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  • Jasmine Owen-Moulding

What The F*ck Happened to Love: An Interview with Jenny Duncan and Olivia McGeachy

The Broad’s Creative Director, Jasmine Owen Moulding, chatted with Jenny Duncan (director) and Olivia McGeachy (writer and actor) about their new play, What The F*ck Happened to Love. The one-person play explores sensitive themes such as drink spiking and sexual assault and is described by Bedlam Theatre as, “an electrifying, intimate monologue… it is an exciting new play both about young people and staged by young people.”.

Duncan is a 21-year-old theatre maker based in Edinburgh. This marks her debut as a director for a professional production and she is overjoyed that her first time has been such an amazing experience- targeting hard hitting issues with an all-female creative team.

McGeachy is an 18-year-old actor and writer from Edinburgh with mixed Indian/white Scottish heritage. She enjoys making work that feels engaging, dynamic and truthful whilst exploring challenging themes.

Jasmine Owen Moulding (JOM): Could you tell me about your backgrounds’, how you got interested in theatre and what influences you?

Jenny Duncan (JD): This is my first time directing, my introduction to theatre was actually through acting in high school. I started in my fourth year, and it was something to really help bring out my confidence. Now I’ve become a massive fan of immersive theatre, there is a company, In Your Face Theatre, who I got to do a zoom call with. It was so amazing to speak with a lot of the members, I’m definitely a big immersive fan!

I’m also a big feminist theatre fan, and anyone who has spent more than five minutes with me will know that I’m a bit obsessed with Jodie Comer! She’s one of my biggest inspirations, I love her work and what she does.

Olivia McGeachy (OM): My background is similar to Jenny’s, I started acting in high school and then once I left school, I went from one project to another. I did a lot of short films which is a great way to get into it and I just learned a lot from everyone around me.

I am also inspired by Jodie Comer! Michaela Coel and Stephen Graham are also big inspirations. My writing inspiration comes from Roy Williams and Clint Dyer who wrote a one-person play, Death of England. In my head, a one-person play was a self-centred thing – the cliché of an actor who writes something for themself. But, after I saw the play which covered such big themes like racism and grief, it shifted my perspective. I realised that, if you’re doing it right, it’s not about the individual, it’s about the audience and it can be about something much bigger than yourself.

I also have to say how inspired I am by the incredible team that I get to do this with. Jenny constantly inspires me through her brilliance, honesty, kindness and warmth. Megan Dunlop (Tech Manager) has been so inspiring by her work ethic, talent and humour. I am also inspired by every single one of the wonderful actors doing voiceovers for us too.

JOM: I wanted to know a bit more about your creative processes’ in directing and writing, how did you develop the narrative and structured the play? And what did you find challenging whilst doing so?

JD: When Olivia sent me the script, all I could think was, this is amazing. Finding out that she was only 17 when she wrote it was insane. I was instantly captured by the first three sentences, and I thought it was so amazing and exciting that she wanted to work with me. Once we started working together, part of the creative process was figuring out the other characters. Obviously, our play only has one character on stage, so we decided to go with the rest of the characters as voiceovers.

I think this works really well with the themes of the play; it makes it really ominous to add the extra level of a voice coming from somewhere above. It really emphasises the power dynamic between the characters.

Casting the voice actors was challenging, it was difficult to know what we were looking for! It’s hard to express a whole character entirely through their voice. But as a team, Olivia, Megan and I would bounce off each other to figure it out. Even though I’m the director, I am a big believer in working as a team. Why struggle to solve a problem on your own when you can ask for help?

OM: For my creative process, I find that a lot of writers write in order and there is a pressure to be very structured, but I much prefer to write the most interesting scenes that jump out at me and then piece them all together. Working this way means that a lot of scenes end up being cut, but they still helped form the overall play.

Once we started rehearsals, we continued to tweak and adjust various things as a team, because like Jenny says, there’s no point doing theatre if you’re not going to accept help! It was actually through Jenny’s different perspective that the whole ending got formed. Originally there were three extra scenes which weren’t necessary, but, at the time, I couldn’t see it as the writer. So, the collaborative process really helped us end the show on a strong note.

JOM: Can you say a bit more about what it is like to work with an all-female team?

JD: Working with an all-female team has been an incredible experience. As I said before, I am very drawn to feminist theatre. Even though I do believe that feminist theatre should involve both men and women, there was something truly special about an all-women team.

I’ve noticed in female-lead works, there’s often negativity or unnecessary drama in the media. For instance, the film Don’t Worry Darling, directed by Olivia Wilde, received unfair criticism, particularly targeting Wilde’s relationships with female colleagues. People love to create catty situations where women are concerned, despite the irrelevance of the drama to the film!

I have found that working in an all-female team has been a refreshing change. It’s an incredibly welcoming and empowering environment. We’re all on the same page and we understand the challenges women often face, especially in scenes related to nightclub harassment. We’ve all had our share of experiences, unfortunately, and it’s something we could relate to on a deep level.

OM: Because we all understood each other so well, it made the rehearsal room a really safe, lovely environment. We got each other’s experiences – and even if we haven’t gone through the exact same experiences, as women, we understand the fear that surrounds topics like spiking and nightclub harassment. Because of that, no suggestion was too silly or too extreme. We could just play, and it was a really beautiful time.

JOM: What was important to you when approaching the really sensitive themes like sexual assault and drink spiking?

OM: What was important for was doing a lot of thorough research, exploring what I felt qualified to talk about and acknowledging a responsibility towards the audience to make sure everything was there for a reason and came from a place of empathy. I also used quite a bit of humour in the play too to make sure that the audience feels fully onboard and we're bringing them with us when we then explore themes such as sexual assault and drink spiking.

It was also really important to me that the play was accessible. My inspiration for the play came from an article that stayed with me for over a year. I was really angry that the issues were so prevalent, and the only coverage seemed to be incredibly formal and forensic – ultimately inaccessible. It really motivated me to create well-researched art to address these problems for women in a sensitive, less clinical way.

JOM: Finally, what was the process of actually being able to perform your show professionally.

OM: I applied for a slot during Welcome Week at Bedlam, a student theatre company, even before I had written the play! To my surprise, I got the slot and had to write the play afterward, making it a somewhat independent endeavour. We even considered coming up with a production company name to make it feel official.

I curated my own team, and it was fortunate that I met Jenny, who stood out for her talent and warmth during a rehearsal reading. We connected on a deeper level, and when I asked her to direct, she agreed. We also brought Megan on board as our tech person, who had coincidentally worked with both Jenny and me before on separate occasions. The synergy between the team was incredible, and Megan's talent added a special touch to every scene.

Jenny, do you want to explain more about the process of casting the voiceover actors?

JD: I was fortunate to have connections from my college days in the theatre world. As I was reading the script, a few actors came to mind – it was like I could hear their voices as I read the characters’ lines. I contacted them to come and try out a few lines and they all fit perfectly. It was such a relief that they all wanted to be a part of the show!

The theatre community is surprisingly interconnected, as I learned when Olivia mentioned knowing Megan from a previous project. It's reassuring to have a network where everyone seems to be connected in some way. Theatre can be an intimidating space, but knowing you have the support of friends in your corner makes it more inviting.

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