Emma Heath for West End Wilma sits down with Olivia Brady and Elliot Warren creators of the Olivier Award winning Flesh and Bone to talk about the journey of the production from conception through to receiving the award at the Royal Albert Hall.
Congratulations on your Oliver Award for Outstanding Performance in Affiliate Theatre. How did you feel when Richard Fleeshman said your name at the ceremony?
Elliot Warren (EW) – it was nuts!! Nothing can prepare you for a moment like that. All that hard work, we’ve been doing for three years, having the show on and off and putting it on in all sorts of different places, that moment felt like the ultimate reward. When he read our name out it was just surreal, it was beautiful.
Olivia Brady (OB) – it was mad because when we got to the Oliviers I felt a bit like an imposter. I thought “what the hell are we doing here? Do we deserve to be here?” This is the top of London theatre, but as soon as he read our name I thought “we are meant to be here, we deserve to be here”. To be on the stage and look down on the audience, all those people that we love, people that we aspire to be like and to have them watching us, it was crazy, just surreal.
EW – it felt like we had climbed a huge mountain with the show, we worked our arses off to get it staged and perform it to people, sometimes there were just three people in the audience and one of those was my mum, so standing on the stage at the Royal Albert Hall was like standing at the top of a mountain and taking a breath and just going “yes!” (fist pump).
Tell me about Flesh and Bone, what can audiences expect from the show?
EW – The show is about 5 characters from the East End of London. A family and their local drug dealer who live on an estate that is due for demolition and it’s about their problems and day to day struggles all delivered in Shakespearean / Cockney rhyming slang dialogue with odes to my favourite movies from Tarantino and Guy Ritchie. We wanted to make something on stage that you have to strap in for! You just can’t look away, you can’t look at your watch at the 60-minute mark, you just can’t, you just won’t be able to!
What inspired you to write the show?
EW – we had just done a run of Berkoff’s East which we loved doing but it was an amateur dramatics production and we didn’t get paid. So, we thought we could get the rights and do it ourselves and really and really elevate it.
OB – So we booked The Etcetera Theatre in Camden for two months away. We already knew the play so we thought we could do a bit of rehearsal then open. Then we tried to get the rights and they were thousands and we thought what the hell are we going to do, we’ve booked the bloody theatre! We were in a café trying to work out what to do and Elliot said, “I have always wanted to write a play so maybe this is the push I needed; let’s just do it”.
EH – so necessity being the mother of all invention…
EW – exactly! They say greatness happens when you have a plan and no time to do it!
OB – Initially we had no storyline at all, we only had characters. Every single character in the play is based on someone in our lives…
EW – although they are not quite as sleazy and crazy as the characters in the show! I wrote all the monologues without a through line, which we then found and threaded through the monologues.
OB – we wanted to write something that reflected what we wanted to see on stage; what we love what makes us laugh; what we think would touch people and every single decision was just about what we loved. Everything was based on what felt good for us…
EW – yes and what we enjoyed.
OB – It was an amazing time writing it. We met at drama school and we were falling in love while we were writing this piece so we were staying up late into the night discussing the characters and what they would do…
EW – and I was saying “slow down slow down I need to type it”! It was a mad time, especially that month when it was all written.
What is the journey you have been on with this show? You started out at the 40-seat theatre in Camden so what happened then?
EW – we did the last night at The Etcetera, then we were introduced to The Pleasance Theatre for the Charlie Hartwell Fund for Edinburgh which is a fund that gives you £10000 in kind to take your show to Edinburgh. We auditioned for that and went through a 3-part process and won. So, we went to Edinburgh with their help. We did every single night for the whole month and didn’t take a day off. We won a Fringe First in the first week and a couple of other awards. The prize for one of those was to take the show to Australia
OB – The Holding St Theatre in Australia give out one award and they pay to take the winning show over to Australia. The whole thing has been a snowball! We thought we would do the show at Camden and that would be it but at each award we get there has been some one saying come and do this and dragging us through the industry really. Which has been amazing…
EW – because we love doing the creating and performance but are not the most business savvy people, so it’s been nice that there have been other people saying “come with me”
EH – How did it go down in Australia?
EW/ OB – Amazing – really really good.
EW – what we realised is that everywhere has areas like that, where people are having a tougher time. So, people were really noticing similar qualities to their situation and where they live.
OB – what we really got in Australia was that these characters are real and really true, so even though they are very specific characters, what they go through everybody can relate to, so each story touched a lot of people for different reasons.
EW – it was amazing there. We won the best theatre award for the whole of the Adelaide Fringe, which was just mad. Then we came back and into The Soho Theatre which is where we had always wanted to put the show on.
What’s next for Flesh and Bone, I hear rumours of development for screen, what can you tell us?
EW – yes, a production company have taken it on and want to turn it into a TV series and we think some broadcasters will be coming to see the show and see what it is all about. I can not wait for that. I have got such a good vision of it and how it will work for TV.
EH – so is this the last chance for audiences to see Flesh and Bone on the stage
EW – yes, we think so. Although if The National want to approach us……
OB – that’s the thing, you never know with this show!! Every time we have finished a run and thought “that’s the end” something happens…
EW – but as of now this is the last time it will be staged.
EH – if it goes to screen are you keeping the roles for yourselves?
EW – hopefully! I will hang on to my character for dear life, unless Tom Hardy decides he wants to do it!!
OB – I wouldn’t mind that!!!!
What’s the next for you individually? Do you have another play waiting patiently to get out?
EW – yes totally there is. I have been commissioned for two TV series as well and they are done and at script level, so the workload for writing is getting pretty intense but I am halfway through another play. It’s a very different story to Flesh and Bone but it has got the same energy…
OB – and heart and truth
EW – I see it somewhere like The Royal Court. So I really want to finish that and we are also in talks at the minute about an idea that we are passionate about that we would like to get up in the Fringe circuit again, maybe take it to Edinburgh and hope that Soho will take it on again. So yes, there is plenty of stuff in the pipeline. It is quite scary though because Flesh and Bone has been so successful: it’s like trying to write that tricky second album!!
How has winning the Oliver Award changed things or you?
EW – it has opened doors for everyone on the team. Especially with my writing people are saying “we will listen to him and hear his ideas; we would love to see what they do next.” It is a nice stamp of approval that we mean business and we are here with good theatre.
OB – it definitely opens doors that were closed to us before and means we will get taken seriously.
Thank you for talking to us.
Flesh & Bone opens tonight at the Soho Theatre 8th July until Saturday 13th July. Book tickets
FOLLOW WEST END WILMA