Are Shakespeare’s Sisters Safe?

Fickle Favours gives Shakespeare some Safety Lessons at the Black Box

Writer: Jan Carson

Which of Shakespeare’s Sisters did you write about and why?

Ophelia. I was really fascinated by the absence of Ophelia’s mother or any mention of her in Hamlet and wanted to investigate this theme.
Can you tell us a bit about your piece?
It’s called Safety Lessons, and is a little absurdist. It explores the idea that Ophelia’s mother also came to a tragic end and as such her father is overly concerned with his daughter’s safety, forcing her to sit through daily safety lessons. I generally write magic realism and wanted to approach a story that has been done many times from a slightly fantastical angle.
As a female writer, is it difficult to get your work taken seriously?
I haven’t generally had any issues with gender imbalance. I do think there are some incredibly talented female writers working across all the genres in Belfast at the minute.

Director: Melissa Smith

What did you think of your Shakespeare Sister before reading the writer’s script, and what did you think after?
I felt that Ophelia was a girl who never became a woman due to her early death
What was it like working with your writer?
I haven’t met Jan, my writer, but I thought her writing was insightful and interesting. Safety Lessons speculatively peeled back the layers of Ophelia’s mind, and doing so gave her character power and real depth.
What was one of the major decisions you took in staging the show, and why?
The biggest decision for me was deciding what era to set the piece in. I chose the 1950s; it was a time when women were on the cusp of gaining much more control over their lives, yet they were still very much defined by the male gaze. In that period it could be argued that most women gained freedom from their biological family only by marriage and that is something that would share with Ophelia.
As a female director, why do you think there is a gender imbalance in the theatre?
My true opinion is probably not really printable! Maybe we could blame a centuries long Shakespearean hangover, or we could blame the Victorians, who made unsavory assumptions about women in the theatre? In the end though, I’d much rather be active in worthy projects like Fickle Favours to tip the scales to a more equal distribution in our industry.
If you could do anything, what would be your dream project to work on with Fickle Favour?
A darkly seductive play about theatre life in Belfast during ‘the good old days’ of late 18th century to 19th century

Shakespeare’s Sisters is at the Black Box on Thursday, March 28 and Friday, March 29