show. However, for one reason and another, much of the material that I had written didn’t quite make the journey from page to stage, and the whole production process was certainly a learning curve for us both. We now look back with much hilarity and wisdom, although at the time I think it’s fair to say we both wanted to kill each other! I have subsequently written a play inspired by our experiences and ultimately it is the creative collision of 2 world’s of entertainment; the ability to be able to handle a ‘tanked up lesbian’ with an amusing ad-lib on the cabaret circuit and the discipline required for a scripted theatrical production. Elements of ‘What Lies Between Me & Jean’ had already been written, it was material that I knew at some point would be heard and as with everything now’s the right time.
Describe the writing process to me, how many drafts did you do before you were satisfied with the final product and did the overall picture alter much as you progressed?
This was such an easy piece to write and incredibly cathartic, we live and learn and only once a situation has passed do we fully understand the whys and wherefores of it all. I’ve lived and breathed most of what I write about so my writing process is invariably short and sweet! The only major alteration I have made to this particular script was a reference to a certain actress, at the time the play was originally written back in January 2016 it was a very positive usage of her name but in light of recent press the gag could now be perceived as a ‘dig’ at her and that’s the last thing I would want.
Twinkle wearing one of her many theatrical hats!
You’re playing one of the two roles, will it be an easy transition? From writer to actress?
My job as a writer is done, the script is ‘there’ and I’m now looking forward to totally transforming for the role, with a little help from my friend and wig stylist extraordinaire, Darron Harrold! Although the character is inspired by my ‘real life’ experiences as a Company Stage Manager Lou was always in my mind visually very different. She has been a tough cookie to cast for various reasons and in the end I just thought “many moons ago I was nominated as one of the Critics Choice’s at my Post Graduate Showcase in ‘The Stage’, so with the right wig and costume I myself can make Lou the woman I always envisaged her to be!”
However should there be life for this play after the Red Gallery the powerhouse that is Charlotte Gorton is definitely getting first refusal on the role of Lou, I only crossed paths with her a month ago and have had the pleasure of watching her perform as ‘Mari’ in Little Voice for the entirety of June, she is a truly phenomenal actress and I’d be honoured for her to play the part.
How did you select your co-star? What attributes were you looking for?
I needed someone who could fully comprehend the complexities of Steven’s world and character, the man behind the make-up, the ‘lady’ herself and all that lies in between! Anthony Poore is perhaps better known as the award-winning drag artiste Tanya Hyde, not only is he an accomplished artiste on the cabaret circuit he has also appeared in the West End so has a perfect understanding of the trials and tribulations that both Steven and Lou experience. This will be the third time we have worked together and we will be reuniting again this August when Anthony reprises the role of Nathan Tate in my production of ‘Blast From The Past’, Upstairs At The Gatehouse.
What can the audience expect from the piece?
Laughter, Leopard print and a nod to the Legend that is Lily Savage!
Finally, can I have some words of encouragement for potential audience members? Sell the show to me!
This is a rare insight into what really goes on during the daytime in the wonderful world of a drag artiste, preparing to tread where their high heels have never trod before.
What Lies Between Me and Jean will play at the Red Gallery as part of Milk which is run by Prevalent Grit in association with The New Shoreditch Theatre and The Red Gallery. The aim being to showcase new writing. The show dates and times for Anna-Lisa’s piece are Tuesday 5th July at 19:30, Thursday 7th July at 14:30 and Thursday 7th July at 19:30. A link to the Facebook page for the event is here: https://www.facebook.com/events/931262460332901/