Graduate Showcase Lauren Ellis-Stretch

Many Welsh or Wales based arts graduates are finding this current period especially difficult. Their usual opportunities to meet agents, prepare for final year exhibitions or productions may take place later in the year or sadly not at all. To raise awareness of the diverse talent graduating this year GTC is offering any Welsh or Wales based graduate the opportunity to be showcased on our website. If you are interested, please do get in touch.

Hi Lauren great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

Hi! My name is Lauren Ellis-Stretch, am originally from Porthcawl in Bridgend. I am a playwright, theatre maker and some-time critic. I am currently in the midst of, rather abruptly, finishing my studies at the University of Manchester. Approximately, I am only a ‘mere’ 14,000 words away from completing a BA in Drama and English Literature!

 So, what got you interested in the arts?

Well, in highsight I think I’ve always had a penchant for story-telling. I wouldn’t say I lied, but as a child my stories were perhaps always well-embellished… I lied a lot. Then, in secondary school I found Drama and I was seduced by its transformative potential, its collaborative nature, and the magic theatre possesed which I have been chasing ever since. I developed a love for play scripts reading The Tempest, and A View From the Bridge, and other old-exam board favourites. But the seminal moment which transformed my encroaching fascination into true obsession came when we were taken to see A Doll’s House at the Sherman Theatre, in 2015. It was one of the first professional plays I had ever seen, and I just knew that I wanted to make things that made people feel as electrified as that production had me.

A Dolls House, Sherman Theatre, Cardiff. Credit Nick Allsop

Can you tell us about your creative process?

A lot of reading, seeing things, talking to people, quite often it involves ill-timed epiphanies which send me scrambling to find loose paper or the notes app on my phone. I haven’t yet had the pleasure, and perhaps, equally, the horror of working over a long stretch of time on one project. Mostly, the plays that I have written have been churned out in the pressure-cooker of student theatre in which everything is created within a max of ten days, mid-essay deadlines. It has been, on the whole, an exhilarating way to work, and always an intensely visceral process. However, I do look forward to seeing how I can approach writing over an extended period of time in the hope that I will expand, develop, and interrogate the work more thoroughly than ever before.

As a young Welsh artist graduating during a very difficult period what investment and support do you think is required to enable your career to develop and prosper?

I think what is required is guidance. There is going to be a lot of time, which I identified above as something which could be incredibly beneficial in an artists’ process. However, this runs the risk of resulting in a stagnated period of learning about our chosen crafts. If the pace at which you’re working, and trying things out is particularly rapid you will learn what mistakes not to make again, and what is good practice very quickly. To see more mature and experienced artists reaching out to younger artists  (not only in age but in experience) and offering their support and guidance would be particularly beneficial for the individuals; also, on a wider scale, this could assure the emergence of a thriving and innovative, post-lockdown, industry.

A range of arts organisation and individuals are now working online or finding new ways to reach out to audiences. Have you seen any particularly good examples of this way of working?

There is so much incredible content being put online at the moment! I have been thoroughly enjoying watching NT Live productions, and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical screenings. I also, recently, enjoyed a very sweaty Frantic Assembly warm-up with Simon Pittman, which was inspired by their show Beautiful Burnout. And, I loved listening to Ashes to Ashes Funk to Funky by Martha Reed on Chippy Lane’s Podcast.

If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?

I think, biasly (as my passion is for playwriting) that more needs to be done by established theatres to engage with new, fresh and diverse voices in Wales. I think the Welsh industry, in comparison to other theatre ecologies in the UK, is really lacking in a scripted theatre/playwriting culture. I think recent steps towards readdressing this by the Sherman Theatre, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, the Other Room, and Chippy Lane Productions has been a step in the right direction but this has to continue. Particularly, there needs to be more effort in engaging with BAME, working-class and womxn writers.

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

Having a theatre scene that is effectively much smaller, and less established than in cities such as London and Manchester means that there is a real sense that anything is possible! Also, there is access to certain resources that in a larger cultural hub would be hard to access. The community, for example, in the Welsh arts scene is particularly inspiring for young artists, I feel. More experienced artists often seem very willing to share their experience and time with you which can be so rewarding when you’re just starting out.

What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

Sh!t Theatre Drink Rum With Expats at HOME, in Manchester! It’s not the last great thing I saw, however, it is really really great, and I’d like to put a spotlight on a smaller theatre company. (However, Three Sisters at the National Theatre, and the Royal Exchange’s Wuthering Heights have been other cultural highlights for me, in the past couple of months!) But, Sh!t Theatre Drink Rum With Expats was a piece of theatre that I found so incredibly joyous, thought-provoking, and devastating all at the same time.

It was political, and silly, and they gave out a lot of booze. It was an wholly-encompassing and arresting theatrical experience. I don’t want to say too much about it because hopefully, at some point in the future, they will continue with their tour, and you will get to see it! The reason I think it’s so notable as a great piece of theatre, though, is because for younger theatre-makers it is the perfect example of being anarchistic, daring, and completely unique in your rebellion; and I think that is what will be needed of us in an artistic landscape, post-lockdown, creative rebellion. 

Many thanks for your time Lauren.

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