DREAM CATCHER – in conversation with writer & performer Alison Stanley from Newcastle based theatre company, Life of Riley.

I’ve always loved singing, acting, performing – just something I’ve always done. I’ve been doing this since I was 4.

Nobody in my family sings or entertains, so you know bit of a freak really, the family think I’m a total exhibitionist – I just liked showing off (laughs).

SMELLS LIKE GYPSY SPIRIT

If I go further back my ancestry is German and Romany and in our family my Great Grandfather was the last of the travelling gypsies, he settled into a house and family when he met my Great Grandmother. A family name was the German, Fischer, they weren’t popular due to the war so the name spelling was changed by dropping the ‘c’. Maybe there was a German Gypsy treading the boards (laughs).

The whole process of theatre making for me is exciting, I don’t want to lie, it is challenging at times and some days I think is this the day I’m gonna throw the towel in. I’ve definitely got a bit of a strong spirit in me to keep going because hearing the word ‘no’ is not what I want to hear. If there is an obstacle in the way I’ll find a way round it.

NEVER LOST FOR WORDS

When an idea comes it niggles in the back of my head, then I sleep on it, it works its way to the front of my brain so in the morning it reveals itself and I think about how to develop the idea. Some writers say it’s a lonely time but when I’m writing I’m with all of the characters, I’ve worked out who they are and then they talk to me. Fictional characters just exist in my head where they are acting out their daily lives.

The whole rehearsal period can be frustrating but it’s good to hear your words brought to life. In rehearsals it’s mainly all there on script but sometimes I come in with a killer line. I add in a line if I’ve heard someone say it during the day or how some words sound – I’ll remember that and use it. On the first night in front of an audience it’s good feeling to see the initial idea from conception being brought to fruition.

BACK ON BOARD

I’m really keen on theatre being accessible to everybody so we can put a show on anywhere. Northern Stage have been supportive of my writing so I’ve had nights there, the Phoenix, The Arc in Stockton, Queens Hall in Hexham, I like mainstream theatres but I also like to take it to intimate audiences.

I’ve had three of my plays in Edinburgh, but beforehand I like to try them out to smaller audiences before they are unleashed on the scathing critics of Edinburgh Fringe. Getting any support is good because its hard getting your shows in any theatre because of the Covid backlog, so The Newcastle Cluny are preparing to show Sex is Hard Work from 28th June.

SEX IS HARD WORK

The show is based on a prostitute from South Shields who started work on the sex phone lines then ended up as an escort. When I first started rehearsing and writing the play I though I was a woman of the world, now I know I’m next to Mother Theresa (laughs). The play isn’t just titillation or a biography of her life it’s mainstream entertainment. I’ve took the character and added more depth. There is the part of life as a sex worker paired with being a carer for her father who’s had a stroke.

You know a lot of women are in the sex industry because of varying circumstances like debt, drugs and being coerced into it, or like the woman I spoke to just not fancying a 9 to 5 job and wanting to make lots of money. It may not be everybody’s career choice – but that’s hers. I like to challenge the audiences pre-conceived notions about a subject, and after the play they have taken a battering.

Sex is Hard Work plays six nights in The Cluny, Newcastle with the last night being a Thank You to NHS with some of their staff coming. We’ll see how the show is received then hopefully next year tour it and take it to Edinburgh Fringe.

‘Sex is Hard Work’ plays six nights from 28 June 2021. Advance tickets £10. Doors open 6pm.

The Cluny, 36 Lime St, Ouseburn, Newcastle, NE1 2PQ.  (0191 230 44 74)

Interview by Gary Alikivi  May 2021.

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