An Interview with Laura Turner
This weekend, Chapterhouse are bringing their adaption of Pride & Prejudice to Thirlestane Castle, near Lauder.
Hello Laura, so where you from & where you at, geographically speaking?
I’m originally from Lincolnshire and the East Midlands and moved back several years ago to Lincoln, where Chapterhouse is also based.
When did you first realise you could write for the stage
I loved theatre and performing from a young age but it wasn’t until I went to university to study English Literature that I really got into writing. I realised I was particularly drawn to writing for the stage and specifically my career actually began with crafting adaptations of classic novels for the stage. With my literature background, it seemed a natural way for me to channel my more creative energies, whilst still working with the classic stories I loved so much.
You are a member of the Chapterhouse team, can you tell us about the company?
Chapterhouse was formed in 1999 and since then has gone on to become one of the UK’s largest touring open-air theatre companies. Every year we visit country houses, gardens and castles across the UK and Ireland with over 150 performances every summer. We also tour theatres during the winter and have recently begun taking productions to China as well. Chapterhouse specialises in presenting traditional but accessible productions of Shakespeare and classic novel adaptations.
When & how did you first join the team?
I first worked with Chapterhouse whilst at university, undertaking work experience with the company and from then on my involvement grew. I am now Associate Playwright with the company alongside my work for the stage and screen elsewhere and it’s lovely to still be so involved with the company that started my journey into writing and the theatre.
As a writer You have a penchant for adapting classic novels for the stage – what is it about this aspect of playwrighting that makes you tick?
It’s a huge privilege to work with classic novels – stories we have all grown up with and characters we know and love so well. For me, I learned how to write by studying the example set by authors such as Austen, Bronte and Dickens – how to shape a story, create unforgettable characters and keep your audience hooked. It’s really important to me when adapting a novel to both honour the author’s original intention, as well as bringing something of my own to the play itself, to make it a unique new adaptation that hopefully says something about who we are today as well as telling the story.
How did the process go with the ‘sacred’ text that is Austen’s P&P?
There’s definitely a lot of pressure working with stories that everyone knows and people feel so passionately about. I feel a responsibility to the author themselves, to reflect their work as they might have intended, and also to the audience who will be looking forward to seeing their favourite bits come to life! As with any adaptation, you inevitably have to leave things out but I hope that in doing so I still capture the overall feel and heart of the story. It’s never easy to make these decisions but the external factors of time constraints and the amount of actors I have to play with forces my hand, but I never make these cuts or changes without real consideration of whether it feels right. Hopefully it enhances the storytelling by making the production streamlined. I’d hate for an audience to get bored!
What does Laura Turner like to do when she’s not being all literary?
Being a writer, it’s definitely a calling rather than a vocation, so escaping the literary world isn’t really something I’m familiar with! It’s my passion so I spend a lot of my time with stories, whether that’s writing, brewing new ideas, reading, going to the cinema and watching plays. But I am trying to cultivate some time away from the laptop – especially with summer on the way I’ll be spending lots of time outdoors and walking…probably whilst thinking of some new play ideas!
Will you be coming to Scotland with Chapterhouse?
With several new writing projections on the horizon, I won’t be able to travel with the company as they go about the country, but I always look forward to visiting the teams and having the opportunity of seeing some of the beautiful venues and countryside we are so privileged to visit.
What does the rest of 2017 hold in store for Laura Turner?
My new play The Buried Moon recently premiered in London and transfers to the Petersfield Shakespeare Festival this July so I have that on the horizon as well as developing my first feature film script. I’ll be looking ahead to the rest of the year soon too when I’ll be developing a new strand of plays inspired by female characters from history and literature