ED2019 Caro Meets ED2019 Interviews ED2019 Theatre

Sarah-Jane Scott: Appropriate

By | Published on Friday 2 August 2019

As I’m sure you’re all aware, many shows premiere at the Edinburgh Festival. Which means when we talk about them in advance of edfringe, we may have a good feeling about them, but – given nobody’s seen them yet – we can only wait to see the first show to find out whether they’re great ones or not.

Well, here’s a play which, while completely new to the Fringe, has already won critical acclaim in its creator’s native Ireland. It’s a really interesting sounding show, exploring how women’s roles in society have – and haven’t – moved on, and examining our collective fascination with big weddings and settling down. To find out more I spoke to writer and performer Sarah-Jane Scott.

CM: Let’s start with the premise of the show: what’s it all about and where does the narrative take us?
S-JS: ‘Appropriate’ is the darkly comic tale of Sorcha; queen bee of her small West of Ireland town who LOVES weddings and has been dreaming of her big day since forever and ever… However we meet her moments after fleeing her reception, after marrying her Gaelic football hero fella who she has been with since she fought for him (literally) at her high school graduation ball. Has Sorcha gone mad or is this the first moment of clarity she has had in years?

For the first time ever Sorcha is forced to ask herself – is this what she wants, or is this just what’s happened and has she ever really listened to herself? Can she ever go back?

CM: What wider themes does the show explore?
S-JS: ‘Appropriate’ is about tradition versus modern life, our insatiable appetite for matrimony and also celebrates the hilarious peculiarities of small town Irish life.

It explores women’s roles in society, how we have come a long way but we are still very far from proper equality in the home as well as in the workplace. Appropriate is both very Irish and totally universal, looking at the effects that the expectations of Sorcha’s environment have had on her; expectations that have been there since she was a little girl even though she hasn’t been aware of them.

Also, our parents generation would try and keep up with the posh family down the road who went away for their foreign holidays and knew what hummus was – our generation spends our time looking at famous people’s perfect lives and bottoms online and anyone we have ever met can basically see our entire life online. There is so much pressure now for us all to be seen to be living like our best selves with super positive successful lives. It has to be having an effect on our life choices, and what we think will make us happy.

CM: What inspired you to create a show about this subject? What made you think it would work?
S-JS: A move home to the West of Ireland after spending my twenties in London got me thinking about how your environment can really shape your goals. I started exploring this idea with regard to Irish people’s obsession with weddings, the common want to be settled down and sorted by your thirties and the idea that if you haven’t, something may have gone wrong. I had a feeling people would like Sorcha, she’s funny and very honest… well, in the moments that we meet her she is forced to be, I don’t think she has really ever been honest with herself until now. There is a bit of Love Island Maura about her – you think you have her labelled and then she totally surprises you. And who doesn’t like a big Irish wedding, wha?

CM: How did you go about creating the show? Did you just sit down and write or was there more to it than that?
S-JS: The show was developed as part of Show In A Bag which is an initiative of Dublin Fringe Festival, Fishamble: The New Play Company and The Irish Theatre Institute to resource theatremakers and actors. The scheme has hatched some Ed Fringe hits over the years like ‘Dublin Oldschool and last year’s ‘My Left Nut’. The idea had been brewing for some time so with the dramaturgical help of Fishamble’s Literary manager Gavin Kostick and then with director Paul Meade I developed it into a show.

CM: This isn’t the first time the show has been performed, is it? Has it changed or developed since its first staging?
S-JS: I performed it first at Dublin Fringe Festival last autumn where it was nominated for ‘Little Gem’ award. The bones of it haven’t changed much but it feels very different to me now. Sorcha is more nuanced and I feel that it’s settled into me, so I can focus on telling the story and connecting to the audience -which feels great.

CM: Why did you decide to bring it to Edinburgh?
S-JS: It’s always been an ambition of mine to perform here, so when the Dublin run went well I felt like it was the right time to take up the challenge. Although ‘Appropriate’ is a very Irish tale it’s also a universal story and I am interested to see how it is received by international audiences.

CM: Have you been to the Fringe before? What are you expecting from this year’s festival?
S-JS: Just as a visitor, I used to come up for a few days most years when I was London based. I’m expecting it to be a bit of a whirlwind of ups and downs, a million plays, full of great chats with old and new pals and not enough sleep.

CM: Do you have plans to see other shows while you are at the Fringe?
S-JS: Yes! I’m going to see as much as I can. I’m really looking forward to seeing Fionn Foley’s ‘Brendan Galileo For Europe’ at Assembly and Gabby Best’s ‘10,432 sheep’ at Banshee Labyrinth. They are both ridiculously talented humans so I can’t wait to see what they’ve cooked up.

CM: What will happen to the show after the run in Edinburgh? Are there plans to take it further?
S-JS: Many many plans! I have another Dublin run in September and an Irish tour being planned for next year. There is some international touring in the pipeline too, which I am super excited about.

CM: And what about you? What dreams or ambitions do you have for the future?
S-JS: I want to keep writing and making which will hopefully lead to more doing!

CM: How did you get into the business of show? How did you end up pursuing this career?
S-JS: I’ve never really thought about doing anything else. I studied Drama at Queen’s University Belfast and then went on to drama school at The Oxford School of Drama. It took me a long time to start getting work so it has been a long, winding, frustrating then exciting then depressing then wonderful road.

CM: Do you see yourself as primarily a performer, or a writer? Or both?
S-JS: Definitely both. I’ve been a performer for years so the writing still feels relatively new to me. I started the day after I moved home to the West of Ireland after many years in London and I haven’t stopped… I don’t know if it found me or I found it but I’m very happy it did. It’s something I can do every day and one of the most frustrating things about being an actor as you have to wait for someone else to pick you so you can do it.

CM: What’s coming up next for you, after the Fringe?
S-JS: More ‘Appropriate’ and onwards to finish my second play. I developed it to a work in progress stage this year as part of Druid Theatre’s artist development initiative FUEL. It’s a very very dark comedy about emotional abuse and manipulation. I’m excited to get stuck into it in the autumn!

‘Appropriate’ was performed at Summerhall at Edinburgh Festival 2019.

Photo: Cáit Fahey