See us at the corner, See us coming at you
N you see them take care, N you see them take cover
Cos we’re something, Gonna be something
Safe in the grip n the lock of what we’ve got
Safe in the smile and the shock of what they havenae
Safe in the same old, Same old, Mad, Crashing
Amy, Lou, Donna, Bernie
Blooded was originally commissioned by Boilerhouse Theatre Company in Edinburgh. It was directed by Paul Pinson and toured Scotland in 2002. The original cast included Kate Dickie, Molly Innes, Christina Cochrane, Helen McAlpine and Laura McKenna. I workshopped an early draft of the play with Queen Margaret University drama students. I wrote the play when I was 23 and fed in cultural ideas and themes from my own teenage years, incorporated ideas from the 19 year old drama students, and spoke to some teenage youth centre participants too.
The play was later included in the National Theatre’s Shell Connections collection for 2005. It was performed by youth theatres around the country.
An important theme for the play emerged from working with young women in a workshop who said they felt young women had to choose between being ‘quiet’ or a ‘slag’. I found it very sad that after decades of feminist activism young women still felt labelled in this way. Donna feels she has to lie about her sexual reputation to be popular.
The play is a coming-of-age drama about a group of young women finding their place in the world. They start with a swagger and false kind of intimidating confidence, exemplified by the ‘See us at the corner’ speeches. This confidence starts to fracture as they grow and their friendships are tested. They have an identity as a gang, but start to explore their own identities. They all have to find their own confidence, and this doesn’t work for some of the characters. Amy I think tends to be aggressive rather than assertive. She resorts to aggression to hide her vulnerabilities about getting older and becoming independent. Lou struggles to define herself out of Amy’s shadow. She tries to play the role of shoplifting rebel, even though she’s naturally a bookish conformer. Donna thinks she has to pretend to be something she isn’t, trying to get attention by claiming to have sexual experience when she hasn’t and finds it rebounds against her. She wants to be famous, glamorous, not have an ordinary life. Bernie blossoms during her romance, but then has to deal with the loss of Tess. She struggles to find her own independence while carrying the responsibilities of being a young carer, worrying about her sister and playing a maternal role within the gang. Tess feels lonely and misunderstood but can’t seem to reach out to the other girls. She thinks she’s found a soulmate online with disasterous results. In the background of the girls’ lives is a murder of a local girl and the gang deal with this sense of threat and mortality in their own ways.
The play is split between group choral scenes with a more poetic tone where the group express their group identity and more naturalistic group dialogue scenes.
I wanted to write a play with a strong sense of rhythm and I hope young performers can have fun with the non-naturalistic rhythm of the language. It’s supposed to be a bit heightened, a bit non naturalistic but to have a flavour of girl gangs about it. Some of the cultural references are probably out of date now so I’m happy for young performers to find their own up to date ones. The original performance
I grew up in Portobello, just outside Edinburgh and the play is influenced by that but it’s really set in any small seaside town. The girls are desperate to grow up and be independent, feel they’ve outgrown their small town but a bit scared to strike out on their own.
AMY is a tough tomboy, leader of the gang. Full of energy and humour, she needs to learn to channel her energy without it turning to aggression. Sometimes she rebels for the sake of rebelling.
LOU is Amy’s best friend. She’s desperate to impress her and is slightly in awe of her. She’s heard working and clever but would like to be cool.
DONNA Hungry for glamour and fame, enthusiastic and full of confidence and bravado but with a hidden vulnerability. Donna competes with Amy for status as the gang’s leader.
BERNIE pretends she isn’t hurt by her nickname FatB and her caring responsibilities but sometimes she would just like to cut loose and have fun.
TESS is isolated, awkward and introverted. She doesn’t know how to connect with Bernie, or ask for help from her.
The Ghost of the Dead Girl, this is a non-speaking role. This character represents the fears and vulnerabilities of the girls and passes through the play having non-naturalistic interactions with the other characters.
Blooded is published by Capercaillie books
It is also published by Faber and Faber as part of the Shell Connections 2005 plays for young people collection. www.faber.co.uk