Annie Jenkins brings a comical, topical show to the Camden Fringe with A Tinder Trilogy. The show plays the Camden Fringe at The Hen and Chickens from 4th -7th August so I caught up with her to get the inside scoop on this quirky piece of new writing…
Tell us a little about your show A Tinder Trilogy – what’s the show all about and what prompted or inspired you to write it?
Well, here’s the blurb: Meet Geri, Beth and George – a set of talking heads for a generation of frustrated Tinderers. The show is made up of three monologues and while each strand is self contained, they work in conversation with each other; interrogating ideas about loneliness, intimacy and the swipe swipe sensibility of contemporary dating.
I’d already written the first two monologues last year for separate things; the first was one of 11 short plays to be presented as part of the 90s season at STYX and the second had a reading as part of HighTide Walthamstow. Lucy (directing) and I wanted to do a show at Camden Fringe and when talking about it I realised that I already had two twenty minute monologues that I thought deserved another outing and would benefit from a full production. It was just by chance that both are ostensibly about Tinder so I wrote another one to make up the trilogy!
You have written and co-written a few plays now – what can you tell us about your style as a writer and theatre Maker? Is this trilogy presented through gritty realism for instance, or are there stylised elements to be found too?
The collection of monologues centre on seemingly very different women – are they based on real women in any way and what inspired each distinct character?
The way I start writing is usually with an image. For the first monologue, Tinder471, which was originally written in response to the 90s, the thing I had in mind was a Tamagotchi. My friend got me a Tamagotchi for my 26thbirthday and I couldn’t work out how to use it, I remembered my frustration and went from there.
The second one, My Son is in the Kitchen Eating a Biscuit, is taken from an iconic Sharon from Eastendersmoment. Me and my friends are obsessed with THIS. I often write things with the intention of making my friends or my sister laugh so when I knew I had to write a short play, I used that quote as a starting point and went from there – potentially somewhere wholly unexpected but I won’t ruin it..
The third one, while obviously Tinder features as a through line, the central relationship is a non-romantic one. It forefronts female friendship and how painful the disintegration of a platonic relationship can be; particularly I think, because there is often no clear end point, as with the break up of romantic relationships. None of the characters are based on real people, but there are loads of moments from my life I’ve either directly lifted, adapted, expanded on or used as a starting point for a fictional narrative.
Did you make a conscious decision to portray a diverse range of women, including LGBTQ+, working class etc?
Not really, I just tend to start writing and see what comes out. I think a lot of the time we are inclined to write about things that are influenced by or close to our own experiences experiences and obviously that’s why diverse representation is so important. While writers obviously make up stories and can research and represent on behalf of minority groups for example, what is most important is authentic representation and that diverse narratives be given equal agency. I hope in my writing I forefront character and story, and if for example I depict a gay character, their sexuality is incidental rather than defining. Issue based narratives are boring. I like plays in which character’s actions and relationships to others define them, rather than being wholly defined by their sexual or cultural identity.
Would you say your play is more critical or appreciative of cyber dating or does it land somewhere in between?
I don’t think it’s either really, I think it presents it without comment. Or maybe that means it lands in between? It’s something that’s very ingrained in the way dating works now and it’s different for everyone. Some people go on loads of Tinder dates, some people don’t at all and loads of people are somewhere in the middle and the range of experience matches. Yeah I think this is quite a hard question to answer maybe because I do just think the use of Tinder here kind of just is. These characters choose to engage in it and the play doesn’t offer much opinion on whether it’s a good or a bad thing. I think what it is does do is suggest some of the behaviour which is perhaps magnified with the use of these apps. For example the idea that we don’t owe these strangers anything, the act of summoning strangers to our homes at midnight, the idea that even in isolation we have access to hundreds of people we’ve never met just by swiping on our phones.
Do you consider this piece to act as a form of political or social commentary on contemporary ideas of love and dating in some way?
I think I’ve kind of answered that in the last question. I don’t think I ever set out to write social or political commentary but the act of writing characters that live here, now is inherently political. I create characters in response to the social and political climate that I’m experiencing so everything they say and do is equally a response if that makes sense.
Modern dating stories generally land in the comedy genre – is that the case here?
I think while they are all funny, there’s actually an underlying sadness running through all three. Each character has an amusing oddness about them in the way they view the world and relay it back to us but actually, I think the form serves the content in that each of them are very isolated.
Does A Tinder Trilogy carry a message or lesson for audiences?
No – take from it what you will!
Your work has been performed in various forums but this is your first outing at the Camden Fringe I think – what does this fringe festival mean to you as an emerging playwright?
I think what’s been so good about this process is the how quickly we’ve gone from having an idea to it being a full production in front of an audience. This will be the first full production of a full length play of mine, as I’ve only had rehearsed readings and short plays produced so far so it’s exciting anticipating an audience response. Also I think the whole DIY resource pack that the Camden Fringe provided on the Internet has made it al feel very doable, a bit like following a step by step!
What would you say are your core intentions as the creator of a collection of modern monologues like A Tinder Trilogy?
I think to tell a story that an audience wants to get to the end of, however uncomfortable they might be. I also want them to be relatable. It’s so important that we see ourselves represented on stage. I think these monologues depict, both broadly and specifically, people that are simultaneously funny, sad, self involved, generous, confident, self-conscious, performative, truthful, untrustworthy and just all the other contradictory stuff that makes up a person. I want my characters to be truthful, multi-faceted products of what it is to exist today, in a play that is for now.
If an audience takes just one thing away from seeing A Tinder Trilogy, what would you like that to be?
For them to care about the characters.
Now for the Quick Fire Round!
Who or what has inspired you most in theatre?
Probably Philip Ridley and Polly Stenham’s plays.
Favourite theatre genre and why?
Unhappy/alternativefamilies. I think I’m interested in destruction within domestic environments.
Etiquette debates – worthwhile or futile? Where do you draw the line?
I had to look up what the etiquette debates were… I think people need to put their phones in their bags and watch the play and if they aren’t interested sit quietly or leave. Is that what you mean? (Yes!)
If you could bring change in terms of opportunities in Theatre to London right now, what would it be? What does London need?
I think doing new writing in Drama at school would be so beneficial and engaging. Doing plays about people like you at school would make people realise that theatre is for them because theatre is for everyone, and that in turn would help increase diverse representation on our stages.
Finally, to close, sell your show to readers in just one sentence. Lesbian sex doll with a Festive Bake Vag; Sat, Sun and Tues sold out – only 14 ticks left for Mon 6th August!
So there you have it! Remember: A Tinder Trilogy plays the Camden Fringe at the Hen and Chickens 4th – 7th August 2018 and you can find tickets here.