Hear Me Howl, written by Lydia Rynne and starring Alice Carter-Pitt, combines 2 mediums: theater and drumming. The London show follows Jess, a newly 30-something who ditches her “normal” life to join a post-punk band. Jess then navigates this new chapter in her life from behind the drum kit. It is a play that also addresses a woman’s choice to remain childless against social and political expectation. In the words of Rynne, “[I]t’s a late coming-of-age tale.” Tom Tom got the chance to chat with Hear Me Howl’s producer, Caley Powell about the show and why she feels the show is supremely relevant at this point in time. Find it at the Vault Festival on Leake St, Lambeth, London SE1 7NN, UK. It runs from January 30th to February 3rd.
I’m originally from South Wales and I’ve always loved theatre and was in drama groups growing up and enjoyed being on the stage but ever since I was young I wanted to work in film. I went to Uni to do a video production and film studies course and fell in love with casting. When I left Uni I set myself up as a freelance casting director and started casting for films and music videos, and producing web series too. It wasn’t until Boxing Day 2011 randomly that a casting friend of mine rang me and asked me if I wanted to help her cast a play. This is where I got my first theatre job and fell in love with working in theatre. After nearly 2 years casting for theatre I realized I didn’t just want to cast and wanted to produce too, so in late 2014 I got my first role as an associate producer on Loaded at The Brockley Jack Theatre with Alter Ego Theatre and in May 2016 I produced my very first play ‘Might Never Happen’ at The Kings Head Theatre with Doll’s Eye Theatre. Now I run Lights Down Productions, dedicated to female led new writing!
TT: What is Hear Me Howl, a one-woman play by writer Lydia Rynne, about?
Hear Me Howl is a comedic and relatable one woman play by playwright Lydia Rynne which addresses the often taboo subject of abortion and a woman’s choice to remain childless – all explored via the central character’s discovery of punk music. “It’s a late coming-of-age tale following the story of Jess – played by Alice Pitt-Carter – who’s just hitting the big three oh,” explains Lydia, who wrote the play while part of the Soho Theatre Writers Group. “She has a job, a long term, loving boyfriend and a rented flat that’s bigger than your average garden shed. Oh, and of course she also has that pesky body clock that everyone keeps banging on about. As she approaches her milestone birthday and finds she is pregnant (definitely unplanned!) Jess begins to question the life she’s plummeting towards, the expectations of her age and gender, and decides to join a punk band, ‘cuz, why not? Jess tells her story from behind and with the aid of a drum kit as she warms up for her very first gig.”
TT: Why do you think this story is relevant right now?
The past eighteen months have obviously been a rollercoaster ride in terms of women’s reproductive rights. The landslide referendum in the Republic of Ireland to Repeal the 8th [Amendment] revealed a monumental shift in attitudes towards women’s rights in Ireland. But [it] put the spotlight even more on Northern Ireland, which remains the only country in the UK where abortion is still illegal. On the other side of the pond, American women must live in fear of the day when President Trump – who vowed that during his campaign he would deliver “pro-life” judges to the Supreme Court – carries out his promise. This play is a battle cry for women to choose if and when they want a child, and if and when they want to abort. Lydia was inspired to write the play after noticing a lack of shows about women who choose not to have children. “There have been plenty of plays and books about women or couples trying desperately to conceive. And of course there is a place for these works – wanting, and then struggling, to conceive is a heartbreaking ordeal. But for every woman who is pining for a child of her own, there is a woman considering a life without children. This is, crazily, still a taboo subject. I’m also a huge advocate of women – of any age – picking up an instrument and making NOISE.”
TT: How has music influenced your own life?
Music has always been such a huge part of my life. I was brought up in Wales, which has such a love for music that is passed onto every Welsh person; we’re known for having some of the best choirs in the world! I do enjoy singing to myself too (which i do quite a lot!) and
I find that music is a brilliant way to tune into my emotions. I have a playlist that makes me feel amazing, and on the flip side of that I have songs that help me through the bad days. Like our character Jess, I love losing myself in the sound, and find it such an emotional release. I think our lives would be so empty and devoid of joy without music.
