Remember the 1980s? Charles and Diana’s wedding? Sally Rogers does. The actor-turned-playwright draws on her own personal memories and experiences in her debut play, the 1980s-set, coming-of-age black comedy The Still Room, which premieres at London’s Park Theatre in June. Time to get booking!
The Still Room – written by Sally Rogers, directed by Nigel Douglas and produced by Rogers Douglas Productions – has a strictly limited premiere season at the Park Theatre from 1 to 25 June 2022, with a press night on 7 June.
It is 1981, Charles is about to marry Diana. It’s a day off work – but not for everyone. Set in Manchester, the waiting staff are preparing for the “Miss North West” competition that might revive the fortunes of both the staff and the small, tired hotel. School leaver Janice is working as a banqueting waitress whilst waiting for her O Level results. If she gets less than four, her father says she has to move out.
Janice is desperate to leave her hometown and is struggling to see how that can happen – but then, a new waitress arrives. She is different from the other waiting staff in the still room – where the waiters wait – and her sexual confidence and bold ideas challenge Janice’s own perceptions of the world.
The Still Room is a razor-sharp dark comedy play about dreaming big – examining class, attitudes towards sex and the concept of virginity in the 1980s, through the concealed moments in the room where the waiters wait. Kate James stars as Janice, alongside Chris Simmons, Jane Slavin, Zoe Brough, Larner Wallace-Taylor and Jack Colgrave Hirst.
In conversation with Sally Rogers
The Still Room is the debut play by Sally Rogers. As an actor, Sally’s theatre credits include Hangmen (Royal Court, West End, Off Broadway) The People are Friendly, Uganda, Killing the Cat (Royal Court), Children’s Children (Almeida), Rutherford and Son, The Duchess of Malfi, Billy Liar, Murmuring Judges, Arturo UI and Black Snow (National Theatre), The Good Canary (Rose Theatre), Rita Sue and Bob Too, A State Affair, Some Explicit Polaroids, Our Country’s Good and Blue Heart (Out of Joint), Oliver Twist, Blithe Spirit (Bristol Old Vic) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Chester). Film includes: A Demon in My View and Hope Gap. Sally’s television roles include Cold Feet (ITV), Press (BBC), The Syndicate (Series 2, BBC), Siblings (BBC), Come Fly With Me (BBC), Little Britain (BBC), Messiah III (BBC), Pepys (BBC), Murphy’s Law (BBC), Attachments (BBC), Playing the Field (BBC), Out of Hours (BBC), The Lakes (BBC), Seaforth (BBC), The Bill (ITV), London Bridge (ITV), A Touch of Frost (ITV).
What got you into theatre in the first place?
Seeing Janet McTeer play Rosalind in As You Like It at the Royal Exchange in Manchester. Nicholas Hytner’s production was so sexy and vibrant and modern, and at the centre of it all was this tall, gifted racehorse of an actress. I never knew acting could be like that. I was converted.
What has been your personal career highlight to date as an actor?
So many highlights. Playing Liz Morden in Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Our Country’s Good. Alice in Martin McDonagh’s Hangmen. I was also lucky enough to be directed by John Malkovich in Good Canary.
Why did you want to write? And, specifically, write a play?
I have many stories to tell. I have always wanted to create a story around my own experiences of working in a still room. I have watched other playwrights over the years and been intrigued by the skill of tipping a piece of theatre into the laps of an audience so that they are pinned to their seats. I wanted to know if I could do that.
Plays are my entire career. I always improved as an actor in the rehearsal room and then would put into practice what I had learned on the next filming job I did.
What was the initial inspiration for The Still Room?
I worked as a banquet waitress when I was very young. I have always carried the memories from that time. I knew there was theatricality around my own experiences and felt sure audiences would connect with that time, that 1980s world. That era feels like another country.
How hard is the job of a waitress?
Banquet waitressing is brutal. It’s fast and terrifying. I was thrown in at the deep end, barely any training. Blimey, when I think of how I literally had to practice on someone’s wedding, it makes me shudder.
What are your enduring memories of the 1980s?
Music and concerts dancing and anxiety. Working at the hotel (I worked on hundreds and hundreds of weddings). Moving to London and drama school. Meeting posh girls who had holes in their tights and who couldn’t give a fuck about it!
Tell us about your cast and creatives.
There is some serious talent involved in The Still Room. Nigel Douglas is a remarkable director. The women in the play are so good it makes me weep to think there are so few good roles for actresses. The two male actors are mesmeric. I couldn’t ask for more.
In a nutshell, why should audiences see The Still Room?
The play takes place on the day Diana married Charles. It is funny, shocking, gripping and outrageous. It has great characters, and they all have their own journeys. These are all the things I need when I go to the theatre.
Anything else you’d like to add?
The tickets are only £20. So much of theatre is unaffordable. I would urge young actresses to support plays that have great parts for women.
The Still Room runs from 1 to 25 June 2022 at the Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, London N4 3JP, with performances Mondays to Saturdays at 7.45pm, matinees Thursdays and Saturdays at 3.15pm. Tickets are priced £12-20. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!