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Interview: Fran Kilgour: Bated Breath


Interview

Fran Kilgour tells us how she imagines her new farcical play 44 McDonald Road to look for Bated Breath at the Traverse.

Image of Interview: Fran Kilgour: Bated Breath

Showing @ Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Thu 22 – Sat 24 Mar

The final year of university itself can be a daunting task, never mind thinking ahead to graduation, careers and starting up a family. Yet out of the worry and contemplation, fresh thoughts on conformity and expectation can spring up, pushing young people to either create new opportunities for themselves or re-assess what they want out of the professional world.

Fran Kilgour’s new play, co-written with Mhairi Quinn, tells of two women who met at university but still live together years down the line. They’re your typical odd couple in a way; Kate has a regular 9 to 5 job whereas Jules is your hackneyed arts student – a bit all over the place. As old uni friend Carol pays a visit however, now a successful journalist who writes those bullshit ‘woman falls in love with rollercoaster’ stories, Kilgour jokes, the play descends into a semi-farcical mockery of our ten-year plans.

we’re taught how to live, we’re supposed to just get married

The inspiration from this play quite clearly comes from personal circumstance. Kilgour explains, ‘everyone that I speak to is trying to figure out what to do after university. Supposedly these decisions are the important ones but I don’t think they are. I think your life takes over regardless of what plans you make’. Kilgour reels against the systems we have in place which coerce and condition us: ‘we’re taught how to live, we’re supposed to just get married and have kids – I always think: why can’t you just live with friends?’

The danger of asking this kind of question in theatre is that, by its sentimental nature, it becomes a cliché. Kilgour has therefore had to look at different ways of presenting her play. Turning it into a farce appealed to her. ‘I want to do it like the original Batman, where you have sound effects, creepy villain noises, and just try to make it almost like a traditional comic book’. She explains how she sees the character of Carol as ‘a giant woman with a power-bob and a suit. She has this thunderclap every time she comes to the door. We turned away from focussing on “what are you going to do after uni?” which is boring – and are having fun with the characters out of that’.

There’s an element of not wanting to let go

There is a hidden sadness to this kind of a show, a one which looks towards the future with ridicule and flippancy but is borne out of the melancholy of leaving university. Kilgour tells of how she’s ‘lived with people for years now that I’m not going to live with anymore. There’s an element of not wanting to let go’. Really though, Kilgour wants to maintain focus on the humorous aspect of it all, the daft relationships, the chaotic route of our lives, the near-pantomime aspect of our frivolous worries.

As an individual, Kilgour doesn’t want to obey the expectations of graduate life, and this is reflected in the play itself. The form is farcical yet deals with ordinary subject matter, the characters are exaggerated yet realistic, the play is heavily stylised yet routed in everyday dialogue and events. Plays such as these are required in theatre, to poke fun at our towering ambitions which have been forced onto us, to act as an interval to weighty politics and inane reflection, to just laugh. Kilgour’s play will be welcomed in such adversarial times for the arts as a cheerful celebration of youthful creativity.