Actor and writer Rosalind Blessed: ‘I don’t try to be the next Beckett, I just write what I know’

Rosalind Blessed Rosalind Blessed
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Growing up in a family of actors, Rosalind Blessed was never a stranger to the theatre world. Now she has written and stars in a play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe about domestic abuse. She tells Tim Bano about The Delights of Dogs and the Problems of People…

Why did you choose to write about this subject?

I’ve had experience of being in abusive relationships myself, so I just think by being as truthful and honest as I can be about the subject matter it opens things up for other people to then be honest and think about it. It takes the sting off it, it takes the shame off it. The play stands as a warning that it’s very easy to get drawn into an abusive or dangerous situation. And it’s not because you’re stupid or weak for letting it happen. Really it’s very easy for it to happen to anybody. And on the other side, it’s very easy for a decent, nice person to tip over into dangerous behaviour at the other end of things.

So it humanises the side that is often cast as villainous?

Yeah, there are no villains in the show. No villains, no heroes. Except there is a hero: there’s the dog. He’s a Staffie. I love Staffies because I think they’re misunderstood. In my experience they’re just enormous balls of beating heart emotion who just adore you. So we’re basically looking at the unconditional love of a dog for a human, and the increasingly destructive love of a human to a human.

What got you into performing in the first place?

Well, it’s pretty obvious that both of my parents [Brian Blessed and Hildegarde Neil] are actors. I don’t think that’s a massive secret. So I was always around it. I used to travel around theatres with mum and watch her, so she really became my hero. I’m thick as a brick now, but I was very academic when I was younger and I did consider going into chemistry or history, but as time went on I started to get seduced into how much I enjoyed performing on stage. My parents always said they didn’t mind what on Earth I did just as long as I was happy, and in the fullness of time it transpired that I was happiest knocking around in a theatre.

When did you start writing your own stuff?

I went to university before I went to drama school and did some writing there. My writing though, I can’t begin to tell you, it was so bad. It was un-actable drivel. So I left it for a good 10 years thinking that’s something I definitely can’t do. But a little bit later down the line I started to write sketches, little bits of comedy, and I remember the first time that I walked on stage and said a line I’d written and the audience laughed I was like: ‘This is it, I am God!’ I got very seduced by that. But writing actual plays, I didn’t start doing until about five years ago. I didn’t try to be the next Samuel Beckett or whatever, I just tried that very basic thing that you get taught at school: write what you know. When I did that it all started to come together. I kept the comedy basis, because I always look at dark subject matters with humour. I deal with a lot of things with humour. I think a lot of people do, The next play I’m writing is about mental health and there are a lot of laughs.

CV: Rosalind Blessed

Training: Central School of Speech and Drama
First professional role: Sylvia Plath, Letters Home (2001)
Agent: Associated International Management

The Delights of Dogs and the Problems of People is at SpaceTriplex, Edinburgh, until August 26