Three Letters is one of nine specially-commissioned audio dramas being recorded in front of a live audience for BBC Radio 3 at Summerhall as part of the Edinburgh Fringe. Playwright and star, Nell Leyshon, was specifically commissioned for this project, telling her own story of how her reinvention of herself after children was halted by illness.
Nell spoke with The Fountain about the autobiographical aspect of this play as well as providing great advice for aspiring playwrights.
TF: You have written a play which will be performed at the Edinburgh Fringe this year – how exciting! What’s the premise?
The premise of Three Letters is to tell a true story with complete honesty. It is about illness and the body, about being a woman, about my children leaving home. I have always written my words for others to perform, but this time all of that has changed. It’s now my words, my voice. The story tells of of the nine months in my life when illness affected my ability to write but then I found the courage to speak my own words. It’s a transformation story, an inspirational tale.
TF: What inspired you to write this play for radio?
I have written for radio for many years. It is an extraordinary medium, and is so intimate. I love the relationship between writer and listener, but this time I won’t even have anyone between those two. It will be like whispering my story into the ears of listeners.
TF: Have you performed at the Edinburgh Fringe before? Can you provide any tips for fellow and aspiring playwrights?
Never. I have only just started performing my own work. It is part improvised as I have written it and can change a line if I want to. There is something wonderful about “live writing”, ie actually composing a sentence in the moment. I am only performing it once as it will be recorded, and admire those who are performing their pieces every day. I just have the pressure to get it right this once! Tips for playwrights: the important thing about writing is to write, That sounds obvious, but it’s important to understand that talking about writing and listening to people talking about writing is fine, but nothing replaces the experience you gain from years of learning your craft.
TF: What are your plans whilst in Edinburgh in August?
I am going to try and see as much as possible. I only have three days and there is so much on, but the important thing is to enjoy what I see and not fret about what I can’t get to see. For someone like me, desperately keen to see everything, it could be a nightmare.
Three Letters, Thursday 23rd August, Summerhall, 17:00