You’d be forgiven for thinking there were a whole cluster of Stephanie Kempsons working and creating in Bristol. Stephanie appears in various guises as if by magic at Bristol Old Vic, The Wardrobe, all over Mayfest and beyond. We met officially after a series of bumping into each other in various theatres.
For this interview we met to discuss the process of directing Score recently at The Wardrobe. The show is heading down to London on Friday get tickets while you still can. Score – written by Lucy Bell, is a bravely authentic ‘in your face’ piece of theatre, inspired by real-life accounts of parents using Bournemouth’s drug treatment service. Lucy, Stephanie and the actresses (Lara and Kathleen) were brought together by Bristol Old Vic and worked together as a team to develop the script.
Photo credit – Photo from Score by Kitty Wheeler Shaw
The team originally worked together on a project for the ‘Open Sessions’ at Bristol Old Vic. Sharon Clarke brought them together to work on Lucy’s script ‘The Full Term’ and they discovered magic in their relationship. The perfect mix of love and tension that produces real gems.
As part of the process for gathering material for Score the company went to meet women who had real life experiences of drug and alcohol addiction. They were inspired by the resilience of the amazing women they met. The women were talented, courageous and hidden in a system that was failing to meet their needs. Lucy Bell came away from the experience and wrote three plays, she went on to invite Stephanie to choose one of them to direct and the beginning of Score was born. As a director Stephanie told me, ‘The points of the play that were most exciting to work on were the transitions between time and characters. Indeed those points were skilfully handled in the stage show.
Developing Score has been an ongoing process, it kept changing right up until October and started touring in Jan 16. It was performed to social workers at conferences and for a lot of people with lived experience. There was so much amazing feedback from the early performances – the company were able to gain confidence in their decisions and know that audiences genuinely connected to the show. Throughout the early performances character development and improvisation techniques fed into back story and the script. Lucy kept a tight hold on the script overall but there was an open dialogue between director and performers about what needed to be developed and changed. Everyone felt they had shared ownership of the piece.’
Stephanie is well versed in the process of writing and devising and is ‘used to that kind of process. I would find it hard to simply work on a finished script where there was no room for play or development.’
Look out for Stephanie’s latest projects – in true spirit, reflecting her passion, drive and lust for life – she is in multiple places at once! Her writing is featured as part of the Mayfest radio programme, Sharp Teeth stories at The Wardrobe theatre and of course the truly impressive Score heading down to London this week.