Winner of the Assembly Roxy Theatre Award and contributor to the much-talked-about book Nasty Women, Jen McGregor, has written new play, Heaven Burns, which will be performed in Edinburgh throughout August.
Jen spoke with The Fountain about the fabulous year she has had as well as what’s next on the cards post-Fringe.
TF: You are performing at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, how exciting, what can we expect?
From the play? A claustrophobic and unsettling glimpse of characters who do terrible things with the best of intentions. From me personally? Relentless attempts to elicit sympathy from anyone who will listen regarding the number of times I’ve stabbed myself with needles (of the sewing rather than witch-pricking variety) while altering costumes.
TF: Heaven Burns sounds intriguing, what drove the project, where did your influences lie?
I’ve been interested in the Scottish witch trials for a long, long time, so when I learned that there was a female witch-pricker I knew I had to write something about her. I wanted to explore the kind of fanatical faith that would drive someone to do the things she did, so I took her story as the starting point and let my imagination run away with me. In terms of my approach to the story, the biggest influence is probably Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, where suspense is created by making the audience complicit in a character’s big secret from the very beginning.
TF: What are your plans for the Fringe, have you been before?
The Fringe has been a part of my life for (whisper it low) twenty years – I’ve performed, flyered, operated, done all sorts of backstage tasks. This is my first time directing my own writing at the Fringe, though! Outside of Heaven Burns, I’m looking forward to seeing work from people I’ve loved in previous years, like Hot Brown Honey and Natalie Palamides, and to supporting fellow Scottish theatremakers like Birds of Paradise.
TF: And congratulations on winning the ART prize, it has been quite a year for you Jen?
Thanks! It really has. In addition to Heaven Burns, I’ve been developing a spoken word show about astronomer Williamina Fleming, which debuted at Hidden Door in May, and I wrote Old Bones, a solo show about gambling with the Devil. It sold out its run in Prague, which made me very happy and extremely chuffed for Daniel Hird, the actor for whom I wrote it.
TF: And what are your future plans beyond Heaven Burns?
Next up is a bit of development on Volante with Fronteiras Theatre Lab. It’s a rococo punk dance party of a play about an 18th century rope dancer coming to Edinburgh to reinvent herself as the city’s foremost minuet teacher. I’ll be working on that with Flavia D’Avila, my movement director for Heaven Burns, and presenting a reading of the new draft as part of the Tom McGrath Award. And of course I’m hoping that Heaven Burns might find a life beyond the Fringe, but that remains to be seen…
Photo courtesy of Chris Scott
Heaven Burns, Assembly Roxy, 14:35, 2nd – 27th August (No show 14)