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An interview with the writer of...The Jailer's Daughter

"What pushes are we wenches driven to/ When fifteen once has found us!" - The Jailer's daughter in Two Noble Kinsmen

The Jailer's Daughter is running from 25th - 27th October at Ye Olde Rose and Crown Theatre as part of our upcoming New Voices season of new writing. We asked the writer, Esther Joy Mackay, a few questions about this exciting new play.

Writer of 'The Jailer's Daughter'
Esther Joy Mackay

You have 30 seconds to describe the plot of The Jailer’s Daughter…Go!

Take Love Island, Black Mirror and Shakespeare and mix them together in a dark, modern setting. Out of this clusterf*** comes The Jailer’s Daughter. Centred around the formerly unnamed Jailer’s daughter character form Shakespeare and Fletcher’s Two Noble Kinsmen and set in a live-televised celebrity jail. The Jailer’s Daughter tells the story of Julia’s struggle against a society which revels in sacrificing basic human rights for the sake of ‘good TV’. Julia fights for her voice to be heard despite being surrounded by a swarm of characters who think of her as nothing more than a naive little girl with a princely crush. But why would she love that gentleman?

What inspired you to tell this story?

In my head I have a whole saga of plays based around Shakespeare’s female characters. I’m a big lover of Shakespeare and a huge believer that his female characters aren’t half as wet as they are often portrayed, especially considering the time he wrote. The character of the Jailer’s daughter has always appealed to me, despite the obvious problems in the play. I found myself getting hung up on a line in her first monologue ‘What pushes are we wenches driven to/ When fifteen once has found us!’. The idea of there being an increasing pressure on women when they hit puberty is still present today. Women, particularly teenage girls, are expected to always look good, have big boobs but stay thin, have lots of boys like them but not be a slut. Our bad moods are often blamed on our periods, rather than reason, and our female Shakespearean characters are often played as hysterical and flimsy, rather than bold and powerful. I feel it’s crucial to show these characters in a new light, focusing on those key moments that’s prove they are so much more than an unnamed character.

What was the biggest hurdle for you in writing this play?

Probably getting it written! This is my first completed play, despite many, many attempts. I have written several short plays, and I don’t mean to discredit them as without them I wouldn’t have gotten to this stage! But until now I had always shied away from my writing after getting so far into a story. But this time I had a deadline. And a venue. And a cast eagerly awaiting scripts. This time I couldn’t put it aside. And what’s super exciting is that even though it’s completed for this season, I don’t feel at all like this is the end for this play. The director, cast and all those who have been involved workshopping this piece have filled my head with ideas of how to take this play further, and I am so grateful for that.

Who would you say inspires you the most with your work? (in or out of the industry)

I find inspiration in so many people. I always have (and always will) idealised Emma Thomson, and based on how many other people I know who also adore her I hardly need to explain why. I think ultimately though I’m inspired by anyone who is willing to go the extra mile to try new things and make change in the industry. Some brilliant examples are Sharon Horgan (writer and actor in Catastrophe - watch it!), Emma Rice (her time at the Globe Theatre may have been short-lived, but she wasn’t afraid to ‘Rock the Ground’ and then keep going after she left), Michelle Terry (current Globe Artistic Director and a wonder woman of performing Shakespeare’s texts) and Robert Ike (I still won’t shut up about how phenomenal his adaptation of Oresteia was).

The Jailer's Daughter will be performed alongside Retail Therapy at Ye Olde Rose and Crown Theatre Pub in Walthamstow from 25th - 27th October at 7:30pm (2:30pm Saturday matinee)

Buy your ticket here



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