Interview: Katherine Rodden

“What I wanted to do was write a play with modern day, intelligent, educated, witty people who banter and cuss like Coward’s characters – but with contemporary language and issues”

A Woman of No Importance... poster

A Woman of No Importance…

Katherine Rodden is an actress and writer, whose play A Woman of No Importance… Or Somewhat Little Importance Anyhow, premieres at The Hen and Chickens in Islington, 5-23 February 2013. The play is the latest offering from Paradigm Theatre Company, and the describe it as “a comedy of manners – Noel Coward style. A farcical, witty comedy that observes just how insane families really are behind closed doors – even ones that love each other to bits!”

Katherine not only wrote the piece, but is acting in it.

What you do:

I always wanted to be an actress – and this is essentially what I am. But I do lots of other bits. I write a lot and I do photography.

What your background is:

I am from Buckinghamshire where I grew up and went to school. After school I did my travelling ‘gap year’, went to E15 to do the foundation course in acting before taking a place on the three year acting course at The Oxford School of Drama (which I adored!) I’ve been working consistently as an actress since graduating (a lot of this work is unpaid due to the current economy,) but I was lucky enough to see a lot of the world over 2011-2012, going on tour with White Horse Theatre Company.

What made you decide to rework Oscar Wilde? And what was the process? In fact how much of the play is inspired by Oscar?

Well; this is an entirely new piece of writing and it is a sort of ‘ode’ to Wilde, and Coward, and Ayckbourn (and all the writers I admire – most of whom are dead…)

I didn’t sit down and plan out the story line. I had a basic idea and just sort of went with it. Of course then I did rewrites and eventually it resulted in the current (not necessarily final) product we have at The Hen & Chickens today. My beef with a lot of current writing is that there’s a huge amount of incredible, political writing, and a constant stream of famous, long standing productions; there’s tonnes of young, gritty, personal drama. And I am concerned that these wonderful plays by Wilde and Coward are losing there attraction to younger audiences. They are incredibly witty, inspiring plays and I love this format of comedy. What I wanted to do was write a play with modern day, intelligent, educated, witty people who banter and cuss like Coward’s characters – but with contemporary language and issues. I want to throw this out there and see whether it has an audience. I am hoping it does.

Do you feel being a woman has hindered your career in any way?

The only thing I would say about being a woman is that there are so many women in this industry. So many incredibly talented women. And there just isn’t enough work for us all. It hasn’t all been jelly beans and sunshine but it is hard work (which I love) and it does force you to think outside the box (the only way to think!) I never thought I would start writing and I didn’t dream in a million years I would write and act in my own play. But I am lucky enough to have a network of like minded, driven, ambitious women in the Paradigm Theatre team.

What advice would you have for other women starting out?

Believe in yourself. Don’t ever apologise for being wonderful. Meet people. Talk to people and most of all – do what you love.

What do you think is the best way to get more work by women into the theatre?

Well, we need to support the talent primarily. And good work needs to be acknowledged and supported. It’s very difficult to push your career in the theatre when you work 9-5, have to rehearse in the evenings and write at night over your dinner when you get home. But I am surrounded by strong women that do this constantly. And they still achieve wonderful results. We need to keep badgering away and promoting what we do. Financing is the main issue. But this will come with time if we believe in what we do. I do think people have to take responsibility for themselves. If you want to change the world – you have to get up and do it. In Paradigm we have Cat Robey (an incredibly hard working resident director) Sarah Pitard (one of the most driven, self motivated and supportive people I’ve ever had the joy to know) and a pool of incredibly strong female actresses.

What made you want to work in theatre/entertainment in the first place?

‘The Wizard of Oz!’ When I was a kid I used to watch it, pretty much on a daily basis. I loved the drama, the story, the idea of fantasy and make believe. I loved the idea of taking a story and whisking the audience off to another world entirely. And maybe returning them to this one – slightly different. Story telling is essentially what we do. And I don’t think it really matters how important, political, or even personal, the story is.

On a personal level. I love playing characters. I love to build a person and discover them. Their loves, their habits. Every character I play changes me and helps me to expand my world a little. I like to think that every character I play – like a good friend – teaches me something about life.

What are your next plans?

I am writing away. I’m currently working on a slightly absurd piece. Slightly more Ionesco inspired. I’m not sure how it will work out quite yet. (It may well end up in my trash can along with some of my super-crap poetry.) I have enjoyed seeing my writing come to life more than I ever knew I would. When I’m not on stage I watch rehearsals like a kid in a sweet shop. It is such an incredible feeling seeing your writing being performed by talented actors and watching a fabulous director bring your vision in to reality. This is definitely a new, and important part of my life now. I didn’t quite realise until today that – I am a writer. And I always have been. I just need to figure out a way to act and write consecutively without completely shredding my nerves! I want to keep telling stories for ever. As I always say – not the most noble profession perhaps, but a damn fun one!

You can book tickets for A Woman of No Importance… Or Somewhat Little Importance Anyhow here.

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