Milton Keynes Theatre
3-6 May 2006
Wed & Thurs: 7:30pm
Fri & Sat: 5:00pm, 8:00pm
Louise Roche is an inspiration to any would-be writer waiting for their big break!
One night six years ago she was sitting in the Milton Keynes Theatre watching a Shane Ritchie musical when she had an epiphany. "I could do this she thought!"
But then, unlike the rest of us who come away from the theatre thinking the same thing, she actually did it!
While her husband entertained her three young children, all under four at the time, she sat in her Milton Keynes kitchen and wrote her first play, Girls Night, a musical comedy about five friends who re-live the past on a wild night out in a karaoke club!
|Gwyneth Strong and Lucy Speed|
She first put it on with some friends at a local community theatre, with old mates from school doing the acting, a woman she met at her daughter's playgroup doing the set and her mum on costumes! It sold out for the entire run!
Encouraged by this success she hired the Milton Keynes Theatre for a one night only performance and ploughed her life savings into the show. She then toured Milton Keynes with a double buggy handing out leaflets. It worked!
All 1400 seats sold and even more incredibly, she made back just over the £10,000 she invested. She would have made even more had she not given every member a pink glow stick to add to the atmosphere!
Forming their own professional touring company Goodnights Entertainment, Louise and husband Mark toured the show on a medium scale but now another chapter is opening as Girls Night embarks on its first national tour of major venues in the UK starring Lucy Speed (Natalie in EastEnders) and Gwyneth Strong (Cassandra in Only Fools and Horses).
|"I would much rather fail and have had a go than not have a go at all."|
Girls Night is described as a "tell it like it is" look at the lives of a group of female friends. Carol was born to Party, Anita says it like it is, Liza has "issues" and Kate is boring but very handy for driving!
It is also packed with every girlie anthem you could think of including "Dancing Queen", "I Will Survive" and "It's Raining Men". So if you've ever sat down with your girlfriends to ponder the benefits, or not, of skimpy underwear, why your romance has changed from lust to getting a kitchen bin for Christmas or danced through a night of "new shoe blisters", then this show may well be for you!
Louise told us more about her journey from kitchen striplights to footlights!
Did you really think up this idea in your kitchen in Milton Keynes?
Louise: I really did yes! I think maybe it was an excuse to get rid of the kids, who were all under four at the time! I had three under four and Mark [my husband] used to take them out to the park while I wrote, so it was my kind of "me time" really at that point.
So where did the idea originally come from?
Louise: The idea originally came when we were at Milton Keynes Theatre, watching a Shane Ritchie musical. I kind of looked around at thought there are all women here! Then I thought maybe I could write something like this for women and that's where the idea came from.
The ideas for characters, well some of them came from people I knew, some were my experiences of growing up, and some are other people's. I'm quite nosey so I tend to listen to people's conversations all the time and I get lots of ideas and dialogue that way!
So had you got a background in writing?
Louise: I did write a novel when I was at university, but I've always written, that's always been my therapy. Other people drink! But I tend to write to get it out!
So literally you went to see a show and thought why not have a go?
Louise: Yes - I'd always wanted to write. I'd written television scripts and tried to get things on telly but unsurprisingly that didn't happen from my kitchen! Mark, my husband, who's directing the show, was a professional actor and said "why don't you try and do a play because we can do that"! We would have to wait for somebody to say "yes" in telly. But if we did it ourselves, then we could see if it worked and if people liked it, so that's how I came to be writing theatre.
It's about growing up in Milton Keynes, what do you think is different about growing up in MK that you might not find anywhere else?
Louise: I think that one of the things you don't get anywhere else is such a huge mix of people and the fact that still even now so many of those people are new. Because of that I think it's quite a sociable friendly place where people do form quite deep friendships quite quickly.
You say that it's based on your own experiences, are there any of your actual girls' night out experiences in the play?
Louise: There is an instance where somebody's got their first bra and they get the mickey taken out of them and that certainly did happen to me! I never had any boobs and I insisted on having a bra like lots of young girls do!
Another one of the character's parents separate and that had happened to me. And there's another scene where two girls have a fight in the playground when they're at school and that happened to me too, so there are a lot of bits in there taken from my life but they're not unusual things so they tend to be things that everyone else has done as well.
So it's something that women can really relate to?
Louise: Yes. Everything's in there, all the good bits and the bad bits of being a woman - marriage, infidelity, love, babies - it's all there!
It all started off in a village hall didn't it?
Louise: It actually started off at Madcap in Wolverton to about 100 people!
And then it moved to the Milton Keynes Theatre?
Louise: Yes. First of all we did it with our mates at Madcap. I dressed all the tables myself, we made the set ourselves and we just did everything but it sold really brilliantly. And then my husband hired Milton Keynes Theatre and again we did it with the amateur cast and it was just brilliant.
It was a fantastic night, never to be repeated I think, because for everybody it was a challenge. My best friend was in it and she'd never sung in public before and there she was in front of 1400 people belting this song out! It was just extraordinary. So for everybody it was a challenge that we had to rise to and it was just a great night.
After that we met an investor Sir Peter Thompson, who has helped us in many more ways than just investing money. He said, "Go on, have a go" and that was when we started to take it onto a professional level.
So you did a medium scale tour but this is the first time it's been on a grade one top venue tour of the UK, how are you feeling about that?
Louise: Just excited, because for six years we've been saying this is going to work on the number one circuit. People are going to like this, they are going to come for a week at a time, it's not just a one night show. We've had to convince people quite a lot but it's just exciting, there's nothing to lose!
What else has come out of this experience? Have you got more writing work from it?
Louise: Yes. I've written for "Where the Heart Is" and I'm going to write for "Doctors" this year. And I'm carrying on writing plays, [whispers] I'm just doing Girl's Night 2 actually!
It's a really good example of just going for it if you've got self-belief. Have you got any advice for people thinking "well I could do that"?!
Louise: Just do it. Don't say I haven't got the money, just go for it. We certainly thought how would we feel if we always wondered whether or not Girls Night would have been really successful? How would that have made us feel when we were old and grey. I would much rather fail and have had a go than not have a go at all. That would have been a terrible feeling.
You have also said that you were determined that this major tour would start off in Milton Keynes.
Louise: Yes - that's really important to us because we've had so much support from Milton Keynes people generally, with people turning up to all the shows when they've seen them once already! The audiences have been brilliant but also the people at this theatre have just been so supportive to us right from the word go, everybody's really wanted it to succeed so we wanted it to start here.
Come back soon for our interviews with Gwyneth Strong and Lucy Speed!