Flux Theatre are bringing Reece Connolly’s play Chutney to The Bunker Theatre, London, this November; with a disturbing theme of hilarious potential, Reece certainly hasn’t shied away from putting some of his darkest thoughts down on paper. We caught up with him to find out about this dark comedy, the inspiration behind it and the comment it makes on 2018 Britain.
Interview by Amie Taylor
AT: Tell us a little bit about you, how you became a playwright and how you came to work in theatre?
RC: I’m originally from Newcastle, and I moved to London in 2013 to study drama at the University of East London. I’d always done drama stuff, but I’d never written for the stage. There was a very cool theatre society at my uni, so I started putting on plays through there, and I found it a really interesting way for me to tell the stories that I wanted to tell. I’ve continued ever since, so it’s about 5 years now that I’ve been writing. Since then I’ve been a part of a couple of writing groups at the Royal Court, I’ve been a writer in residence for a theatre back home in the North-East, and I have a theatre company myself with some mates. And with a script, such as Chutney, I may send off to a theatre company – such as Flux who are producing this play.
AT: Tell us a bit about Chutney…
RC: It’s about this couple called Greg and Claire who are quite well to do, they’re of a millennial age – late 20s early 30s and they’re living this perfect life, by mum and dads’ standards, in suburbia, in middle England. We get the impression that they’re relationship is functional, but perhaps lacking in any real depth. Then they discover that the depth they’ve been looking for comes from this hobby that they discover that they both really enjoy, which is murdering animals. And because they live in this very knitted together life and social circle, the only animals they can really get their hands on are their neighbours’ pets, which they steal in the dead of night. It’s about how they try to get away with it and the aftermath as well.
AT: What inspired you to write this piece?
RC: A few different things really, I think one of the major things was that my housemate got a puppy, and I love animals, but I’m also a very anxious person, and one day she left me in charge of this puppy, and my mind went to ‘Oh my god, wouldn’t it be horrible if I killed this puppy by mistake!’ And I was thinking ‘It’s going to happen, I need to put it in another room so I don’t accidentally drop something on it.’ And it got me thinking about how that would make a great story, accidentally killing an animal that you were supposed to be looking after. And then I got thinking, wouldn’t it be even more interesting if you meant to do it, and pretended it was an accident.
There’s a lot of other stuff going on too – where I am in my life, feeling like I need to move in to an adult-esque phase of my life, and the frustrations that come with settling down, and how it can be possible to settle down in the wrong way, so a look at that too.
AT: What do you hope people will take away from watching?
RC: I hope they’ll be quite surprised by it, because it is quite a traditional idea, it’s a two hander about a man and a woman in a heteronormative relationship – there are a lot of these plays out there, but it’s meant to be a subversion of that – essentially a send up of a lot of those plays. A lot of playwrights think that we actually want to sit and watch a heterosexual couple sit and talk for an hour about their problems, so I thought let’s at least put a bit of death in there as well, and let’s make the characters kind of unlikable, so that you’re rooting a bit for their downfall. I hope it’s also a bit shocking, and shows people things they perhaps weren’t expecting when they walked through the door.
AT: Why is this piece really important for 2018?
RC: There’s a strand in there about the characters and the world they inhabit – they are quite comfortable existing within a grey area. Because of where we are now with social media and the news and these movements that are going on, people from quite privileged backgrounds can quite happily exist in their own little bubble, and through social media can feel like they’re being a part of these progressive movements, like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter, but they can still fit in to their perfectly comfortable life and not really have to do anything about it. And I think a lot of that is me, and people I interact with as well, but actually we have to be a part of it, we have to go out in to the world and help actively change it. A big part of this play is that these people are existing in their own little echo chamber. And I think there are individuals in our society that we don’t want to exist, so we pretend that they don’t exist. I was writing this around the time of Brexit and found it hard to believe that over half of the population voted for that. It’s about that too.
AT: And although this play is about a heterosexual couple, are there any LGBT+ themes within?
RC: Though the characters are straight, there is some queerness in there and my politics as a gay man are very much there. The characters in the play are the total antithesis to me, but they are very repressed, they’ve spent a lot of years repressing a huge part of their lifestyle and it’s caused them an awful amount of stress and internalised hatred for themselves and the people around them; which is something I can relate to a lot, because I didn’t come out until I was 22, so it was a long life of living inside a little cage that I built for myself. I think lots of people can relate to that – keeping a little part of themselves hidden.
Chutney opens at The Bunker Theatre on November 6th and runs until December the 1st. Book now.