Author Interview: Fiona Graham

Aurora Metro has published Fiona’s trilogy of plays entitled Triptych: Three Plays for Young People Inspired by the Art of Paula Rego.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born in Yorkshire and spent a lot of time as a child with my grandmother who loved to play, make up stories and dress up. I began working in theatre as an actor but have since worked as a director, writer, dramaturge and producer. I still love playing, making up stories and dressing up!

Crivelli’s Garden was my first professional theatre commission as a writer and I wrote Between Friends for my son (who was then 8) and Breaking China for my daughter (who was then four). I then moved to New Zealand with my family to live and work for twelve years. I am now a joint citizen of New Zealand and Britain.

How did you get into theatre?

I set up a feminist theatre-in-education company with four other students when I finished studying at Goldsmiths College, London University (where I now convene the MA Dramaturgy and Writing for Performance).

What is the name of your latest play (or plays) and what inspired it/them?

Last year I wrote Sightings with two other writers – Miriama Mc’Dowell and Denyce Sua – for Massive Theatre Company in New Zealand. It is about the experience of being a young woman and how we are shaped and formed by our ancestors.

What’s the first hook that gets a new play started for you? Is it an image, a theme, a character?

It is nearly always a visual image. Visual artists inspire my writing and I tend to think in images before words. A painting or sculpture often becomes the anchor in my first draft writing processes. 

Tell us about your lead characters.

The characters often jump out of the artwork and demand a voice. In Triptych they were also very influenced by the workshops with young people, listening to their stories and watching them play.

What else have you written? Is this play a departure from your other work?

I also work a lot as a dramaturge – developing other artist’s ideas – working with writers, choreographers, actors, musicians, composers, visual artists and designers. I love the collaborative process and working together to develop a collective performance vision through interdisciplinary practice.

Why a play rather than fiction?

I relish the direct live relationship with the audience and the collaborative artist processes. Triptych had amazing development workshops working with an incredible range of talented artists.

How do you write? Do you have a special place or routine?

I wrote these plays in the mornings when I had three hours of child-care with small children. Each contract had three drafts over one year.

I was very lucky to have the development opportunities that are described by my wonderful directors Rosamunde Hutt and Bernadette O’Brien in the introduction to Triptych and the constant support of my very skilful dramaturge Bryony Lavery.

What were you like at school? Were you good at English?

My favourite subject was English and I had an amazing teacher – Mrs Dean – for three years at secondary school. I was a bit of a dreamer but I also loved listening to other people’s stories.

What are you working on now?

I am planning a site specific performance that will take place in a forest.

What are you reading now?

The Red Thread by Charlotte Higgins

What is your favourite play of all time?

Top Girls By Caryl Churchill

Who are some current playwrights you follow and think should get more attention?

The graduates from my MA Dramaturgy and Writing for Performance – see their readings at Soho Theatre in June!

What advice would you give to aspiring playwrights?

Hold your nerve and always explore multiple possibilities

Do you have a website or social media platforms where readers can find more information about you and your work?

You can find more on my website here.