Catrin’s latest play ‘To Kill a Machine’ opens at The King’s Head Theatre (London) on April 6th. The play tells the life-story of war-time cryptanalyst Alan Turing. It is a story about the importance of truth and injustice and of keeping and revealing secrets. This week we caught up with Catrin to find out a little more about her work and this exciting new play.
1. Hi Catrin, first of all it would be great to know a little about you. Where and what did you study, and how did you become a writer?
My background is in law. I studied law at Aberystwyth University, where I now work as a lecturer. I became a writer because Aberystwyth’s Community Theatre Company, Castaway, did a devised show back in 2008, where the cast were invited to write and create characters. People really liked what I wrote – about a railway stationmistress called Cyril Happenstall who transcends time and space, seeing the world around her. She’s called Cyril because her father never expected to have a daughter, and so she has been treated like a son and given the opportunities that would have been denied to a girl. It was followed by writing a framing story for Alfred Jarry’s three Ubu plays – the idea with that was that Ubu was invented by the Government in order to distract the People from what the Government were up to. But Ubu becomes real. After that I decided to ‘come out’ as a writer – I took the Open University’s Creative Writing courses, which were a really good foundation and joined Aberystwyth Arts Centre’s Performance Writing Group.
2. What kinds of things are you interested in writing?
People says my writing is quite surreal – I think Beckett and Ionesco are strong influences on me, as well as films like Metropolis. I think I’ve been influenced by watching things like Yes Minister as well – I enjoy writing powerful and ruthless Machiavellian characters and their impact on the ordinary person. My characters also have a certain fluidity – they have shifting identities – often because of the constraints upon them. There are also important general themes in a lot of my work – people who are unable to conform to society’s rules, people who find friendship in unlikely places. There are a lot of prisons, a lot of people who don’t have the right words, who don’t say the right thing, people who don’t fit in, but also people of whom you can say ‘ but they’re not doing anything wrong.’
3. Your new play, ‘To Kill a Machine’ opens this month. What inspired
you to write this?
A visit to Bletchley and a realisation that the question of what is the difference between a man and a woman takes on a massive significance when a man falls in love with someone of the ‘wrong’ gender and who is then given female hormones in order to make him behave as a man is expected to behave – to make him a man in essence. However, giving a man female hormones turns him into a woman, but for a woman to be be attracted to a man is socially acceptable. I was fascinated by the idea that the social rule that ‘a man must not love another man’ falls apart completely when that rule is taken to its logical conclusion, at which point there’s a realisation that it would have made far more sense not to interfere in the first place.
4. What do you hope audiences will take away from watching?
The feeling that they have seen a good piece of theatre. There are many themes, there is an important message, but that all gets lost in a bad play. My hope therefore is that people enjoy To Kill A Machine. If they think about it afterwards or if they learn from it, that is a bonus, but what I hope people don’t take away is the feeling that they shouldn’t have wasted their money on the price of a ticket.
5. Describe the play in six words…
Did he fall? Was he pushed?
6. Are you writing anything new at the moment?
I’m currently writing a play about how we are always defined by our interaction with other people and how we must be what those other people expect us to be. What happens if you let go of that?
7. Where can we find out more about you and your work?