Natasha Langridge: An interview with the writer of In Memory of Leaves
Following on from Memoirs of a Tree, performed at last year’s InTRANSIT festival, Natasha Langridge returns in 2016 with another immersive monologue inspired by local life. In Memory of Leaves describes Natasha’s experience living in a block of flats on the Portobello Road council estate, which is being torn down by developers, and how all of her surroundings and green spaces are rapidly changing. The monologue also explores her recent work in Calais with the Occupy movement and highlights the insecurity felt when people are forced to say goodbye to the place they call “home”.
Some of your past works such as Beverley and The Method have also been monologues. What is it about this dramatic form that brings you to use it so regularly?
Maybe because I was an only child and spent a lot of time talking to myself! I don’t know. You can do so much with a monologue – have as many characters as you want and as many locations. You can flip between them economically and theatrically. It’s quite liberating. Actually, The Method isn’t a monologue – it’s a play with five characters – though it does contain some long and intense monologues.
In the past you have written works that have been performed by others, but last year and now this year at the InTRANSIT Festival you are performing your own monologues. Does this make it easier to produce the dramatic effects you desire from the script?
On a good day! On a bad day the writer in me asks why we hired such an awful actress. The actress part of me then complains to the writer part that she wasn’t thinking about the poor performer who has to act this shit! One would hope I get the desired effect from performing my own stuff but I don’t know because I’m not watching it. I hope, because this piece is written from my own personal perspective, that I’ll do it justice.
Despite being a sprawling urban city, London is famous for its numerous green spaces and parks. Surely this is something to celebrate, not mourn the loss of?
Well, you might mourn the loss of your park if you watched it being massacred beneath your window by developers. That was the motivation behind In Memory of Leaves. I was compelled to write it after seeing some beautiful trees ripped from the ground.
You mention both Portobello Road and Athlone Gardens (the latter being the location for your performances from 22nd – 26th June). Why does West London carry such significance in this work?
Because I live on Portobello Road. Athlone Gardens is on my corner. Some of the people who inhabit my monologue are my neighbours. It’s about our manor and the places that bind us. The places that are being demolished as part of “regeneration”.
At one point in the monologue you juxtapose references to both “City lovers” and “Moroccan elders” in the same line. Is multiculturalism an element of urban life in In Memory of Leaves?
I’m writing about the community here around me in Portobello and it happens to be multicultural. It’s not something I think consciously about. It just is!
Do you believe locality is ignored in the contemporary dramatic world?
I suppose because the piece is very much about the place I live in, I’m writing its locality in more detail than perhaps I would if I was writing around other themes… It’s a piece being performed in the place it’s about which is quite unusual. It is very much site-responsive and site-specific. Though I hate those terms.
Why have you decided to include the work of Occupy Democracy?
Because I got arrested with other Occupiers at an Occupy Democracy protest and using that experience in the monologue helps a thread in the storyline. If you want to know more you’ll have to come and see it!
What have your biggest challenges been with this project in comparison to your previous work?
I’m performing it! Outside. It rains. A lot. In rehearsals people walk past and ask me what I’m doing when I’m trying to remember my lines!
If an audience member found you afterwards to compliment the production, what would you hope they might comment on specifically?
That it makes them feel, think or see something new. That they weren’t bored!
Do you have a favourite moment or line from the play?
“Where city lovers steal a kiss in the chaos of London mornings.”
Photo: Yui Mok
In Memory of Leaves is on at the InTRANSIT Festival from 18th until 26th June 2016.