By Bamidele Madamidola, Arts Critic
I think a lot of people are in relationships because they don’t want to be alone.
With pubs, bars and theatres all closed, the pandemic has halted our social life. But this has not stopped Bristol’s Spotlights from creating. On Friday 19th February, Spotlight will stream the original radioplay City Killed The Stars by Bristol student Hannah Morgan to watch online.
I interviewed the writer Hannah Morgan and producer Anna Sharp about the play over Zoom.
Set over one night, Morgan’s radio drama initially explored flatmates and flat-cest until it evolved into something else. City Killed The Stars became ‘an intimate character study following the protagonist Clementine and observing the relationship she has with the men around her which are characterised by dependency’, Hannah tells me.
‘I thought it would be great to write a play with great romantic love but in the modern day and more scaled back and intimate. One room. Two characters. I think Anna called it “Romeo and Juliet for the modern-day feminist”’.
‘The hopeless romantic looking for reform; looking to be rehabilitated’, Anna, the producer, responded.
Anna called it “Romeo and Juliet for the modern-day feminist”’.
Morgan’s character’s Clem and Michael misread and misinterpret each other in a similar fashion to Marianne and Connell in Normal People (Sally Rooney being a big influence on Morgan’s work). Much like the TV series, the audience is meant to suspend their disbelief.
Morgan’s characters also, at times, break the fourth wall, narrating to the audience, or at least, offering an aside about their personal reflections on one another.
‘Michael sees Clem as polite and quiet when really she’s insecure’, Hannah says. ‘Quite often they are wrong about each other. I thought it would be interesting if they were studying their relationship as we’re watching. Psychoanalysing each other. It’s interesting from a theatre perspective but it also just adds “a little bit of spice”’.
The hopeless romantic looking for reform; looking to be rehabilitated
Morgan’s work is influenced not only by television and films, such as The Last Five Years, but also artwork depicting male dependency. Hannah showed me a photo of Leighton’s The Fishermen and the Syren and explained its influence.
Music also seems to play a more important part in the rehearsal process as Anna and Hannah made the cast and production team create playlists that reflected the character’s moods.
‘I’ve been listening to a lot of Hozier recently when writing’, Hannah says.
Hannah made the cast and production team create playlists that reflected the character’s moods.
Wanting to learn about her writing process, Hannah tells me how she ‘just bashed it out’ in one week for the Winston proposal.‘It was a hectic process. I had to race to get it done in time to pitch’, Hannah explains.
I was in awe of her writing speed, asking for advice, before she clarified how she actually came up with the characters Clem and Michael during lockdown, writing a scene daily to refine her craft. But wrote the final play in that one week.
Impressed not only by her speed, but Morgan’s rich and poetic language, I told her it was impressive since all I did was read and watch Miranda.
I told her one of my favourite lines from the play was incredibly lyrical and romantic, a part in a monologue where the title comes from:
‘I want to take you everywhere...Wander home in the balmy dark. Taste the air. Laugh that the city killed the stars. Make wishes on the streelights instead.’ It reflects Clem’s romantic mind; at the core of the radioplay, City Killed The Stars is about love but also the dangers of dependency.
Before ending the Zoom call, I ask Anna and Hannah about their own reflections on love.
‘I want to take you everywhere...Wander home in the balmy dark. Taste the air. Laugh that the city killed the stars...
‘I think a lot of people are in relationships because they don’t want to be alone’, Hannah says.
‘Love is healthy when a romantic partner is adding to a life that is already whole; full and complete and they compliment that. Compliment you. But when you rely on your partner for all your happiness or fulfillment or feel you need to find a romantic partner in order to feel whole, that’s an idea I would challenge’, Anna concluded.
‘I think I agree with you Anna’, I said.
Spotlight’s audioplay City Killed The Star releases Friday 19th February, 8pm to 9:30pm.
Student tickets £2
General Admissions £3.
There will be an option to download and keep the play for an additional £2.
Ticket links available here.
Featured Image: Spotlights