We caught up with FURY director, Hannah Hauer-King who She is the co-founder and Artistic Director of Damsel Productions and committed to pushing a producing female work and working with females.
What can audiences expect from FURY?
Fury is a modern day Medea and a thriller - so expect to be challenged by the material, but also entertained. There are the more hard-hitting themes of motherhood, psychological abuse, and societal culpability, but there are also electronic music and moments of comic relief.
You are the artistic director of Damsel Productions, so what does this role entail?
It's a role that continues to evolve, which is exciting. At present, I keep my eyes peeled for talented new female writers and artists, read a lot of scripts, curate Damsel's artistic program alongside my collaborator Kitty, and direct the productions themselves.
You work alongside co-founder and producer of Damsel productions Kitty Wordsworth so what is your collaborative process?
Though Kitty's role is more as Executive Producer and mine as Artistic Director, we work very closely when collaborating on a given project. We'll find a piece we are both excited by, I'll explore or propose an artistic vision for that piece, Kitty will assess its feasibility as well as contribute ideas re the possible creative/production team, and then we go about making it happen.
Why is it important to put women at the forefront of storytelling and theatre?
Gender imbalance, patriarchy, and the general misrepresentation of women are still sadly pervasive in our society. And I really believe all art forms have a responsibility to push against the grain and radicalise audiences, as well as providing them entertainment and catharsis. Simply put - the stories of women that are fascinating and complex, and beyond the stereotype ingénue model, are so often left untold. Moreover, it's important that these stories are explored through the perspective of women, and not just a male gaze.
This is your first major show at the Soho Theatre, so how excited are you about its release?
The short answer is very! It's amazing to be directing at such a dynamic venue, especially having worked here in the past and having dreamt of bringing a show to Soho. Though this dream was partially realised doing Brute with the fabulous Izzy Tennyson a little earlier on this year, so there will be lots of friendly familiar faces for the Damsel team when we return to the building!
You had a residency as Associate Director in 2015, so please tell us about this experience.
This was an amazing opportunity that came at a time when I was in America, and keen to get back in touch with the theatrical scene in London. I was given the opportunity to assist both Steve Marmion and Joe Murphy on two fantastic shows, I Kiss Your Heart and Symphony, as well as work with Nina Steiger and other fantastic creatives on current projects and initiatives at Soho. I was also given the opportunity to read and provide feedback on a large number of scripts submitted for the Verity Bargate award, and was given guidance and funding to direct my own workshop and reading of a chosen play. This was incidentally Dry Land, and after inviting industry people to watch the reading I was then able to secure a run at Jermyn Street Theatre.
How important do you feel it is to discuss graphic depictions on stage following Ruby Rae Spiegel's Dry Land last year?
What I find remarkable in relation to the response is how relatively tame we were in our depiction of that abortion in Dry Land… It made a significant impact, but I avoided what would have been in reality inevitable nudity, bodily excretions other than blood, and a lot more gore than the blood stained linoleum on our set. I wonder whether it's less about how graphic these depictions are or were, and more about what is being depicted on stage and what we are allowed or expect to see. Rape, domestic violence, porn, abuse are all much more commonplace in theatre…. It's somehow seen as a little more sexy and tolerable, whereas a female body that's been totally de-sexualised and is resisting its reproductive 'function,' is found to be 'radical' or 'sensationalised.'
Can you tell us a bit about the casting process- why was Sarah Ridgeway and Alex Austin the perfect fit for your characters?
It was really during a final call-back I had with both Sarah and Alex when I just had that "this is it" moment. They had both been fantastic in previous auditions, but working with them both for a good amount of time left me with no doubt that this was our team. It hardly felt like an audition anymore, we were starting to discover some amazing moments, and Phoebe was even adjusting lines.
Why did you want to take an unapologetic look at what life is like for a single mum society had forgotten?
This partly links back to something I said in the Independent earlier this year about "likeable" female characters, how often people will ask whether she is "likeable enough". I am so desperately sick of the idea that women on stage need to be 'liked' or vulnerable. What I love about Sam (the protagonist in Fury) is her evident flaws, her recklessness, her ambivalence towards her children, and her ability to make terrible decisions. It's human, we can identify with it, and her perceived likeability shouldn't have any bearing on whether her story should be told.
What is next for you?
Good question! Currently focusing on the present as much as possible. I am working on developing two new scripts - Tabs by Ellie Kendrick and Grotty by Izzy Tennyson - that will hopefully both become future Damsel Productions. I'll also be having a big old sleep after opening night…
FURY runs from the 5th- 30th July at the Soho Theatre in London.