Director and playwright Jenna Watt’s credits include Scotsman Fringe First-winning play Faslane, which explores the UK’s nuclear weapons debate, and Flaneurs, which also won a Fringe First. Watt tells Giverny Masso about her latest project at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe – directing Lauren Hendry’s Tetra-Decathlon, a show about the gruelling 14-event athletics competition…
Tell me about Tetra-Decathlon…
It’s about Lauren Hendry’s journey to competing in the world championships of the Tetra-Decathlon. It is 14 events in one, it includes the obscure events you haven’t heard of and you probably don’t know the athletes that have taken part. Laura decided to try it out. She’s a serious amateur with no experience in athletics. It started as a Tron Lab, which is a development scheme run by the Tron Theatre in Glasgow. I came on board and it was about working with Laura on which bits she wanted to talk about, how to make a one-woman show and what that would involve, what stories and anecdotes to use.
What was it about Tetra-Decathlon that appealed to you as a project?
That idea of going from nothing and being a complete novice to competing in the world championships. It’s totally amazing that anyone can sign up, that’s what’s so accessible, you can compete and be 13th in the world at something.
How did you get into theatre?
I studied a drama and theatre degree at Queen Margaret in Edinburgh. After that I got into a bit of arts admin to pay the bills. The first show I took to the fringe was Flaneurs, which I wrote and performed, it was on at Summerhall. It did really well and we came out with a deficit of 40p, which is pretty good for your first fringe show.
Tell me about your previous show, Faslane…
Faslane is one of my career highlights so far, especially when it was published by Oberon Books. It’s a place on the west coast of Scotland where the UK keeps and maintains its nuclear weapons programme. I made a show about that because some of my family work there. It became a hot topic prior to the Scottish independence referendum. I went to meet people on the front line of the debate. It was on at the fringe in 2016 and has since toured Scotland and the UK. It’s a topic that keeps rearing its head, so the play will have a future life as long as it is relevant.
What is your advice for aspiring theatremakers?
Find your champions, find people that are open to helping you and talking about your work and keep those people close. When making work, I like to have a little team to work with, and will often work closely with a dramaturg when developing a show.
What are your plans for the future?
I roll with the punches. The thing that’s exciting about theatre is that you never know what opportunities will arise.
Training: BA in drama and theatre at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh (2002-06)
First professional role: Front of house at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh (2004-12)