Molly Naylor: In the middle with a robot heart
By Chris Cooke | Published on Tuesday 21 August 2012
Well, we thought ‘My Robot Heart’ – a collaboration between poet and writer Molly Naylor and indie-folk duo The Middle Ones – sounded like it would be good from the very start. Then our ThreeWeeks reviewer proved us right by giving the show a glowing write up. We sought out Molly to find out how the collaboration worked…
CC: Tell us about the premise for ‘My Robot Heart’.
MN: It began as an exploration of fear. Then, over the course of its development, it became about love and fear, and the relationship between the two. It’s semi-autobiographical like much of my work, but it also includes characters and narratives which are entirely fictional.
CC: How did the hook up with The Middle Ones come about?
MN: I used their music in recorded form in my last show. Our aesthetics and themes are pretty similar, so it made sense to work with them again. None of us can remember the actual conversation when we decided to try having them on stage with me, but it must have happened because here we all are. Having a lovely time.
CC: How did the collaboration work – did they write music for a completed script, or did they get involved earlier than that?
MN: We all live in different cities and so, for a lot of the process, we weren’t together. But we let each others’ work inform our writing – I’d listen to them on the train while I was writing bits of the script and then I’d send them bits of writing for them to play around – so the process became more integrated and collaborative than we’d initially envisaged.
CC: How does performing a play like this compare to the poetry readings you also perform elsewhere?
MN: It’s entirely different in many ways – in that the form is obviously different. Being aware of the relationship between form and content is something I think is really important in making longer works. The mode has to be right for the content. The brevity of a poem at a reading isn’t something that translates to a whole hour – an hour-long show is a different thing altogether and asks more of the audience. It has an arch. The similarities lie in my delivery and style – in performing both poetry and whatever this is, I am trying to be myself on stage. We all are. We’re not acting. We’re telling, not showing – which is breaking one of the first rules of theatre. But we’re doing it on purpose. Also, this only applies to our delivery and not our themes. We hope they are less didactic.
CC: Is the Edinburgh Fringe a good place for showcasing work of this kind?
MN: I don’t know. Maybe. It feels tough sometimes because the Fringe relies on strong categorisation in a way that you don’t encounter when touring a show. If you do a show like this – which is not entirely one thing, in that it’s not spoken word, ‘straight theatre’ or comedy, it’s a hybrid form that we’ve made up because it suits the story we’re telling – at a venue in Manchester or Barnstaple; I think people are much more likely to come along with open hearts and minds and just watch it for what it is.
CC: Your 2010 Fringe show ‘Whenever I Get Blown Up I Think Of You’ was a big success, what happened after its acclaimed run in Edinburgh?
MN: I made a book of it and then adapted it into a drama for Radio 4. It aired in July 2011.
CC: What was it like adapting the piece for radio – are there different challenges in creating a radio script?
MN: Yes, it’s an entirely different skill. I come from a scriptwriting background though, so it’s a technical skill that I had already learned. Scriptwriting for radio and screen has lots in common with poetry though, I think – the sparcity of language and the rhythms on the page. It was a bit weird having someone else play me though. Good weird; Morvan Christie is a really good actress. Despite her being Glaswegian, many people thought it was actually me!
CC: The poetry and spoken word programme at the Fringe seems very strong these days. Are you planning any poetry performances here? If not, who else would you recommend?
MN: I’ve been focusing on writing poems for the page recently, and have just had my first poetry book published – it’s called ‘You Clown’. So that’s been my main poetry thing of late, and I haven’t been doing many live gigs. But shows by other spoken word/poetry/storytelling people I’d recommend are Ross Sutherland’s ‘Comedian Dies In The Middle Of Joke’ and Rob Auton’s ‘The Yellow Show’.
CC: What are your post-Fringe plans?
MN: We’re going to tour the show in Spring. In the Autumn I’m busy developing a TV comedy drama with my friend John Osborne (he of ‘John Peel’s Shed’).
Molly Naylor And The Middle Ones performed ‘My Robot Heart’ at Pleasance Courtyard at Fringe 2012.