1976. Fran & Leni meet in a North London comp. 

3 years later they are The Rips. Girls with guitars, bored of playing nice. 

“Profanity meets poetry” ★★★★ – The Stage
“Laugh out loud funny…provocative…deeply sad” ★★★★ – To Do List 
Two very different girls escape from everything sugar & spice in this full-throttle tale of lifelong friendship. 

By Sadie Hasler. “Twisted genius” – GQ 
Directed by Sarah Mayhew. “Inspired” – Fringe Review 

Featuring the voices of Phill Jupitus, Lizzie Roper, Alan Cox, Ricky Champ, & Marc Mollica. 

Original music written by Tuppenny Bunters, with lyrics by Sadie Hasler. 

Vault Festival London – 25-29 January – 19:45 – BOOK

Pramkicker: It Started In A Café…

Back in the distant yorey days of 2014 my friend Sarah and I were in a café. I was ploughing on with a triple shot Americano even though I’m a bit allergic, & Sarah was staring at me wondering why I didn’t just order tea. While we smalltalked a stream of mothers filled the cafe with their exuberant offspring and their high-tech perambulators. We smiled & nodded hullo. I crossed my eyes and did fish-face at a toddler who stood staring at me with a swollen nappy bum. As the hubbub in the cafe grew louder Sarah and I spoke a little louder to try & continue our Very Important Power Business Meeting (or VIPBM if you like anagrams that sound like virus software), which no doubt involved our dreams and aspirations for the next ten years, our relentless charity work for worthwhile causes, or what to have for lunch that very day.

Then Sarah got elbowed in the head by a mother who didn’t even turn round let alone apologise. Then I picked up a toy that was hurled at my feet – a little fleecy lamb, tired at the eyes from too much washing – to be met with a glare as though I was the leader of an international paedophile ring out and about scouting for talent. My cheeks flushed. Because I am not the leader of an international paedophile ring, people. I can just about manage my own menstrual cycle (it tends to work best when left to its own devices; you can’t lasso the moon) let alone operate on a highly criminal, covert, and morally reprehensible basis. We eventually felt so uncomfortable, so invisible and surplus to requirements that we left to find another cafe somewhere else, maybe in a neighbourhood known for more knife crime and fewer mother and baby groups, even though we knew more coffee would probably make my cheeks go pink and my throat go all constricty like I was being strangled in a cartoon where the tongue bursts out of the mouth like a party blower. JUST ORDER TEA, HASLER, YOU NITWIT.

In the street we began a conversation about motherhood and kids, dodging prams as we went. Sarah has often said she feels belittled by people who think she’s selfish for choosing to remain child free. She maintains that it’s selfish to have children if you aren’t sure you want them. I reissued my regular mantra that I haven’t a ruddy clue about anything; whether I want kids or not; that I sometimes have a pang, but not much. Not enough of one. Yet. I have received no bugle call and thus am at leisure to continue my wafty existence.

But. But I am 35, and aware that inside my tiniest parts – deep inside the intricate folds of my reproductive system, a work of genius I can take no credit for – is a clock, at some point at my prime wound tight and ready to burst its cogs, that will – at a time never to be properly administrated by myself, the me up here in my cerebral offices – start slowing down, slowing down, slowing down, until eventually it stops. Tick tock, tiiiiick toooock, til the rest is silence. My baby-making days over.

It’s not often that an ordinary morning spurs you to go home and write about it, but that day, in that cafe, a chord was struck that echoed. Very shortly afterwards I began writing my new play, Pramkicker, which became something of a melting pot for all the thoughts I had about All That Stuff, and a lot of thoughts I’d heard voiced by other women I know. It felt like a mess of conflicting concerns in my head that I needed to untangle – time and love and the human body and prospects and career and fulfilment and cherishing life and the possibilities and difficulties of all that – and writing is the only way I know how to go about trying to untangle anything. Writing is the way I process life, it’s how I understand, and more often now how I participate. Writing is what I do while and after I think and before I act. If I act.

