*Be aware that this interview contains spoilers and it is recommended that you read it after seeing the show via TheSpace online.*
With Lockdown #3 causing yet more postponements in the arts, we’re seeing more and more productions adapt swiftly and take to screens. The latest? Walk of Shame. Written by Stephanie Silver and Amelia Marshall-Lovsey, this two-hander about sexual consent is pitched as ‘not for the faint hearted’ and carries trigger warnings and an age advisory of 16. The piece follows two characters on a night out in the city, exploring differing perspectives of events via intertwining monologues. Eyes are on both Edinburgh and the touring circuit going forward, but in the near future (8-31st January 2021), Walk of Shame will be available to watch online for free as part of Online@TheSpace (Series 2). Here, Stephanie Silver gives some great insights into the piece…
First of all, can you tell me a little bit about Walk of Shame and what initially drew you to it?
Initially I read just a short monologue written by Amelia. What jumped out at me was the character, the flawed nature of her, the character also seemed like a fighter. It reminded me of ‘Iphendgia in Splott’ and I just wanted to write more about it.
This is a play which seeks to explore and unpick audiences’ prejudices and unconscious bias. Would you say the piece has a clear intent to educate or at least create some discomfort and purposeful reflection in those audiences?
We aim to make men feel uncomfortable. Not the Weinstein’s of this world but the average man who hasn’t learnt how to back off when a woman shows little interest or, in this play’s case, changes her mind. It’s about the choice to change your mind even when you’ve got yourself into a uncomfortable situation. It also challenges our bias as from the outset it’s clear Alice doesn’t do the right thing, so does she deserve what happens to her any less because she’s perceived to be less of a ‘good guy’ than Liam is? Rape is rape, no is no, even if you might be a bit of a twat. The culture of #metoo , women empowerment and women learning about internalised misogyny is growing. This hopes to challenge views.
And the piece has had quite a journey to date, hasn’t it? Having started out as a monologue for one character, written by Amelia Marshall-Lovesy, it’s now a two-hander which interweaves monologues. What prompted you to develop the work to include another voice and another side of the story?
When I decided to write more of this piece, I immediately wanted the guy to challenge views and perceptions. There are always two sides to a story and two versions of an event, so I thought it was important to have two characters in one space together.
I also talked about consent with my friends, and every woman I spoke to has a story about someone taking advantage of them, from office level harassment to sexual assault. Shocking, but true, and I felt even though people might go ‘oh no we’ve heard this story before’, it’s still ongoing and this piece tackles it in a way we hope gives audiences new food for thought.
Aside from the shift in narrative framing, has the work undergone any other significant shifts as a result of scratch/sharing processes?
Yes it’s changed a lot – after our run at The White Bear Theatre, which we got a four star review for only 30 minutes of the show, we decided we needed to finish it. We had always had an unsatisfactory ending in our opinion and in the new rewrite we hope we have sorted that out. The story has always been Alice’s and although it’s a two hander we hope the main voice of the piece always feels like it’s hers and we hope the audiences feel the same.
By including the voice of Liam, I’m interested to know whether you’ve intentionally created an opportunity to specifically explore the ‘he said/ she said’ dynamic which is so often central when consent is under the miscroscope?
Yes, and by adding him that’s in there! When you watch the play I think you start to question more of the actions, the story, the ‘he said she said’ stuff is less so, it becomes more about the audience.
As audiences generally like Liam by the time the rape comes around, so it’s more the audience’s thinking ‘but I like this guy and I don’t like this girl, how do I morally work this out in my head? Maybe he’s just made a mistake because she led him on!’ And then you find yourself again blaming a woman for a man’s choice of action.
After the first showing there were so many post show conversations where people tried to alleviate Liam of his guilt, it’s interesting but not ok! So we wanted to develop that more and we added a new scene near the end where Liam has a realisation that their sex wasn’t what he thought it was. The play also deals with drink and drugs, which makes cases like Alice’s harder to decipher when taken to court – or maybe easier to throw out!
At the hands of those two interweaving monologues, there’s a lot of potential here for intensity – is this piece very much gritty and gripping or can audiences expect some darkness and light?
Oh it’s funny! Alice’s character is hilariously vulgar, flirty and a little bit filthy and I love every bit of that about her! She says her mind! She’s also a little broken and has some very rigid toxic views of how men should be which esssentially lead her to leave her house that night in pursuit of love / sex. My character has a long journey to really know what love is outside of the bedroom, she’s a confused woman!
Liam’s character is darker. His history is sad but his journey from carer to city lad is a interesting one! It does get super gritty but with all good plays I feel there is laughter and deep questions that are being asked of the audience. So hopefully there’s a bit of everything.
You are also starring in the production as Alice, opposite Sam Landon as Liam. What would you say are the challenges and benefits of being both writer and performer here?
Well I’m playing Alice and Amelia wrote Alice. I wrote Liam. We stuck to writing our characters and then interweaved them. I wrote the club scenes and some of the duologue bits to weave the piece together, which was fun to bring the characters together in a space without losing the essence of what Amelia wanted from Alice and the play.
I absolutely love the character Alice that Amelia created. She’s real. She’s broken, she’s strong, she’s hopeful and she can be a bit of a shit. I think being a writer helps you know the characters inside out but I trust in my director Michelle Payne 100 per cent to get the essence of the story out.
Walk of Shame is billed as ‘not for the light hearted’. Would you recommend an age advisory or any specific trigger warnings for audiences to consider?
Yes we have trigger warnings of rape, sex, drug use and have an age limit of 16 and above. There is a lot of profanity. I think saying it’s not for the light hearted is for those that think theatre is all about watching something fluffy. It’s gritty, it’s real, it’s modern.
I’m told there’s potential for a tour of colleges and Universities (pandemic permitting of course). Is this still very much a hope or the future?
Yes yes yes. We hope to secure funding for a tour and will be inviting universities and colleges to watch the piece. At the moment it seems we are stuck to the digital format until tier 4 and lockdown is over so it’s all to be seen.
And finally, what would you ultimately like to see audiences take away from their experience of seeing Walk of Shame, either as a twenty minute segment or the full sixty minutes?
The extract for Online@TheSpaceUK will hopefully remind people of the issue that runs deep in our lives. Consent doesn’t go away because we stop going out. Hopefully they will want to see the longer piece which was billed for Edinburgh 2021, but we will see what the world has in store for us! I hope it gives people some thinking time. And I hope people would let us know what they think, we are only a tweet away @GHalfFTheatre. We like to hear from our audiences – what they did, or will take away from it.
So there you have it! Walk of Shame is available online until January 31st 2021. You can watch via The Space UK website and Youtube channel. Walk of Shame is a collaboration from Glass Half Full Theatre and Lights Down Productions and you can follow all involved on Twitter; The Space, Glass Half Full Theatre and Lights Down Productions.