Rena Brannan on Mount Vernon, queer theatre, and raising children
“I want the audience to question their reality – their judgment of that reality – and find forgiveness in their hearts"
Playwright Rena Brannan received a warm reception for Mount Vernon at the 2016 Hollywood Fringe Festival. The show will now enjoy two nights at the King’s Head Theatre in Islington next week, and we’re mega excited. Rena’s previous work has been shown at Soho Theatre, Studio One Deptford, and Birmingham Conservatoire. Plus her wife, Sophie Ward, known for her roles in Wuthering Heights and Holby City, will star in the play. This, DIVAs, is not one to miss.
DIVA: How was the play received in 2016? Do you think a London audience will receive the play differently to the Hollywood audience?
RENA BRANNAN: The play was received very well at Hollywood Fringe Festival and the Hudson Theatre extended it. I think the themes of the play for a London audience will be received a little differently.
In bringing the play to London, did you have to alter anything, or has much of it stayed the same?
The entire written script has pretty much stayed the same. What has changed is that we have a different director so some choices will be different.
The play is about two strangers who meet in an airport. Was there anything in particular which inspired this plot?
The airport is such a rarified experience – full of emotion and different people – I was sitting in a large UK airport and my flight was delayed and as more and more people left the surrounding gates I wondered, "What if?"… and immediately took out my notepad and wrote down the first line.
How is it working with your wife, Sophie? Does the fact that you two are married make for an easy working relationship?
It’s quite funny. We have learned to laugh, but we’ve been together for 22 years and have worked together since the beginning of our relationship - honestly back then it was a little more difficult as I didn’t understand that even though we were speaking English, we weren’t really speaking the same language. But as far as the foundation of our working relationship - I have always trusted Sophie’s instincts and taste and she says she likes saying my words!
What has your experience been as a queer female playwright? Have you had to face any kind of prejudice in pursuing your career path?
Nearly all my plays have at least one lesbian as a central character – and I was lucky enough last year to write a lesbian play which I did for the Arcola Lab which also had a bisexual woman as one of the main characters – that play Shutters is currently in development. My plays aren’t necessarily about being lesbian or female but of course, those experiences inform my work. I have tried to be true to my own voice, even if that hasn’t always been the most populist choice.
Do you think queer women are accurately represented in theatre?
There really isn’t a lot of queer women representation in theatre – there have always been queer playwrights. There just needs to be more spaces for them.
You and Sophie have raised children together. Do you have any advice for same-sex partners looking to raise children together?
Be honest. Always be honest.
If you could ask the audience to take one thing from Mount Vernon, what would that be?
I want them to question their reality – their judgment of that reality – and find forgiveness in their hearts.
Mount Vernon will run on Sunday 16 September at 7pm and Monday 17 September at 7pm. Running time is 60 minutes. The King’s Head Theatre is located at 115 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 1QN
Tickets are £16-£19 and are available online at kingsheadtheatre.com by phone at 0207 226 8561 Monday to Friday 10:30am - 6:00pm (not including Bank Holidays).
Only reading DIVA online? You're missing out. For more news, reviews and commentary, check out the latest issue. It's pretty badass, if we do say so ourselves.