Can you talk about your relationship to the story? When did you first hear/read it? What drew you to adapting it?
Like many people, my first experience of the story was through the Disney film. When I was asked by Children's Theatre Company if I would be interested in writing my own version of the story, I knew that there were lots of things that I might want to change and I was curious to see what they might be. First off, I wondered how the Dwarfs would really react if a strange girl turned up on their doorstep wanting shelter. Once accepted by the Dwarfs how would she spend her days? In the original story, Snow White has to clean and cook for the Dwarfs to earn her keep, that didn’t seem like much fun and I don't think I would have stayed, so I needed to figure out what she would do, what she would bring to the Dwarfs that would also be good for her. I wondered what would happen if Snow White didn’t want to marry the prince, a person she didn't know and maybe didn’t even like. What would it be like for the Huntsman having to take Snow White into the woods and leave her there, what would go through his head? Why was the Stepmother behave so horribly! Lots to explore!
Can you talk about your connection or relationship to fairy tales?
I like fairy tales because they don’t shy away from the difficult things in life. The themes are often quite dark and disturbing. Somehow, they have become known as children’s stories and as a result of that many of the darker themes, such as poverty, greed, and jealousy, amongst others, have been watered down. When I am adapting these stories, I try to find a way to go to their heart, to be faithful to the difficulties they address. I believe young audiences want to understand the world they find themselves in and it is part of my job to help them do that, not to shy away from scary things but to explore them in the safety of a theatre accompanied with plenty of laughs.
When you sit down to write a play, do you know what you are capable of?
Not really. Every new play is a challenge and I never quite believe I will solve the puzzle. It’s only through starting to write that I discover how I want to tell the story and what I want to say with it. The act of writing a line of dialogue will suggest the next line and I move on from there, line by line. I do not really plan. I discover what the characters will say rather than figuring it out in advance.
What's the most important reminder when writing gets difficult?
When the writing gets difficult it just means I am not satisfied with what I'm doing. Sometimes it is just difficult and I have to remember that’s ok. So I either leave it for a bit, have a bit of toast, gaze out of the window, go for a walk, or just get something down and not worry if it’s not quite right. Having a deadline really helps, then I just have to get it done. It might not be perfect, but there is always a chance to do rewrites.
Did you write as a child? If so, what did you write about? What captured your attention and spirit?
I started writing something a bit like poems when I was about twelve. I just wrote words that came into my head, often I didn't understand what they were about, I just enjoyed putting words together and feeling them bounce off each other. I still do that now, making up songs as I go about my day, with lyrics that don’t make much sense but are great fun. Luckily no one else has to listen to them, I'm a rotten singer. There is a great freedom in not always having to make sense, in seeing what happens if I just let the words come out.
What do you hope audiences bring to the play?
I hope audiences come prepared to use their imagination, to accept and enjoy our telling of the story even if it feels different to what they may have expected.
What is your biggest dream for the play?
I don’t have a specific dream for the play as I know everyone brings their own experience to a performance. I guess I would feel I had achieved something if people get to laugh, be a little astonished, have their preconceptions challenged, and take something back into their daily lives. If on some level they feel their spirits have been lifted, then the play will have been a success