I don’t normally talk about things I’m writing because I’m not very eloquent at saying what it is. I get all flustered and say ridiculous things like “It’s about a kind of story but I don’t know what yet.” And then people just stare at me as though they think I should probably take up watching telly instead. Most of the time I completely agree with them.

But what has been lovely with Pramkicker is that I’ve been talking about it lots. With lots of people. Men and women. Because I’ve wanted to know what other people think and feel about it all. And lots of people have been starting conversations with me about it too, and as always I have been reminded how lovely it is to share things with people. I’ve received so many messages from people who have things to say about motherhood; confessions or open comment about having kids, or not having them. About quandaries, about regrets. About sad things the human body throws at us, about the ticking of the biological clock. About knowing and not knowing. About how different humans go about filling their lives with different kinds of love in that strange vainglorious beautiful doomed pursuit of finding permanent happiness in an impermanent life, that cruel instinct that humans have that bumps alongside the behemoth business of merest survival. And while thinking, talking, or even writing about ‘all this baby stuff’ hasn’t made me any clearer on the matter, it makes me realise that whatever happens, with kids or without, I won’t be alone. None of us ever are if we choose to talk to each other.
Let’s just not try to do it all together in the same café, eh.


Doing It

About twenty one months ago or thereabouts, I blurted out something in bed that’s gone on to change my life. I was talking to my best friend (texting, on the phone – she hadn’t just swung by and hopped in to keep her feet warm) – and having a moan about some idiot we worked for. A shambolic cretin who never paid anyone, who – we had just discovered – wasn’t even using his own name such was his checkered past of shady incompetence. We were hacked off. We knew something had to give. So I blurted. “I just want to do plays all the time, like, run a theatre company.” There was a pause just long enough for Hew to type “LET’S F***ING DO IT THEN, WENCH.”

So we did. Or started to. Our complicity in those moments turned our energy from low and despondent to wired and exuberant. It was quite an unceremonious beginning really, I suppose. I was in bed for one thing. But it felt important.

Few things we say in a day actually bring about change in our lives. There are small things, like “But I don’t fancy steamed fish tonight, I fancy steak, a bloody big one.”, but rarely something monumental to altering the progression of your time, thoughts, actions, and priorities for a considerable proportion of your future. Something that in its simplicity and brevity at once casts out all other options.

“I just want to run a theatre company.”
“So let’s do it then.”

Our company Old Trunk will turn two in June. I will turn 34. It seems a good age to have realised suddenly, after a life of drifting from thing to thing, that you know what you want.

We have had, I’m sure, an untypically blessed start for a new company. Since our eureka moment we have produced two plays I wrote which have been very well received locally and in London, been funded by Arts Council England twice in an increasingly difficult financial climate with cuts being made left right and centre, represented the Arts at the House of Commons, and appeared in the Sunday Times magazine. Lots of other lovely stuff we’re proud of.

I know that our success so far is largely down to our defiant determination to work our socks off constantly to the exclusion of most other things, to the amazing talent we are lucky to have in our cast Charlie and Edd, but we also owe the angle of our trajectory to some other wonderful people.

We’ve been lucky enough not only to have wonderful patrons, but also to be mentored by an arts organisation called Metal. They heard of our work, and asked us to curate the theatre tent for last year’s Village Green festival. We were honoured. They mentored us through the Arts Council application, offered invaluable help, introduced us to a whole industry load of thinking that we, being new, simply didn’t know and stood no chance of rapidly discovering for ourselves. They came to see our shows, and spoke up about us to other arts groups who didn’t know who we were. We were nothing but a couple of plays and a big bag of vague wishes that might never have been realised, but then we were given the clarity and support to do something with it. Because of their mentorship we are now being funded to take our two plays to the Edinburgh Festival and we’re so happy and excited we can barely make it to the end of an hour without sighing like girls.

We don’t know what the future will hold. We’ll work hard to keep ascending, doing the things we love, and are actually now bolstered even further by the desire to not let our supporters down.

