We sat down with playwright Brendan Murray about of his new show with tutti frutti.
Book tickets to see Yellow is the Colour of Sunshine on Saturday 18 May 2019.
How did you get involved in writing Yellow is the Colour of Sunshine?
The short answer is that Wendy Harris asked me. I’ve known Wendy for about thirty years when she was director of Red Ladder Theatre Company and I wrote a play for the company. Since she moved to Tutti Frutti I’ve written The Hare And The Tortoise and Monday’s Child; she approached me and asked if I’d like to write a play about emotional / feelings.
How would you best describe the play?
It’s the story of a friendship and the feelings – positive and negative - that sometimes come up in friendship. The story is told using a variety of languages: speech, sign, music, dance and design.
Has there been a different or unusual creative process involved in bringing Yellow is the Colour of Sunshine to the stage?
One of the great things about working for tutti frutti is how collaborative all the artists are encouraged to be. Before the play is written we come together to discuss and share ideas about how – together – we might approach the themes of the play & try to tell the story.
In this respect, Yellow is no different to other tutti frutti shows but the resulting script (my contribution) tries to leave as much room as possible for the other artists to bring their skills to bear in how the story unfolds and reaches its audience.
One of the main aspects of Yellow is the Colour of Sunshine is about emotional literary and identifying feelings. Is it challenging writing a play around emotions?
I suppose all plays are about emotions to some extent – that’s the nature of drama. The challenge here for me was to find a story that would carry the themes of the play in an organic way, rather than being a dry examination of emotions and emotional literacy.
Some of your previous plays for tutti frutti also explore ‘bigger subjects’ such as Alzheimer’s in Monday’s Child. How do you go about approaching these in writing plays for young audiences?
In some ways, I approach writing for tutti frutti much as I approach any play. I spend time with the intended audience in school workshops to gauge what they might respond to. I read. Difficult books by academics, story books - anything I can find.
Above all, I talk to people. Sometimes this involves academics and professional practitioners but, in this case, above all, parents of young children.
I record these conversations and then transcribe them, looking for common and/or recurring themes and anything I can steal! Then I imagine what it’s like to be the characters in the play: to live their lives, feel their feelings and struggle to find the ways they might – or might not – express themselves.
How important do you feel theatre – and particularly new writing - is for young people?
Humans have told stories since the dawn of time. Plays are just another way of telling stories. It’s a way of trying to understand how we fit into the world. We never stop needing to do this - but it’s most important when we are young and discovering the world for the first time.
What do you think are the biggest challenges of writing for children?
Avoiding writing “what’s good for them” – or what we think might be “good for them”! The challenge is to find a story about something I need to say as a playwright that also speaks to my young audience in ways that will interest, entertain and be accessible to them – in terms of form, content and language.
How did you get into your career as a playwright?
I started out in theatre as an actor although I’d always written poems. Then I found myself working for companies that worked for young people and wrote their own material. I was expected to chip in and found that I loved it. Gradually I acted less and wrote (and directed) more until, after about ten years, I stopped acting and began writing full-time.
Where do you get your inspirations, and do you have any main influences?
Sometimes people say you should write about what you know. And I have done this in some plays but often I write about what I don’t know; something I want to find out about; something that puzzles or troubles me. Or sometimes, like this time, a company will come to me with an idea for a play and then ask me to write it.
Like most artists, I steal ideas from all over the place and I’ve been influenced by just about all the people I’ve worked with over the years. As a writer I love Chekhov and Beckett and Dylan Thomas. And I listen to music. Classical music. Or I just go for a walk and worry.
That’s where the magpies come from in Yellow is the Colour of Sunshine: going for a walk and seeing magpies on the Downs and the rhyme “One for sorrow…” coming into my head.
Why should audiences come and see Yellow is the Colour of Sunshine?
tutti frutti makes shows that look and sound beautiful; that tell stories with imagination & flair; with humour and real emotion. They always try to work with the best people because, as I say, they truly value their audience. Yellow is the Colour of Sunshine is a play that uses multiple languages to tell a story I think young people will relate to.
If you have to sum up Yellow… in three words what would they be?
Crikey… Colourful, quirky, dancey! (Is that a word?)