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Tiegan Byrne and Cecilie Fray Interview – Girlhood (Edinburgh Fringe)

One of my favourite aspects of the Edinburgh Fringe is getting to watch new writing within the theatre genre. ‘Girlhood’ is a new piece of theatre by Tiegan Byrne, that looks at the roles of mothers and the impact of mother figures on our lives and sense of self. Produced by Sam James for WAC Hall Productions and directed by Cecilie Fray, the play stood out to me because of its focus on mother and child relationships. With my own Mum being heavily involved in the curation and planning of this website, on a personal note, I knew I wanted to hear more about the show ahead of the festival. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Tiegan and Cecilie about the play and asked them to share some insight into their creative process, preparations for Fringe and the material itself.

Can you tell me about your backgrounds and how you got into writing/directing?

Cecilie: As is the case with many creatives I went around the houses to find my love of directing. My background is actually in Stage Management and then I transitioned into Assistant Directing in film and then into Theatre. I was then the Assistant Director on Moulin Rouge! which sparked my desire to direct my own work. After directing my Offie nominated play ‘Working for Crumbs’ last year my passion for directing just grew and grew and here we are, ready to take on the Edinburgh Fringe with Girlhood! 

Tiegan: I trained as an actor and writing became a very personal yet enjoyable way to stay creative whilst auditioning. Over a couple of years, this led me to write more and more and eventually I found myself seeking feedback and the desire to hear my work out loud. I never called myself a writer until a very wise mentor of mine said “You write so you are a writer, regardless of whether you choose to show your work to the world.” 

Cecilie, you were Assistant Director for the West End transfer of ‘Moulin Rouge!’. What was it like working on such a beloved property?

It was an honour to work on Moulin Rouge! and some of my fondest memories happened on that job. It was my first experience working on a West End show, it was a lot of hard work but the team were so inspiring and I learnt SO much. It is such a big show and a lot of what makes it good is the precision that goes into so many aspects. My nature is very detail oriented so I fit into the culture well; I now try to bring that level of precision to all my directing work. 

Cecilie Fray Headshot Girlhood (Edinburgh Fringe)
Cecilie Fray – Director

You are now ‘focusing on directing new writing and amplifying women’s voices on stage’. What has your experience been like being a female director in the industry?  What inspired you to take your career in this direction?

I am so passionate about female representation within theatre, growing up I never saw female role models in directing and I thought a director was just a shouty man in a leather jacket. As soon as I realised that I can just be me, and that my creative and caring nature is what makes me a director, it made it easier to follow this path. Of course, I still think the industry has a long way to go and I still fight through barriers as a female director, but I do think there is more receptivity to women taking the helm now. I think this is what made me so passionate to direct Girlhood. Girlhood is a play that centres around 3 very strong women taking control of their lives.

Tiegan, how has it been writing your debut play? What can you tell me about your creative process?

Girlhood is a play I have worked on over the course of a handful of years. I knew I wanted to write something about the mother-daughter relationship so I began by interviewing lots of women on their relationship to their mothers/daughters. These interviews then helped me create and shape the characters that we know today. 

‘Girlhood’ is about motherhood and with Edinburgh Fringe being something that I share with my own Mum every year, I was totally drawn to the idea of your new play. What inspired you to write about this particular subject?

I am incredibly close to my mum. She’s the most incredible and inspiring woman I know, but we also know how to press each other’s buttons in a way that nobody else could. My relationship with my mum and the fact I’m approaching my late 20s, has made me start to wonder about the type of mother I will be… or more importantly, want to be.

Tiegan Byrne Headshot Girlhood (Edinburgh Fringe)
Tiegan Byrne – Writer

The play is set on New Year’s Eve and focuses on three women who are each at a crossroads in their life, surrounding the subject of motherhood. How are you finding bringing to life multiple storylines in a Fringe-length format?

Cecilie: As a director these sorts of challenges really excite me. Obviously at Fringe level you have to be resourceful and clever about the way you use the space to create a clear image. We see 3 decades on stage at once and our aim is to make this clear through costume and staging. Tiegan’s dialogue is also really clever in the way the characters are presented in the decades. Also we’re pretty certain the Spice Girls will transport you to the 90’s too! 

Tiegan: I’ve tried to use dialogue and references throughout the play, to hint to each decade… without making it too obvious! Something that really excites me about Girlhood is that the audience doesn’t need to know straight away that the characters exist in different points of time, it is only as the play goes on that this becomes increasingly clear. 

Ahead of the debut, what can you share about the three women at the centre of the play?

Cecilie: Each of these three women hold their own in their own way, staying strong to their values. I think there are pieces of all of them that you can relate to. They’re passionate about things they believe in and will hopefully make the audience think about their relationships with the people they love.

Tiegan: These three women are fundamentally very different women and each have very different feelings about motherhood, adulthood and relationships, but what they all have in common is that they want to do the best and be the best for those around them. 

Girlhood poster | Edinburgh Fringe

With less than two months to go until the Fringe starts, what are your rehearsal plans between now and the festival?

Cecilie: Rehearsals are starting very soon and I can’t wait to dive into the scenes with the actors. I work so collaboratively and the actors are so dedicated and talented. The exciting thing about new writing is the actors don’t have any reference to go off and they can really make the roles their own. 

Tiegan: I can’t wait to see how rehearsals go and see Cecilie’s vision of the play come to life, whilst watching the actors make the characters their own! I’m really excited to be popping in and out of rehearsals to help where I can!

You are performing at Greenside @ Riddles Court on the Royal Mile. What are you most looking forward to performing in such a central location?

Cecilie: I’m looking forward to reaching a wide range of audience members, I really feel like this play will resonate with anyone, but especially with women. The central location is really exciting too, being around so much theatre and art is something I can’t wait for! 

Tiegan: I’m looking forward to being surrounded by so much creativity, hard-work and passion from all the theatre at the fringe. I hope it inspires and invigorates us all!!

Watching Girlhood at Fringe

It was wonderful to speak with Tiegan and Cecilie about the play. Theatre fans, if you are interested in adding some new writing to your Edinburgh Fringe schedule, Girlhood is playing at Greenside @ Riddles Court from 2nd – 17th August (not Sunday 11th). With a start time of 18:30, head to the Edinburgh Fringe website to book to see the show.

Thanks for reading my blog today.

Love Kat xxxx



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