Tag Archives: katie elin salt

5 Minutes with Katie Elin-Salt, writer of ‘Celebrated Virgins’, Theatr Clwyd

Celebrated Virgins is Theatr Clwyd’s brand new play written by Katie Elin-Salt and directed by Eleri B. Jones. The show is based on the true story of Lady Eleanor Butler and Miss Sarah Ponsonby who were forced to flee Ireland and took up residence in Llangollen. They were true LGBTQ+ icons of their time and this show sees them tell their story, on their own terms for the very first time.

We sat down with Katie, writer of the show, to find out more:

You will be a familiar face to many at Theatr Clwyd as an actor. What’s it like to be back?

When I first came to Clwyd, I was a nervous 21-year-old performing a cameo role in As You Like It, under the direction of Terry Hands. Since then, Theatr Clwyd has always been a home from home for me and I have been privileged to perform here as an actor many times – growing from bit parts to leads in shows such as Educating Rita and Under Milk Wood, I was even lucky enough to be the fairy in the panto two years ago – what an honour! To come back to Mold under this capacity, is just the most incredible feeling. I have always felt so supported by the team and the audience at Theatr Clwyd and I could not be in a safer place to be premiering my first full play. But I honestly feel if I could tell that nervous 21 year old a decade ago that her name would one day be on the front of those programmes – she would never have believed it!

Give us a brief of what Celebrated Virgins is about?

Celebrated Virgins is based on the true story of two remarkable women – Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Butler a.k.a ‘The Ladies of Llangollen’. We follow their story from separate childhoods in the upper echelons of 18th century Irish society to meeting each other at school and forming an unbreakable bond. This leads them to decide they would rather leave everything they have known behind than live without each other. We then follow their journey to Plas Newydd, their home for over 50 years in Llangollen and learn through them the bravery and the fear involved in living an authentic life in full view of a community who does not always understand who you truly are. 

What made you want to create this show?            

Well, firstly it is just an amazing epic love story and I remain amazed and bewildered that it has taken nearly 300 years for it to be put on a stage. It really has everything – love, risk, danger, even someone dressing in a suit and jumping out of a window armed with a pistol and a Jack Russell – I mean what more could you want? But also, I think it is incredibly important for today’s society that we see stories like Sarah and Eleanor’s represented on stage. It has taken such a long time for love between two women to be not only accepted but celebrated, and I want to show the next generation of LGBTQ+ that their stories and their history are just as important and worth celebrating as anybody else’s.

It’s such a fascinating story but this will be the first time they are telling it themselves. What can the audience expect?

The audience can expect to see two brilliant women at the front and centre of their own story. We have an amazing cast of professional actors and also added to that the addition of a cast from the local community – who will show us what life was really like for the Ladies as they tried to make their way in society. We have an incredible movement and sound team who will bring this story bang up to date and of course fantastic direction from Eleri B. Jones. I would tell the audience to buy an ice cream and get comfortable as the lights go down as they are in for a truly epic night of theatre – and after the last two years I think that is the least an audience deserves!

What advice would you give to people wanting to get into the industry?

My first bit of advice would be to try out as many facets of your creativity as you possibly can! Like many young people I got into this industry through my local youth theatre, there I found a love of theatre and a friendship and connection I couldn’t find anywhere else. I realised there that I could act but it took me until the age of 30 to realise I might be any good at writing – think of all that wasted time! I am also now training as a music therapist to spread my creativity even further. There are some elements of this job I definitely can’t do (trust me you don’t want to see me trying to move set around a stage), but that is when you find the people who can and let them support and help you. Basically, no matter where you come from or what your story is – find it, own it and let yourself be seen in as many glorious ways as you possibly can!


Celebrated Virgins will be performed at Theatr Clwyd from Friday 20 May – Saturday 4 June. Tickets start at £10 and can be booked here. Please check the website for Trigger Warnings.

Hers, A Short Film by Alexa Morden (with Katie Elin-Salt), Reviewed by Gareth Williams

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

In Alexa Morden and Katie Elin-Salt are two actors determined to change the industry. Through their excellent podcast ‘The 98%’, they give a warts-and-all account of what the #actorslife is truly like. It is an insight that will prove particularly valuable to recent graduates; and for other creative types like me there is plenty to learn from and to relate to. More than anything, it brings a new-found respect for those pursuing this most fraught and fragile of “career” paths.

The creation of Hers by Alexa Morden springs in part from the difficulties of the jobbing actor. For anyone already familiar with their podcast, the idea of acting as a full-time profession is a distant dream for most. Thus, in response (and to quote Morden), ‘When the industry isn’t giving you lemons… grow your own oranges’. The result is this short film that is fresh, fragrant and ripe for watching.