TT: Caley, what made you decide to produce this play? With your production company, Lights Down production, you seek female-driven narratives. Why is that important to you?
This play came into my life at a perfect time. I too was about to turn 30 and as I read the script I saw myself so much in the lead character of Jess. I was so drawn into the story and knew by the end of the first page that I wanted to produce this play!
I set up my production company Lights Down Productions to produce female-led new writing. I saw in the arts so many stories being told on stage that were by cis straight white men and I wanted to counter that. It’s important women can see themselves represented on stage. There are also many actresses that want to perform roles that they just can’t see in pre-existing texts, so I’m passionate about making something new for those female writers and performers that better represents them and women’s experience today.
TT: How did the team come together and how did you select your actress, Alice Pitt-Carter? Has she inhabited the role as envisioned?
Lydia met the play’s director, Kay Michael of Empty Deck Theatre, when they were in a production of Caryl Churchill’s The Skriker together at Warwick University. She had yet to ‘come out’ as a writer and still fancied herself as a physical theatre performer. As much as she loved playing varieties of goat-like creatures, making sense of the world through the written word quickly became her raison d’être. So she finally allowed Kay, one of my best mates – and conveniently a wonderful director – to take a peek. The rest is history. Or herstory…”
I met Kay whilst producing my previous play A Great Fear Of Shallow Living with In Tandem Theatre Company, and she got in touch in November 2017 to let me know about this play. I was looking for new projects, by female voices, so it seemed perfect timing!”
We found our actress Alice Pitt-Carter whilst casting for our work in progress performance at Landor Space at the beginning of 2018. Our producer thought she had a great look for the character so brought her into audition and then realized that her sister is the best friend from school of our writer Lydia. So Alice shares a similar upbringing with Lydia (both from Bournemouth) and also has a unique insight into Lydia’s brain! Amazingly Alice had just under 3 weeks to learn to play the drums for the role. But she’s got natural musical gifts.
TT: Why do you think the writer chose the drums in particular?
As it is a one-woman show, Lydia wanted the instrument to be flexible enough that the actress, Alice, can use it in many different ways. Throughout the play the drum kit is used to create different sounds and to represent different locations. The drums also aid the character’s self-expression, as she uses her drumsticks like weapons as she makes noise against society’s expectations of her. Oh and, as we all know, drums are mega, mega loud which was a big must in a show about emancipation and empowerment!
This is a “late” coming-of-age story, but increasingly relatable to thirty-somethings today, who have not, like previous generations, chosen to settle down. The job market is saturated, and many have been unable to find employment, or a “career” at all. An increasing number of women are also choosing not to have children. Why were these themes important to explore in this play?
Due to financial constraints, lack of job opportunities (in contrast to previous generations) everything about our generation has been delayed. While many of our parents were settling down in their early to mid twenties, we are struggling to make ends meet, let alone buy our own place. We are often made to feel guilty about this – the term ‘Boomerang Generation’ implies a laziness, and a choice in returning home to ‘scrounge off our parents’. But with university fees and living costs unable to match the job opportunities on offer, I think we should cut ourselves a bit of slack. Most of us will not pay off our student loans for another decade, at least. We may not ever own a home of our own. So to be expected to produce and provide for children, on top of all that, is a huge undertaking for many women. We want to represent this period of life on stage – when a woman is told by society, her family, her friends, the media that she should be settling down – but hasn’t even begun to find her feet or a sense of a fulfilled life yet.
TT: You also host a podcast, The Deleted Scene; what is that about?
My podcast “The Deleted Scene Podcast” is a film podcast that talks about the big film and TV releases of the week but also talks about independent film and web series. It is a weekly show produced by me where a writer, producer, actress and physicist sit down and talk about whats been happening in the industry week by week. I run the podcast through my production company Flitter Films, in association with a company called ActingHour that runs events and classes and networking for actors and creatives.
We are on Apple Podcasts and all other podcasting apps: Check us out!
Thanks for your time!
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Find it in London at the Cavern Theater, part of the Vault Festival: Leake St, Lambeth, London SE1 7NN, UK. Each performance runs 1 hour long and costs 15 pounds. January 30th to February 3rd. Starring Alice Carter-Pitt; written by Lydia Rynne.