Get To Know: Artemis Fitzalan Howard
Following on from the success of Pre-drinks/Afterparty at last year's Edinburgh Festival, Deadpan Theatre are back with a brand new play, written by emerging playwright and one half of the Deadpan team, Artemis Fitzalan Howard. We caught up with Artemis to talk about the play, the production company, and her creative process.
Head to The Cockpit Theatre in Marylebone from the 13th - 24th September and confront the age-old question: what happens to us after we die?
We can’t wait to see Gate! Could you tell us a bit about what we can expect?
You can expect 4 dead souls, 4 angels, one sassy receptionist and some big old questions asked about the man upstairs…if you know who I mean…
When and why did you start up Deadpan Theatre?
I started up Deadpan Theatre with another girl, Eliot Salt, whilst at University in Bristol. We met backstage at a boring dress rehearsal. As the token female characters in this play we were rehearsing, (the wife and the sister), we were both killed off before the interval, so had not much else to do than discuss how we should’ve had much more stage time and what an outrage it was that the audience didn’t get to enjoy our performances for longer. “Why not get off our asses and write these parts we long for?” we said. So we did - and Deadpan was born!
You’re a total renaissance woman! To what extent do your duel roles as writer and producer inform each other when you’re putting a play together?
Thank you very much! I suppose ultimately I try and keep my producers hat off as much as possible when I’m writing or I start thinking along the lines of “This character cannot smoke a cigarette in this scene - I mean, we’ll never get a licence!” or “we can’t have a 13-year-old character here, we’ll need to pay a chaperone, that’s unnecessary.” However, having my writers hat on when I’m producing is just as dangerous because I’m not that restrained with the budget when it comes to getting the best talent on board to bring the show to life. It is all worth it - (I keep telling myself with a pint of wine in my shaking hand).
As an all-female production company you’re definitely doing your bit to redress the gender imbalance in the industry. Do you do the same in your writing? And what do you think the major production companies and theatres can do moving forward?
This is something that means a huge amount to me and still needs great attention. Women in theatre are underrepresented at every level of the industry and it needs to change. It’s not to say there isn’t a blooming of extraordinary female voices in theatre, but it still stands that women writers accounted for only 35% of the new plays produced in the UK this year. Things are changing for the better though - great female actors taking on Shakespeare’s biggest roles is becoming less of an crazy thing – think of Maxine Peake’s Hamlet at the Royal Exchange in Manchester in 2014; and Glenda Jackson’s Lear at the Old Vic in 2016. Both epic. Art and life do not exist unmixed. It is important that women see their possibilities, their capabilities and their wildest imaginations reflected on stage. On a much tinier level, I remembered my frustration at the ‘good parts’ going to male actors, so with Gate, I wanted to write some fun roles for the gals to sink their teeth into - not just being the wife or the sister.
What inspires you most in your writing process: people, places, or things?
Definitely people. Always people. Every character in Gate is in some way based on somebody I know or have met. I don’t know how other writers build their characters, but mine are always formed from a real person, or an amalgamation of a few. I wonder if they notice!
If you arrived at the pearly gates (or, indeed, a nondescript gate in Wapping, East London), what would you say to the gatekeeper?
Hmm, tough one. I would probably ask them if anyone I know is on the other side. That would probably make the whole dying thing a lot easier I knew I was going to be reunited with people I loved.
QUICK FIRE ROUND
If GATE had a theme-tune, what would it be?
Kanye’s No Church In The Wild. Jokes, it’s more like Sound of the Sinners by The Clash
Comedies or tragedies?
London or Edinburgh?
Favourite theatre performance ever?
This is such a tough one, but one that’s really stuck with me is Denise Gough’s performance in People, Places, Things - it was one of the most mesmerising performances I’ve ever watched and left me emotional shattered. Big up Denise, she is so cool.
…and the big one: cats or dogs?
DOGS OBVIOUSLY. Cat’s scare the living daylights out of me.
Get your tickets to Gate here. The run ends 24th September so don't miss out!