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Interview: Cathy Ford

The writer speaks to Across the Arts about her latest play: Supply.

Across the Arts: Tell us about the play.

Cathy Forde: It’s quite a simple play about a supply teacher who is in his early 30s and this is his very first day as a teacher. He has been given as his very first lesson a class of very low academic ability, 4F, and he gets two delightful girls to teach, except they have no intention of learning anything in the whole period.

It is done in real time, so it’s like the length of one period. It is 50 minutes and he’s trying to teach them a Haiku by Esra Pounds and the last thing they want to do is learn anything. They want to find out about him as much as they can, as you do when you’ve got a new teacher, they manage to find out a sort of deep dark secret from his past, which I won’t tell you about as it kind of spoils it if you come to see they play.

AtA: Is this written from a personal experience?

CF: No, but I have had a class of girls like the girls in the play, many years ago when I was doing teacher training. I had a group of girls who had no intention of doing any work. It’s not a nasty, vindictive or cruel play this; it kind of shows that everyone’s got a kind of leniency in them as well, I think. These girls are funny and they are bright in their own way. They are just not academically bright and they are in the wrong place. They are not interested in school. They’ve actually got lots going for them. I hope that comes through in the characters.

AtA: With most plays there’s ‘a way in’. Was it perhaps a character, or a scenario for this play?

CF: I think a one-period lesson sits well for an Oran Mor audience. I wrote this play with the venue and the time frame in mind. A small cast, quite an intense situation, and I’d never seen a play down there which had been set in the classroom or with a teacher and so various all kind of things just sort of… worked together.

AtA: We won’t try to get the secret out of you, but did ‘the secret’ surprise you or did it come to you quickly?

CF: It dawned on me pretty quickly. I think once I had envisioned the character of the teacher, it wasn’t there right from the very first moment, but once I had conceived him, it very quickly came in. That’s the goal that I am working toward throughout the play: that this is going to be exposed. It’s exciting to be able to do that knowing that you are going to have to reveal something that is going to change everything at the end of the play.

AtA: Now these plays, when you write them, they kind of take on a life of their own when you are writing them. Did the characters surprise you somehow?

CF: Oh yeah! Writing drama is fantastic, because you create 3-dimensional characters in your own head, but you are hoping they are going to be good enough that someone is going to want to turn them into flesh and blood. So you do find lots and lots of things in them as you are writing them. Every draft you find more. Then as soon as you see your actors reading the lines and acting out the characters that brings even more to as well. That is why I love writing drama so much. The whole collaborative process enriches the drama for me anyway, I think.

Supply is at A Play, a Pie and a Pint until September 24.

Tags: theatre

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