Simon MacDonald writes and directs new one-person show Sometime, Somewhere at the Golden Goose Theatre from 6-10 June.
“Allie’s missing her best mate Nina. And Nina … well, she’s missing. A personal tragedy is targeted by a national gossip magazjne. It’s left to Allie and the regulars of the hairdressers where she works to close ranks and defend her friend. You need to #BeKind and mean it, don’t you?”
Where: Golden Goose Theatre, Camberwell
When: 6-10 Jun, 8.30pm
Ticket link: https://www.goldengoosetheatre.co.uk/sometime-somewhere
We spoke to Simon and to performer Alice McCracken to find out more about the show and the fringe scene.
Sometime, Somewhere is based on the true story of salon owners who banned gossip magazines and tabloids following the tragedy of Caroline Flack’s death. What made you want to stage this production?
SIMON: I happened to catch a short clip of a regional news programme and heard this voice that was almost instantly recognisable as East London/Essex because this is where I am from.
She was talking about ‘not having this kind of thing in her salon anymore’, and her sister, who’s got another salon down Canvey Island way, was going to do the same.
She was saying that places like hers and her sister’s just fed this terrible media machine with its sensationalist reporting and hounding of people in the spotlight – she said that she’d had enough and that they were banned – end of.
I was really taken with this as it confronted a lot of my own prejudices and stereotyping associated with reality TV, celebrity lives and also of the hair and beauty industry.
I wanted to write something down that would shine a light on her and on what I thought was a very honest, perceptive and hugely political act.
The play is concerned with a more personal, everyday kind of tragedy that gets blown up nationally, so while it certainly took the harrowing story of Caroline Flack as its touchstone, this production is more about focusing on ordinary people living seemingly quiet lives until something goes very badly wrong.
ALICE: It’s an engaging story with a strong female lead who grows in the course of the narrative. Public unkindness and how we as individuals contribute to it, or challenge it, is an important and complex issue. That makes it interesting.
Alice McCracken performs in this one-woman show. How easy was it to prepare and engage with Simon MacDonald’s work, and was it important that he both wrote and directed the show?
SIMON: I’d like to say – irrespective of what Alice might (or feel compelled to!) say – that I’ve been incredibly lucky to find her!
This piece was originally a very short monologue written just as the pandemic was kicking in. It was for a shorts festival put together by Make It Beautiful Theatre Co at The White Bear.
I live on a rock just off the coast of France, so through the marvels of technology, we were put in touch by a very helpful intermediary that Alice studied with, and then she took the whole thing on – on her own!
I couldn’t travel to London to work with her, so I was just incredibly grateful to her for taking a punt on it. When I worked it up some more into a full-length play, I only wanted to work with Alice.
The residency at the Jersey Arts Centre in April proved that this was the right decision as the piece is now so much further on in terms of its depth and narrative arc – her performance and characterisation is excellent and I’m really looking forward to seeing how much further she can go with it.
ALICE: The role is demanding. It’s an hour, solo on stage as multiple characters. So it’s physically and emotionally challenging. But as an actor that’s interesting, and also Simon’s script is rich and gives a lot back to me as an actor, a lot of rewards in terms of what I can find in the performance.
It is a pleasure working with Simon as a writer/director, having this opportunity to workshop and perform as the work is created. That’s been a new experience for me and tremendously rewarding.
The message of the show is #bekind – do you think anything has changed since Flack or are these publications fixated on sales, scandal and salacious stories?
SIMON: I think it got much worse. I’m not sure what it takes for someone to say and do some of the awful things they share on social media. Is it that this form of communication has given them agency where once they felt sidelined or ignored?
The reference to the hashtag was done mindfully as living in a small community as I do now, there were plenty of instances of absolutely appalling posts and behaviour on Facebook and Twitter during the lockdown here and they were from people I know and have known for quite some time.
One particular outpouring of bile came from someone who proudly displayed ‘#bekind’ as part of their profile, so I thought the writing of the play had to include some reference to such a spectacular lack of self-awareness. The jury’s still out, I guess.
Is it better to allow people to vent so that you know what they’re thinking and can challenge that? Often this results in more abuse and a worse situation. Simply put, I don’t know.
But I fear the worst. Sorry. Bit bleak, but I hope this play encourages some more open questioning and challenging of that.
ALICE: I think the message of the play is wider than that. Formal media – print, tv, etc obviously have a major impact. But so does social media platforms and the behaviours of we as individuals online, in public spaces, at work, and in private.
I’m certainly starting to notice and experience a collective consciousness of how we behave and an awareness of how our behaviour might impact others, which is excellent.
But this is ever evolving and I’m looking forward to seeing how it changes hopefully for the better over the eras.
You’re playing at the Golden Goose, which is one of London’s newest pub theatres. What do you like most about the venue?
SIMON: I am so looking forward to this. I have never been there and am so lucky that the play has been taken on by Rennie & White Productions as producers who have managed to secure the venue – they speak glowingly of the venue, the staff and the audiences.
I have read only good things about the place – it looks amazing from the outside! I’m hoping to impress so that this isn’t the last time I’m there!
ALICE: I love the vibe of The Golden Goose, it’s dynamism and mission to engage with its local communities and diverse audiences and performers. And the stage is intimate and flexible. Ideal for Sometime, Somewhere.
Do you think the fringe is in a healthy place right now – and what would improve it?
SIMON: Back to the Golden Goose: what’s struck me about the venue is its commitment to staging new work so often and with such diverse content. It’s brave and should be applauded for this. I hope they’re not alone.
I think there are others who feel the same way and, hopefully, this faith can be reciprocated. I think the GG model is a good one – it knows that people are only just re-emerging blinking into the light after the last few years and, while they’ve been away, they want to know what’s been going on – what are the stories that we need to know about?
The fringe has always been the starting point for many of these narratives, so if others could be inspired to do what they do, that’d be a very good beginning.
ALICE: It’s wonderful to have this opportunity to perform at The Golden Goose. Funding is essential, of course, to strengthen and support venues taking risks with new and diverse and emerging writers and performers.
We are still putting the pieces back together after the last few years, like many other industries, the arts lost a huge amount of funding. But it’s so rewarding to see audience engagement hasn’t been lost.
Folk want to be entertained and hear fantastic stories, and whilst there is still that need, we have to keep going.