Tonight is Press Night. It's slightly extraordinary how quickly this seems to have come around and I am trying to allow myself time to enjoy it. What the whole team have created is something I think is very special and I am incredibly proud to be a part of this.
Last night, we had members of This New Ground (@thisnewgroundUK) attend the second preview. They're an ambitious initiative to elevate the artistic power of people with learning disabilities and I have to say that I have never been sat in an audience before that were so responsive, open and completely present. I don't say this lightly: it was the highlight of my career so far. Chatting to the company in the bar afterwards was a pleasure. There is a place for your stories on stage. Theatres need to sit up and DO more to make sure that there is resources, time and programming to ensure this happens. Basically, I am so fucking excited to see what you all do next. Thank you for coming. With passion and enthusiasm like you all have, you are all gonna take the world by its horns.
It served as a reminder of why I wanted to write the play in the first place. And was the best review I could have received.
At the end of the day, this a love story. A messy, knotty romance. That's what I set out to do and I wanted to tell the story with people whose voices we don't often see on stage. People who we don't see fall in love very often.
I also knew I wanted to set the play in Skegness as I went on holidays there when I was a child with my family. Places like Skegness and Great Yarmouth are frozen in time; these forgotten places are interesting to me. Travel site Destination Tips recently said of the Lincolnshire seaside town: “Once thought of as quaint . . . Skegness is now a pile of dirt bordering the North Sea with a rundown amusement park idly resting on the land.” And that seemed like the perfect place to fall in love to me.
When I began writing, the character of Kelly slowly started to develop. I wanted to tell a love story, but it soon became clear that it was actually two love stories. One between Kelly and her friend Neil, falling for each other. But also there's a more complicated love story between a mother and a daughter. One of co-dependence and frustration, but also of unconditional love.
I had been a fan of Sarah's for years, having seen her in Crocodiles at the Royal Exchange and followed her career on television, I knew that I wanted to write for her. I was lucky enough to be able to show Sarah and her mum Jane an early draft of the play, and they liked it, so we set about working together with the director (Tim) to further develop the story and the character together as a team. All of Sarah's amazing wit and charm has infiltrated the play. Sarah is a great friend, and I wanted to write something for her she could sink her teeth in to and play the romantic lead. We don't see love stories with people who are different at the heart of them. And we should. We have to. Because all anyone is looking for is connection. It is what unites us.
As we head towards this evening, I need to thank a few people, who were instrumental in making this happen.
Tim Hoare is one of the most thoughtful, astute and gracious people I have ever worked with in this industry. I have been extremely privileged to work with him. A brilliant director, and now friend.
Thank you to Mark Cartwright for believing in the play and working bloody hard to make sure that it happened.
Sarah and Jane Gordy are two of the biggest loves of my lives. Sarah's performance is pure uninhibited magic.
Penny, Ian and Nicky have been phenomenal. All three are incredibly generous actors at the top of their game. Thank you for all that you have brought to this.
Nina Steiger read this play many moons ago when it was just a germ of an idea. Thank you for remembering it. Thank you for championing it. I won’t forget it.
Additionally, thank you to all at the NT Studio who have assisted us in getting the play on its feet, from providing space for the initial workshop to helping us trial an earpiece.
Jellyfish was cast with the assistance of Charlotte Bevan and ProFile. ProFile is an online video database of d/Deaf and disabled performers, built by the National Theatre and Spotlight, for the use of casting directors and other professionals in the theatre, film and television industries to discover new d/Deaf and disabled talent, and to champion this group of artists. It’s already an invaluable resource.
To the entire team at the Bush- being part of this season is an honour. Thank you for being so welcoming.
Amy Jane Cook, Jamie Platt and Ella Wahlström- your work is amazing.
Thanks to Celia Dugua, David Lam, Hana Keegan, Zo Elsmore, and Joy Laing for all their hard work and help throughout this process.
Kate Fleetwood and Philip McGinley were part of the original workshop process for the play at the NT Studio, and their insights were invaluable.
Thanks to Lily Williams and Chloe Beeson at Curtis Brown.
Thanks to Dom O’Hanlon, Lauren Crisp and all at Bloomsbury who have created the gorgeous playtext.
I owe more than several pints to Adam Hughes, Francis Grin, Lindsay Weatherill, Stewart Pringle, Carey Fitzhugh, Charlie Weedon, Suba Das, Anna Brewer and Chris Cuming, who all read the play in various forms over the years.
Thank you to Lee Mattinson for giving me some very helpful answers to a couple of questions. Sorry we still haven’t had a gin yet. Soon!
I was assisted in my research by many, many people. Thank you to all who have answered my questions, taught me about Down’s Syndrome, shared their stories and allowed me to be part of the conversation. Thanks for being patient and allowing me to ask what if? I am passionate about the issues raised in the play and hope the discussion it provokes is helpful.
Special thanks to Hector Guinness.
Simon Atkinson and Emma Michaud are two of the reasons I am able to live in London and pay my rent whilst doing this. I genuinely couldn’t do it without them. Thank you for being flexible.
Finally, thank you to my new husband- Chris Lowe. You didn’t bat an eyelid when I told you the play would open three days after our wedding. I am looking forward to growing old and despicable with you.
Post-Show Q&A: Tue 3 July
Ask cast and creatives about the creation and performance of Jellyfish.
Post-Show Panel: Tue 10 July
Mum on a Different Path: a short talk and discussion about motherhood and coming to terms with a Down'sSyndrome diagnosis. Led by Caitlin Graham.
Thurs 12 July, 7.45pm
Audio described performance
Sat 14 July, 2.45pm