It took a moment of ‘sod this’, of saying “Let’s bloody well do it”, but it also took people believing in us and opening a door as wide as our own scope to dream.


Review – The Secret Wives of Andy Williams

A review for Old Trunk’s latest play The Secret Wives of Andy Williams, which premiered at Camden People’s Theatre in August 2013.

Low Down

It is rare in film, theatre or any art form to encounter a follow up show, a prequel or sequel that is as good if not better than the first. This unique occurrence has happened with Old Trunk and their new show The Secret Wives of Andy Williams, the prequel show to their stellar hit production last year, Watership Breakdown; The Bastard Children of Remington Steel. For background both shows are set in a nunnery where orphans and strays are taken in and looked after.


Secret Wives of Andy Williams is every bit as quirky, honest, funny and engaging as the last production and yet manages to retain the same voice despite being about the nuns taking the front row seat over the orphans. Only one character remains as the through line, Sister Mabel Matthew, and yet the style is the same and so it feels undeniably like a prequel. The characters are exceptionally well formed and it is clear a huge amount of work and passion has been applied to enable the audience to fall headfirst and fully immerse in the stories of these likeable, unique characters.

The team of performers are very tight knit with only one actor different from the production last year. The addition of Edward Mitchell as Susan and Sister Gertrude has added a wonderful new dimension to what was already a fantastic group dynamic. Mitchell adds a sparkle and twinkle to this strong female trio and the balance that is created ensures a great sense of harmony. Mitchell is an excellent character actor, seamlessly switching from one to the next with not even a beat. Men, women, old and young are all delivered with the same level of passion and commitment.

Sadie Hasler is truly destined to lead the charge as we discover the next generation of prolific writers in the UK. I wouldn’t be surprised if she is not the name on everybody’s lips both for theatre and TV in the next year or so and I can certainly say I was lucky enough to witness the humble beginnings of that greatness at the Camden Fringe. Her trusty co producer and exceptionally talented actor and comedian Sarah Mayhew yet again reveals her attention to detail with character; playing Sister Clara, the obnoxious yet misunderstood Enid and Queenie Bee, all completely unique and utterly convincing. Charlie Platt is delightful as the confused young nun Caitlin and her sense of fun and innocence in this playful role is totally charming.

Hasler has delivered another little piece of heavenly storytelling to the stage and no doubt there are many more to come! I for one cannot wait to see what’s next for these nuns!


Tambourine Girl

The last time I shook a tambourine it was quite by accident. I was carrying it for someone in a band who let me help load a car so that I could pretend I was a rock star. As it jingled lightly I felt guilty – as though the Gods of music might smite me for daring to unsettle their percussion with my arrhythmic clumsiness.

The time before that was as the backing singer in a staff band named Detention when I was a teacher, but it didn’t count because we only played to a hall full of nonchalant kids at the end of term. ‘As a treat’. It didn’t matter if they didn’t think I was any good because a) what did they know about anything anyway, and b) I could just give them Ds to make myself feel better.

I’m one of life’s tambourine shakers. Because it’s the only way, other than humming, that I can join in with that almost celestial art, Music.

But a tambourine accidentally fell into my hand again last week, drawn to my fingertips by that powerful sorcery of wanting to make a ruddy noise. I was very privileged to be the only non-member to enter the rehearsal room of awesome band The Lucky Strikes. I thought that I might disintegrate on entry to that hallowed ground, but instead I walked through the door and was whammed in the nostrils by the smell of stale farts that had soaked into the sound-proofing over the years. It put me at ease somehow – despite the fact breathing had become markedly harder.

I was there to work with the boys on a show I’ve written called The Vagabond Diaries, which sews together stories inspired by their songs. Collaborating with proper musicians was a new thing for me. I was a little daunted by having to speak up in case the language and methods of an actor-writer sounded dumb to cool musicians. I didn’t want to sound like a wanker. But once they started playing (‘jamming’ I believe it’s called in the trade), I got so excited to hear the words I’d written coming together with their amazing songs that I forgot that I wasn’t actually a part of the band.

