Chronic Illness and Sisterly Love: Laura McGrady discusses her new play, Babybox

Abigail Bryant interviews writer Laura McGrady

Firstly, congratulations on the world premiere of Baby Box, running as part of King’s Head Theatre’s ‘Who Runs The World?’ feminist season this May. How are you feeling about its showcase?
Thank you! I can’t wait to finally share this story with audiences. The whole season looks like it’s going to be fantastic and for Baby Box to be surrounded by so many other brilliant plays is really exciting. I’m so proud of this play and the team that we have who are turning this little idea I once had into a funny, exciting and heart warming piece of theatre.

Baby Box explores society’s response to chronic pain. In your opinion, how and why is it important that issues related to health intersect with the arts, and in particular through theatre?  
 I think it’s important that art reflects upon life and chronic pain is a part of everyday life for so many people. There is a lot of discussion in the arts at the moment about representation, and in my opinion this starts with telling untold stories. Spreading awareness for chronic illness is so important but isn’t always the most joyful task – it can be a difficult thing to talk about and a difficult thing to hear. Bringing these stories into the arts, particularly into theatre can educate people without making it feel like it’s being forced upon them. At school the best lessons were always the ones where you didn’t even realise you were learning – it’s the same thing, this really is just a great night out at the theatre. 
What inspired you to write a play about endometriosis, and how did you find the writing process? Was there anything particularly challenging to address and portray in the script? 
 Baby Box didn’t actually begin as a play about endometriosis; it was always my intention to write a play about the unique relationship between sisters which I think remains the heart of the piece. It was my own diagnosis of endometriosis and adenomyosis (endo’s often little discussed best friend) that inspired me to bring this into the script, but as the relationship between the sisters was my main focus I loved writing and creating these two characters – they really feel like part of the family now. The biggest challenge actually came when writing about pain. Finding the balance between truly expressing severe pain for the character at the same time as writing a watchable and enjoyable piece of theatre for the audience can be tough, but we definitely got there in the end.
What can we expect to take away from Baby Box? What feelings and questions do you hope to provoke from your audience? 
 This play is for anyone with a heart. Baby Box will hopefully make audiences laugh, cry and maybe call up their loved ones and say ‘hey, thanks for being there for me.’ And if not then it really is just a good night out. If we’re going to question anything maybe it’s time to ask ‘what is normal?’ The play follows two sisters as they grow into adults and at every turn they are faced with that question ‘am I normal? Is this how everyone else is doing life? Is my experience the norm?’ and if we land on an answer I hope it’s ‘who cares?’

With the #MeToo movement and pay gap discussions, it’s an interesting time to talk about feminist issues. What’s your hope for this play, and the Sleepless Theatre Company more broadly, in the context of the current landscape?
 It’s really important that audiences and theatres start realising that stories about women aren’t just for women, they really are for everyone. I hope that Baby Box doesn’t just speak to people suffering from endo, but anyone that’s ever loved someone unconditionally. It’s hopeful, it’s funny, at times it’s a bit gross – I want people to turn up, have a glorious time and just pick ups some tidbits about chronic pain and other issues like homosexuality along the way.
For Sleepless Theatre Company, we’re trying really hard to prove that young, emerging companies can enact change and make a difference within the artistic landscape. We push ourselves in terms of working with creatives that identify as female, D/deaf or disabled and ethnically diverse – ‘feminism’ shouldn’t just mean lots of middle class white women end up equal to lots of middle class white men. So that’s our hope, I guess; that we keep fighting the fight, making kinda wacky theatre and slowly but surely changing the ways that people think about themselves and others. No biggie!

Babybox plays at King’s Head Theatre as part of Who Runs The World? 1st – 6th May 2018.


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