Check out this Q&A with Clara Darcy writer and performer of We Should Definitely Have More Dancing at the Edinburgh Fringe.
We Should Definitely Have More Dancing is the true story of you having a brain tumour the size of a fist in your head. What made you decide to turn it into a theatre piece?
Very early on, when I was still in hospital, lots of friends said to me ‘you should write about this’ but I think at that time I was just focused on trying to get fit and well again. But I did mentally start to make some notes about observations and stuff because I thought they were interesting and funny. And then when I’d finished treatment, Ian approached me and asked me if I’d be interested in writing something together about my experience. Part of me wanted to document it all so I wouldn’t forget all the little detail. But I also wanted to share my experiences because being diagnosed with a brain tumour is such a rare occurrence and is not something that most people will ever experience, and to survive one is even more rare – I am one of the lucky ones, and I think I possibly wanted to impart my new found wisdom that life is short and we must all try to live to the very best of our potential.
But I’m not sure I would’ve either finished writing it or got through the possible trauma of reliving the experience whilst putting pen to paper if it weren’t for Ian. He has been my rock and my guiding light and has become the most wonderful friend. And I’ve found that writing about it has actually been an incredibly cathartic process.
How different is the stage-Clara to the real-life Clara?
They’re pretty similar to be honest! Lots of people have praised me for my openness and honesty with regards to the play, and I think I’m pretty brutally honest in real life too! We’re similar in that we try to put on a brave face whilst there are tornadoes going on under the surface. But what you see in the play is pretty much the genuine me, warts ‘n all!
As well as playing yourself onstage, you’re played by the two other members of the cast. Did it feel strange writing your experiences for someone else?
Not really. The concept of me being ‘split up’ and being played by other members of the cast was actually quite a late addition to one of the drafts. So originally I was going to be playing all of me and the other actors were playing all the other roles. However when we first came up with the idea of ‘splitting’ me, it presented such wonderful opportunities for challenge and conflict within me as a character that everything suddenly clicked into place. So I still felt I was writing ‘me’ as a character but it allowed us to place certain characteristics and traits within the other 2 versions of me that meant they were then able to provoke me and therefore drive the narrative forward.
In the piece, there’s a battle between the procedural and the emotional reality of coming to terms with your trauma. Is this something you felt first-hand?
Yes absolutely. But weirdly not at the time. At the time of my diagnosis, surgery and radiotherapy I dealt with everything in an incredibly practical and pragmatic way. I think with any serious medical problem you can only deal with things from day to day, because the situation can change rapidly. And therefore you quickly get used to literally dealing with the here and now. I think the emotional reality of it hit me like a bolt of lightning when I was very first diagnosed – it was such a huge shock. But after that, the practical side of me took over. And it wasn’t until I got home after surgery and spent my first night at home that the reality and the hugeness of it all sank in. I remember playing a song on my ipad that I had been listening to lots just before my diagnosis and the floodgates opened! Music has that incredible power to stir your emotions! And I think I needed that release of emotion.
Are there any other real-life experiences you’d like to turn into theatre?
I think real-life experiences are fascinating and make great drama. There’s that age old cliché, the truth is far better than fiction. And it’s true. We often say about incredible true-life stories ‘You couldn’t make this up’, don’t we?! I think it’s because people are generally fascinating. There’s a line in the play, ‘Listen. Really listen to people. People have fascinating lives & fascinating stories to tell’, and I really believe that. So yes, from a writing point of view, most of the things that I’m interested in developing are based on real-life experiences. I don’t want to give too much away but watch this space!
Have you been to the Fringe before? What are you most looking forward to?
I’ve been to watch stuff at the Fringe before but I’ve never performed at it before. To be honest I’m looking forward to all of it: to be able to go and see all types of theatre at all times of the day and to enjoy that proper festival feel of all the squares with the bars and food huts, and to be surrounded by people who love theatre and love what they do. It’s a love-in for theatre really, and it feels like the theatre world needs that at the moment.
Have you heard any Fringe horror stories?
No I haven’t really. Sorry! I mean I’ve heard about a few dodgy digs…!
Are there any other shows you’re excited about seeing in Edinburgh?
Yup, too many to get to! But yes absolutely, I’m super excited to see Alan Cummings in ‘Burn’, ‘Sap’, ‘Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World’, ‘Austentatious’, ‘Manic Street Creature’, ‘Hungry’, Jon Culshaw’s ‘Les Dawson’ show, ‘Feeling Afraid as if Something Terrible is About to Happen’ and of course the Mischief gang!
Did you always know you wanted to act?
Yes, I think I knew from about the age of 5! I was one of those annoying kids who always wanted to perform! But the writing angle on this show has been a new discovery for me and I’ve loved it. I’ve had ideas for a long time and wanted to try my hand at writing but never had the guts to take that leap of faith! It definitely took having Ian, my brilliant co-writer, there to instill me with the confidence and faith that I needed to proceed with this.
What do you want to be doing in 5 years time?
More of the same if I can! Acting and writing. But I definitely want to have children within that time too.
What’s next for you after August?
At the moment, absolutely nothing! There’s a few possible opportunities for my next acting job, but if they don’t come off then I’ll just get back to renovating my flat and back to my normal day job. But hopefully I’ve got the confidence to start writing more now too, so hopefully there’ll still be some creativity in there somewhere.
ABOUT THE SHOW
We Should Definitely Have More Dancing is on until the 18th August at Assembly George Square Studios at 3.40pm