Songlines by Tallulah Brown
Songlines by Tallulah Brown
Stevie is 17. She's peak cool, or so she thinks. In the middle of the wide-eyed stagger from girlhood to womanhood Stevie is sent to live in the middle of nowhere with her grandma. Suffolk – the home of doggers, folklore and Stan. Stan is peak geek, not that he knows. There are secrets in the marshland, songs that will show Stevie the way.
A play with monologues perfect for teenage actors.
Songlines is published by Bloomsbury: bloomsbury.com/uk/songlines-9781350092327/
How did being part of Soho Theatre Young Company help shape your artistic practise?
Straight after I'd left University and while I was working as a tutor / bookseller / children's entertainer / personal assistant(!) I got into the Soho Theatre Young Company. We would meet one Saturday a month and we wrote a play over a year. My play 'There's a Monster in the Lake' went on to be produced at Vaults Festival. Being part of STYC allowed me to think really ambitiously and imaginatively about what I wanted to write - my play had a health and safety officer talking wolf in it! Over the course of the year we read and watched brilliant plays and we shared work with each other. Lots of people from the course are still working in the industry today which just shows how formative that time was.
How does it feel to write about Suffolk and home, do you think teenagers need to articulate conflicting relationships with home?
Writing about where you're from can seem too personal sometimes, I think I found it easier to write about subjects further away from me. During Songlines I sat on stage, playing the music and saw my primary school teacher in the audience. A friend's dad had told me when I was a child that he'd seen ghosts of Roman soldiers on a particular stretch of beach in Suffolk. I put that story in the play, and of course I saw him in the audience too!
Home so often comes with conflict, especially as a teenager. It is about belonging and I think as a teenager you don't really want to belong anywhere, you want independence, which is why so often you want to kick off and escape. I definitely felt I couldn't address that until I was well into my 20s. I hope that performing in a play like Songlines could help teenagers articulate that frustration and also inspire them to write their own plays: theatre is escape.
Why is music so important to the characters, and young people in general?
The music in Songlines articulates what can't be said. For Stevie it tells her story and for Stan it's not until he hears the song at the end of the play that he fully understands Stevie's journey. I wanted to look at what love songs do to us, why we listen to love songs, especially when we're teenagers. I wanted the play to almost feel like an album, to build the story like you would a collection of songs. I like the way you can find a song so perfect that it articulates everything you want to say. There's raw emotion in songs that sometimes feels particularly hard for young people to express. Slamming my bedroom door and playing a song really loudly was what I did.
How do you try to ensure an authentic teenage voice for the characters?
The characters of Stevie and Stan are so different, they are the town mouse and the country mouse. I wrote the play with that distinction in mind over everything. Underlying that was teenage turbulence, a clumsy quality to their communication, especially Stan's I suppose. It was a real relief when I shared the script with teenagers and saw their connection with it, what they found funny, what they recognised.