Playwright Stacey Gregg Talks About the Importance of E’s

Stacey Gregg Spills her Heart out in Derry~Londonderry

As it turns out playwright Stacey Gregg, author of raw, socially aware plays Perves and The Huzzies, doesn’t have a sideline in writing children’s books about ponies and gymkhanas. That would be Stacy – no e – Gregg.

‘I sometimes get her post,’ playwright Gregg confides with an infectious chuckle.

But Dundonald-born Gregg’s has recently turned her pen to writing for – or maybe that should be with – a younger demographic. Not quite the pony book age group, more young adult. Her latest play I’m Spilling Out My Heart Here is an ongoing, multi-participatory project through the National Theatre Connections programme.

Staged in a variety of locations the play, about 10 teenagers struggling to make sense of themselves and a world full of exams, first dates and frenemies, is constantly redeveloped with local young groups. Gregg says that she really gets a kick out of working with the young people involved in the project and that she was rigorous in her attempts to capture their lives.

‘I really wanted to reproduce how it felt to be that age,’ she explains. ‘It was important that it was really visceral and truthful.’

So much so, that the spilling out of the eponymous heart ends up being somewhat literal – in a theatrical way. Nor has Gregg pulled any punches when it comes to the content of the play, which is just as socially acute as any of her adult productions.

‘You can’t underestimate young people,’ she says. ‘Sex and sexuality is out there, it’s just something that they have to negotiate.’ So it is something that threads it way through her plays, which she acknowledges were influenced by the naughty theatricality of teen film king John Hughes.

The play was recently staged in Derry~Londonderry by More Pies Productions at the Millennium Forum – ‘It was actually just an added bonus it was during the City of Culture year’ – and will be coming the Lyric Theatre on May 6. Gregg is hoping to make it back over to see it, but there’s a lot on her plate this year.

In addition to the on-going I’m Spilling My Heart Out Here Gregg is also working on developing a couple of TV series and will be Belfast on April 13 for the screening of her short film Spoof or Die at the Belfast Film Festival.

‘It’s the first time I set out to write about Northern Ireland,’ Gregg explains the film. ‘I tried to write something new about something that felt overly familiar to me, the way people here receive and repeat iconography.’

For a first time effort, the play – starring Ryan McParland (Good Vibrations) , Yasmin Paige (The Double) and Michael Smiley (Kill List) – which first aired on Channel Four has been well received. Gregg is looking forward to hearing from a Northern Ireland audience what they thought of it.

As for how she got into writing for screen instead of stage? ‘A few years I decided I was done with theatre and theatre was done with me,’ Gregg says. ‘Then an opportunity to write for TV cam up and I thought, why not?’

Of course, theatre wasn’t quite done with Gregg, but she enjoys the different discipline of writing for TV or film. ‘It’s different…it’s…I’m the same person, with the same concepts, but it’s like I use a different muscle?’

Plus, she adds, she loves the opportunity to play with genre that comes with screen work. One of the TV series she is currently in development with is a comedy, while the other is a supernatural family drama.

Gregg laughs and confesses that she is a bit of a SF nerd on the quiet. ‘I have to sneak it into things,’ she says. ‘Call it high concept escapsim.’

Stacey Gregg will be at the Belfast Film Festival on April 13 and Spilling My Heart Out Will be at the Lyric Theatre on May 6.