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Guest Blog: Playwright and Performer Maddie Rice On PICKLE JAR

By: Oct. 03, 2018
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Guest Blog: Playwright and Performer Maddie Rice On PICKLE JAR  Image
Maddie Rice in Pickle Jar

I started writing Pickle Jar as a sort of experiment. I had done bits and bobs of writing with other people and within a comedy group, but I wanted to finish a piece of writing on my own and I wanted to see if I enjoyed it.

I had fears of being completely rubbish at it, and about it being a very lonely, laborious pastime and there not necessarily being a good result. Wasting time. I was so scared of being shit at it, in fact, that it took me years to even read back what I had written, let alone show it to anyone.

I worked with Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Vicky Jones on the tour of their legendary play Fleabag and I took the opportunity to quiz them both about their writing processes.

They encouraged me to write for myself, and that the best way to start is to write down everything that made me feel something vividly: stories that made me laugh, made me angry, made me cry; things from my life, my friends' lives, things I heard on the Tube. That was the way to organically find what I really want to write about.

I began writing in a little notebook, and after a few months it was brimming with stories. Having promised to after a bottle of wine, I ended up bringing the notebook to my friend Alex, who sat and listened to me read the good, the bad and the very, very ugly.

From there, a lot of the characters in Pickle Jar were born.

Guest Blog: Playwright and Performer Maddie Rice On PICKLE JAR  Image
Maddie Rice in Pickle Jar

We decided that the narrator of the story was a teacher. My best friend and housemate is a teacher and tells the most wonderful stories - I had already written down so many of our conversations, and then there were the stories from our own school days.

Mairead, the best mate of the narrator, was based on the middle-aged Irish woman I heard on the Tube saying, "I got fingered on Saturday - it made me feel really young". Her friend burst out laughing, I burst out laughing, she burst out laughing, and I wrote it down.

I asked Katie Pesskin, the director, to get involved to develop it further with me. We spent a week workshopping the script and did a few rehearsed readings at the Cockpit Theatre with other actors so I could properly hear what I'd written.

Loads of fascinating discoveries came out of those readings. The original script had all the same characters, but a very different structure and story. The eventual story and themes were already present but only subconsciously; audience members noticed what mattered in the story before I did. I didn't know what it was I wanted to write until it was pointed out to me.

Pickle Jar is a comedy about a woman who doesn't feel grown-up enough or clever enough (or anything enough) to be a teacher. She is dealing constantly with kids who are more 'woke' than her and who could give her a Sex Ed lesson that would make her gasp.

None of us really know what we're doing. We are all just stumbling through life like a game of paintball, trying not to get hit, crying when we do, and carrying on covered in bruises and coloured splats of paint. I don't have the answers, so instead, I am asking the questions in a dark little comedy about life.

Writing this was not a quick or painless process, but I have learnt a hell of a lot and I have enjoyed it. If any other performers out there are thinking of writing something, I say go for it! You won't regret it.

Pickle Jar is at Soho Theatre 23 October-10 November

Read our Edinburgh review of Pickle Jar here

Photo credit: Amelia J. Dowd


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