Lost at Sea

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Inspired by the loss of her fisherman father, 'Lost at Sea' is Morna Young’s personal tribute to the fishing communities of Scotland. It premieres in Perth Theatre between Thursday 25th April and Saturday 4th May.  Morna took a break from preparations for the play to have a chat with me in the cafe at Perth Theatre.  Morna, who hails from a wee fishing village in the North East of Scotland, is not only a theatre writer/director but also has parallel careers as an actor and musician.  If that wasn't enough, she also had a past life as a journalist and court reporter.  Frankly, Morna makes Orson Welles and Stephen Fry seem like a pair of slouches.  After a discussion about folk music, cinema and the merit's of learning shorthand I finally started the tape (or phone app), and we talked about the upcoming play.

How are preparations for the play going? 

Really great.  It’s so exciting for me because I started working on this back in Morna makes Orson Welles and Stephen Fry seem like a pair of slouches.2011, so to finally be here in rehearsals is just amazing.   

Is the pre-production phase usually so long? 

A lot of projects can take a while to get on their feet, but this one took longer than most because of the size of the cast.  There are nine actors and it’s a full- length play, so that’s always going to be much harder to get funding for than if it was a three-man piece that's an hour long.  So, to get something as ambitious as this out on stage is a really long process. 

Are you conscious of the budget when you write? 

Yes, because it's always going to be something that is a concern for the theatre company.  You will be sometimes be asked if you can write for just three actors.  Back in 2011, I wasn’t really constrained in that way.  I just wrote the play I wanted to write, which happened to be this epic piece with a huge cast.  Nowadays I think more about how many actors can I have and what length it needs to be.  Those sorts of logistics can really tie you down.  Looking back, I really respect that in 2011 I didn’t worry about any of that. 

Can you tell us a little bit about ‘Lost at Sea’? 

There are two parallel stories in the play.  One is a young woman returning home to her fishing village.  The second focuses on two brothers from a fishing Lost at Sea- Morna Young by Scott Cadenheadfamily in the northeast of Scotland.  At its heart, it’s really a family drama. There is tragedy within that but there is also a lot of light as well.  Whenever you are writing about something that has a darker side to it you need light as well.  That’s the way it is in life too.  Often people who have experienced the biggest tragedies have the most wicked senses of humour.  'Lost at Sea' explores family relationships and the dynamic involved with in-law and sibling relationships.  Oh, and the play spans 40 years of the family.  That's a pretty big time period!  Alongside the families story, there is also a choral element, with voices from outside the community acting as a Greek chorus.  It’s all about myth and memory, particularly the vagueness of memory. 

Pippa Murphy wrote the music for ‘Lost at Sea’.  Being a musician yourself, were you ever tempted to take compose the music yourself? 

No.  Pippa Murphy is a genius.  I’m a total fangirl.  She’s got an amazing ability to mix live music and prerecorded music so the two interact in a playful way.  Thoren Ferguson from the band the Jacobites is part of the cast and also plays the fiddle.  It’ll send shivers down your spine!  This play is really elemental.  Because it’s set in a fishing village the sea itself becomes a character.  The music and sound design are what breathes life into that character. 

Why did you choose to Premier ‘Lost at Sea’ in Perth? 

Perth Theatre was really attracted to the play because of the family element.  You would perhaps associate Perthshire more with farming than fishing. Even Perth is such a beautiful theatre... it's nice to be premiering out with Glasgow and Edinburgh, that feels really special. though the play seems to be about the fishing industry it feels like people connect with it across the board because it deals with big universal themes, like love and loss.  I think if you are exploring universal themes the setting of the play doesn’t really matter.  We’ve all loved and we’ve all lost and we all know what it is to part of a family structure.  

Perth is such a beautiful theatre and the team here are just incredible.  It’s nice to be premiering out with Glasgow and Edinburgh, that feels really special.  Most of the theatre work in Scotland will premier Glasgow and Edinburgh but Scotland is much bigger than that.  I write so much of my work about rural living and it feels like Perth is an interesting place to stage a play around those themes. 

You are also writing a fantasy novel for young adults, how is that coming along?

I love fantasy.  It’s been a totally new experience for me.  I finished the first draft and was working on the second when I had to throw myself into ‘Lost at Sea’.  It’s going to take me a couple of years to work my way through it and then I’ll look for a publisher.  The process has been such fun, it’s cool to think up new worlds, I’m completely free to write what I want.

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