Trisha Duffy’s superb debut play Broken Biscuits was first produced at the Lantern Theatre last autumn. The play, which explores the friendship between two mothers whose sons go off to war, heads to the Edinburgh Festival this week. MADEUP spoke to Trisha to find out more about her writing and the play’s success.
How long have you been writing and what inspired you to get started?
I started writing properly last year, I did a short course in scriptwriting for TV and that really got me started. I love telling a good story, especially after a vino or four, and a lot of people have always said you should write a book etc ….I have always wanted to, but like a lot of people put it off. When I turned 40 a few years ago I suddenly realised if I’m lucky I’m half way through my life, and best start doing the things I want to do…. and that was my inspiration.
What were you doing before?
When I was younger I lived in New York for a summer selling knickers and bras in the markets which was fun. I worked in acquisitions and marketing for The Mobile Phone Store, and then went on to marketing at Juice FM radio. I also had a business with my friend called TAD Designs selling our bespoke wall art and children’s name plaques, a gallery in Leeds and outlets in and around the city. So varied things really!
When did you first have the idea for Broken Biscuits and how did the play evolve?
I was involved with a writing group in the NAC in Netherton and we were asked to write a 500 word piece on war. I didn’t have much interest in war as such but liked the idea of telling a story from a parents’ view point once their son goes off to war. Originally it was called 18 Cherry Street but I changed it to Broken Biscuits as I felt it was more fitting.
What were your initial hopes for the play, and how does that compare to how successful it has been?
Oh my word – I initially hoped it didn’t die on its arse, obviously, and people enjoyed it, but once I watched the rehearsals I knew we had such a brilliant team that the acting and direction had just brought the piece to life wonderfully. The success has been mindblowing. I never in my wildest dreams imagined such a response.
What was it like seeing it come to life and be performed so well [by Leanne Martin, Gillian Hardie (later Jane Hogarth) and Louise Garcia]?
It’s magical…..I feel so blessed to have such an amazing cast perform my work and get it totally right as to how I envisaged each character’s traits and reactions. They really come across as long term friends which was obviously so critical to the piece, every time I watch it I cry – and I know what’s coming next haha.
What has the audience reaction been like?
The reaction from people has been overwhelming, I could not have had a better response the feedback has really blown me away. I know a number of people who returned to see it a couple of times and others who said it had affected them for days and couldn’t watch it again but loved it. The best reaction and one I cherish the most was from a family friend who lost her son to suicide many years ago, at the end of the performance she held my face in both her hands, looked me in the eyes and asked “when was your heart broken because you have just told mine”; from that comment I felt I had done justice to the grief mothers must feel from losing a child and that meant such a lot to me. We had veterans who came along to watch it and sadly ran out after ten minutes in, but gladly they came back into their seats and watched the performance until the end which I was truly grateful for as these are the people who have lived this kind of pain. Just for the record there are many many hilariously funny moments too, its not all doom and gloom.
What part has the Lantern Theatre played in the success of Broken Biscuits?
The Lantern has been incredibly supportive, this play would not have happened only for them. [Owner and artistic director] Margaret Connell read the piece (which was originally for TV) and loved it that much she asked me to write it for the theatre, which I quickly did and then Margaret directed it brilliantly. I became an ambassador at the theatre and part of my role was to set up a writers’ group which we did, and I can proudly say is going from strength to strength. We have produced three scratch nights up to now and it is still going strong. We meet every Tuesday and it runs for 12 weeks, after which you have a chance to show 10 minutes of your work to an audience and receive valuable feedback. The Lantern is an amazing theatre space and I am delighted to be involved with such a great place.
How do you feel about taking the play to the Edinburgh Fringe?
Being an Edinburgh Festival virgin and having heard such fantastic experiences about it, I approached Margaret as she had been up there with plays before. Once we had the success of nine sell-out shows it seemed the next step would be to take it outside of the city, and where better? We are super excited, super stressed and super nervous but eager to enjoy the experience. Following on from this we have no plans set in stone but are possibly looking at maybe a mini North West tour, now we have a brilliant portable set made by Mark Murphy and designed by Jocelyn Mealls.
What’s next for you?
I have just been accepted onto the Everyman playwriters course which I am over the moon about, this starts September, also the Lantern Writers group starts again in October so it will be all systems go. In my head Broken Biscuits does not end here, there is more to the story which I intend to start writing. Also LA Productions were interested in it possibly being a TV drama, so again I really need to get pen to paper. I also like the idea of writing a comedy… I feel I owe it to people haha!