That’s when I may have picked up the tambourine. I may have tried to do a bit of shaking against my leg like a hippy in a scout hut. The boys looked at me. I put it down and said something very clever and droll about the cross-pollination of genres being really liberating. (I didn’t. I reminded them that I had brought them cookies and hoped that would prevent them from beating me with the sullied tambourine).

I left ‘the studio’ (jargon) feeling a bit high. It may have been the vapours of ghost farts I’d inhaled, but I think it was because we all felt like we’d stumbled onto something exciting and new.

I went home humming, and as I fell into bed I thought about the old adage that music is what all art aspires to. I think it must be true. I wasn’t thinking about the words I’d written, or the stories or characters within, or the themes of the piece, or even the brilliant lyrics that had inspired me in the first place, I was humming. Just the tune. The notes repeating in that magical order. The music is what stayed with me as I fell asleep, and it’s what was there as I woke in the morning.

The Vagabond Diaries – tales of being human accompanied by the music of The Lucky Strikes – can be seen in the Old Trunk Theatre Tent at Village Green on Saturday 13th July.


Legacy Theatreland

One of the many things I love about writing is that it invokes all your cerebral bustle while indulging your lazy side. You can for example have the most productive day while propped up by five pillows in old pants, long socks, and a Dolly Parton T-shirt covered in biscuit crumbs. In fact, some of my best work has been done while looking like I’ve just had a breakdown over the last Hobnob.

One of the other things I love is hearing the words I’ve spent weeks of my life writing, transcribed voices that sprung to life from a seemingly throwaway idea on the back of a napkin, spoken aloud by people I love and admire, to a theatre full of laughing people. That is my drug, my joy, my adrenaline shot to the heart.

Last week, my play The Bastard Children of Remington Steele had a run at London’s Leicester Square Theatre. It was a week that will keep me floating into next year. As with anything where you put yourself ‘out there’, you hate yourself for feeling validated by sales and response, but you sort of have to put that out of your head. It is part of it. The gumption to do it in the first place, closely shadowed by self-loathing. They keep each other in check.

In amongst hating the self-promotion and the fear, I allowed myself a rare slither of pride. Turning up with your cast and a trunk in London’s Theatreland is ruddy exciting. It feels official. It makes the weeks of muttering to yourself seem less like madness and more like an investment.

What allowed the pride to rise like a warm bun in my heart as we drove down Charing Cross on our first night was a little thing, really. I glanced out of the window and saw the red bricks of the Palace Theatre and for a few fleeting moments it was my fourteenth birthday again. I’d been spoilt, taken to the recently opened Planet Hollywood by my lovely mum, who afterwards guided me through the west-end with a mysterious air. There, on the corner outside the theatre, stood my dad. I hadn’t been expecting to see him. But there he was, holding a pint and a present. A butterfly locket. He and my mum smiled at me with the stoic partnership that separated parents must work at. They did well; I was blithely unaware of how hard it was for Mum to do that at times. Dad gestured towards the theatre and I realised we were going inside to watch Les Miserables. I almost exploded with glee.

Thinking about it now, my pride last week wasn’t an ugly indulgence. It was only rightful. It was a tribute to the hard work of my parents. It was a thank you. They worked hard to fill me with confidence and the resources to do things, make things. They gave me the sense of entitlement to the world that we should all feel. It is ours to take.

Passing the Palace, and seeing the ghost of my Dad for a moment, made me feel like I was returning to claim a tiny piece of Theatreland that he’d reserved for me.

It still seems so strange to me that a man who eventually chose to end his life could have succeeded so fruitfully in teaching me how to live mine.

I went on stage, felt the lights on my face like a hug from above. I did my play about fathers; their presence, absence, legacies. And I even remembered my lines. How could I not. They were because of, in spite of, and for him.