Morden stars as Beth, a young woman who happens upon kindred spirit Laura (played by Elin-Salt) in the bathroom of a house party. They hit it off immediately through a conversation about online dating apps, soon finding themselves acquainted with one another on the tiled floor. What follows is a wonderfully frank scene, featuring full frontal dialogue that is smart, witty and well-polished. Some may consider the so-called ‘X-rated’ content here as being too much. Some would argue that it has been pulled straight from the Fleabag Scriptures. In either case, Hers feels fresh and raw (in spite of the ordinariness of its characters and its mundane setting) suggesting that such explicit conversation around women’s sexual experiences remains rare onscreen.

I would expect nothing less from its two stars however, who to some extent play versions of themselves here. Their no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is approach to their podcast is reflected here in the casual flow with which this duologue is delivered. The film benefits greatly from their off-screen chemistry, which makes the friendship that blossoms between their characters onscreen all the more believable. They are well-suited, with Elin-Salt’s strong South Walian phrasing and expressive movement providing a nicely-balanced contrast to Morden’s softer tone and sharply defined actions. They have the makings of a very entertaining partnership. In the real world, of course, this is already a reality. But there is also something about these two characters that, at the end of the film, makes you want more of their company.

This may be a one-off piece. But Hers has the potential to be something much bigger.

Click here to watch the film*.

To find out more about The 98% podcast, click here.

Reviewed by Gareth Williams

*contains strong language and adult themes

Review, Out of Love, The Roundabout Theatre at Theatr Clwyd by Gareth Williams


4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)
 
Jodie Whitaker may be everyone’s new favourite female of the moment but my eye has been drawn to someone less well-known. In my second trip to the Roundabout Theatre in a week, a process of regeneration had seemingly taken place. Having taken my first steps into the pop-up theatre last week for the world premiere of Black Mountain, I had returned seven days later for another debut show. To my surprise (and delight), I found the same three actors from Brad Birch’s play starring again, this time in Out of Love by Elinor Cook. They had undergone a transformation which now saw Sally Messham and Katie Elin-Salt playing best friends Lorna and Grace. Hasan Dixon was now playing a host of male characters, showcasing his talent for versatility. However, it is Elin-Salt who has caught my undivided attention.

In Out of Love, Elin-Salt plays the lovably naïve Grace. Wearing a dungaree dress and plimsoll shoes, there is something eternally childlike about her character. Above all else, I think it is the expressive acting of Elin-Salt that conveys this with such success. She flails about on the floor, swings her legs up and down; her arms are constantly in motion, her shoulders slightly elevated; and her mouth seems to return to the default position of “slight frown” after every piece of dialogue. It is the intimate nature of this round theatre that allows the audience to pick up on such small details. This adds to the quality of the characterisation which, in Elin-Salt’s case, is near perfection.
The retention of her South Walian accent is a stroke of genius. Elin-Salt’s ability to utilise the musicality of her accent in order to convey such contrasting emotions is pure joy to the listening ear. In Black Mountain, she flattens its naturally-high pitch to express a degree of seriousness. In Out of Love, she emphasises it. This gives a comical edge to Grace that increases her likability. It also enables for the exploration of sex and sexuality. Not that this cannot be talked about in a serious way. However, Cook’s decision to examine it from the perspective of two female adolescents makes for a more naturalistic, animated and frank discussion.

There is also a vulnerability to Grace which Elin-Salt beautifully conveys – a deep desire for intimacy that hints at jealousy towards Lorna’s ability to pull men. For the supreme closeness of these two best friends, there is also a hidden tension. It is testament to the quality of Cook’s writing that this unspoken emotion never bursts onto the stage. Instead, it is veiled beneath some rather ambiguous words and actions. Through her performance, Elin-Salt manages to capture this ambiguity perfectly. She peels back the depths of Grace’s heart, ever so slightly, to subtly reveal her concealed motives. She manages to do this so imperceptibly that I could not help but burst with admiration towards the depth of her acting skills.
Out of Love is a suitably complex portrayal of female friendship. Elinor Cook presents an entertaining and engaging narrative featuring two female protagonists over some 20-30 years of their lives. Sally Messham gives an accomplished and controlled performance as Lorna. She does not put a foot wrong and perfectly complements her fellow lead. It is Katie Elin-Salt who wins much of the applause from myself however. Not excluding the above, her natural enthusiasm and depth of imagination make her an infectious talent. She weaves such fine complexity and depth of character into her performance. She is a delight to watch. She also makes a strong case for championing a great deal more female-led narratives. This is one reason to be excited at Whitaker’s casting. But whilst I await her arrival as the 13th Doctor, I shall revel in the discovery of another talented actress. Katie Elin-Salt is, surely, a major talent in waiting.
A Theatr Clwyd, Paines Plough & Orange Tree Theatre co-production | Directed by James Grieve

OUT OF LOVE