Why has new play Little Wing taken its title from a renowned guitar solo by Jimi Hendrix? In the second of a two-part interview, writer-director Juliette Quenin tells us about her inspirations, the best time to write and why she wanted to stage her inaugural production at London’s Brockley Jack Theatre. Time to get booking!
Little Wing has a strictly limited season at London’s Brockley Jack Theatre, running from 7 to 18 April 2020, with a press night on Thursday 9 April.
After six years in London, Gil returns to the family flat in New York in order to help his younger brother Nils, a ballet dancer, get back on his feet after a long illness.
Gil who has a passion for holistic treatments immediately puts his brother on a demanding health regime. Nils complies at first, but progressively Gil’s ambivalent attitude gives rise to doubts and questioning. Why is Gil coming back after all these years? For all the warm welcomes and fond memories of their childhood, does something more sinister lurk beneath?
With depth, tenderness and humour, Little Wing explores the matrix of brotherhood, intimacy and ingrained role-playing. The three-hander, written and directed by Juliette Quenin, is the inaugural stage production from Quenin’s company Five Minutes before the Miracle.
Talking to… Juliette Quenin
Juliette Quenin trained and worked in Paris as an actress, singer and director. In March 2008, she took a leap of faith and moved to London. Since then, Juliette has worked as Stage Manager and Assistant Director for numerous fringe productions. As a playwright, she now has eight plays and has launched the company Five Minutes Before the Miracle to produce her own work.
What was your initial inspiration for Little Wing?
A few years ago, my career as a singer was plummeting, so I decided to go back to my first passion, which was writing. I started by writing a very short novel of about 80 pages about two kids in New York whose life is going to be changed forever by a traumatic event. At the time, my influences were a book by Jean Cocteau called Les Enfants Terribles, and to a certain extent and retrospectively, The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger.
Then in 2015, when I was looking for inspiration for my play number 5 as I called it, I decided to talk about those brothers again, and what had happened to them 17 years down the line. In the original short novel, Gil, the older brother, buys Axis: Bold as Love, the Jimi Hendrix album that includes “Little Wing”, and to cope with the overwhelming feelings he’s experiencing, he listens to that song on a loop. I won’t say more as I don’t want to reveal too much.
Why did you want to premiere it at Brockley Jack Theatre?
In May last year, I sent Little Wing to different hiring venues in London. I got to meet different artistic directors in a short period of time, which was really nice. But I have to say that none of them could compete with Kate Bannister and Karl Swinyard from the Jack Studio. Respectively as artistic director and executive producer, they have so many qualities: empathy, respectful approach, commitment, support, emotional intelligence, creative vision… I could go on forever. So it was a no-brainer really. Whatever happens, I know that as a first-time producer and director at the Jack, I’m in safe hands and I’m collaborating with like-minded people.
Do you have a favourite line in the play?
I love many lines in my play! But I’ll give you this one, probably because as a writer I can totally relate to it. Gil, who is also a writer, tells this to his brother Nils, who’s asking him about his writing process:
GIL. Early mornings, best possible time for writing! You’re awake, you’re functioning, but your mind is still toying with those precious marbles. The ones your subconscious shaped for you during the night.
NILS. Those little gems of grace.
GIL. Yep! But then after a couple of hours, it becomes all about battling low self-esteem again… and doubts, and stultifying distractions…
GIL. If you say so.
In a nutshell, why should audiences see Little Wing?
Please come to see Little Wing because:
- It’s a beautiful human story about two beings longing for unconditional love and acceptance without knowing how to get it.
- It’s a story that talks about survival, coping mechanisms and ultimately incredible resilience. And everybody can identify to a degree or another.
- There’s fantastic music and dance throughout.
- The three actors – Jed Shardlow, Joseph Vaughan and Paul White – are incredibly talented.
- And last but not least, new writing needs support!
Anything else you’d like to add?
I think that, more than ever in this political climate, the excellent English theatre needs to welcome and feed on foreign voices as much as other countries love and feed on English theatre. When I first arrived here, I really wanted to fit in and to write plays that were in essence very English, which was a good thing as I learned a lot!
By the way, a little anecdote. In my early days, I attended a workshop at the Actors’ Centre. At some point, someone read aloud the little scene that I had sheepishly brought that day, and then the facilitator made a killer comment about it. He said “Aw that’s so French!”, which I took (my ego took) very wrongly!
These days as a playwright, I try to be more and more who I am culturally, emotionally… and I know I have a lot to offer to British audiences because most of the themes one is addressing in plays are universal. So, I really hope this new adventure is going to be the start of a long-lasting love affair.
Little Wing runs from 7 to 18 April 2020 at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre, 410 Brockley Road, London SE4 2DH with performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7.30pm. Tickets are priced £13-16. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!