Interview: 'I'd Rather Spoon my Own Eyeballs Out Than be a Teenager Again' Ben Schwarz And Rosie Bowden of SOAPBOX RACER at Alphabetti Theatre

'The show feels like a big warm hug to anyone who’s ever felt a bit lost'

MATILDA THE MUSICAL Announces West End Extension; See New Footage From the Show!

Soapbox Racer by Ben Schwarz is chuntering into Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle this week, and the production is one of the first few to be staged there after the venue won The Stage's award for Best Fringe Theatre.

Alphabetti sits quite humbly in the city's West End, wholesome and cozy, yet always ready to deliver a smattering of social discourse. Schwarz's play feels befitting of its "vibe". It's about a teenager called Kay (played by Harrison Rowley-Lynn) who gets dumped in Very Bad and Dramatic Circumstances but graciously chooses to make the best of it.

The writer himself, and emerging North East director extraordinaire Rosie Bowden, sat with BroadwayWorld to give us a peep under the play's hood.

What's Soapbox Racer???

Ben: [a soapbox racer is] a sort of make-shift car thing... no engine or anything, it just rolls down a hill. Sometimes they have silly designs. They crash a lot, so please wear a helmet, if you try it. In this instance, the racer is a 16-year-old girl who thinks barrelling down a hill in a box decorated with love notes will impress her ex-boyfriend. She believes in 'grand gestures,' you see.

Rosie: [the play] is a grand gesture of love to love! Self-love, weird crushes, awkward Dad love. You name it, we've got it.

Write a mushy love note about the play.


Soapbox Racer, you're the best,

just had to get this off my (hairy) chest.

You're full of fun but most of all,

You give me chills like Wonderwall.


Okay, you asked for it...

If I ask really nicely,

will you wake up?

Will you grow lips and skin, will you glow

under lights, like a seed I've pushed into soil with my thumb?

You look like just words to me, but I kind of think

if I ask nicely enough, or if I screw my eyes shut

and think hard enough, maybe you'll wake


people might love you just as much as me.

Blimey. What do you miss / not miss about being a teenager?

Ben: I miss absolutely nothing about it. Are you kidding me?

Everything just felt so big and important; that isn't easy to deal with when you have the emotional capacity of a walnut. I think that's why I find teenagers so fascinating though - that outward certainty, combined with such fluidity inside. You haven't figured anything out about yourself yet, but socially, you're kind of required to go 'yep, this is me, actually, now and forever.' All the while, being told you must concentrate on the 'most important examinations of your life'???

I'd rather spoon my own eyeballs out than go back.

Rosie: Ridiculously, I miss school! I know, I know, what a sin. But... I was a total nerd and I loved hanging out with my drama teacher and being the first one in the library in the morning. Shame on me!

I will say, my school days ended in the pandemic so most of my time as an 18-year-old was spent inside reading hence the nerdy answer!

If you were to design your own soapbox cars, what would they look like?

Ben: I simply Would Not. I am a very risk-averse person. Maybe my plays are a kind of vicarious risk-taking, cowering behind a keyboard while I make my characters do things I wouldn't dare.

I don't know... maybe I'd decorate it as a risk assessment? Although that sort of implies I enjoy filling in risk assessments, which I do not. Um. Maybe an octopus? They're cool.

God, this is why I haven't got any tattoos, isn't it?

Rosie: Oh gosh, in true theatre style, mine would be covered in the many delightful patterns of Lucy and Yak. Just an absolute mix of colour, begging to be loved. It would definitely have car eyelashes on it too because I think they're the most ridiculous/best thing to ever be created.

[Nobody asked but mine would be pink with an air horn and a basket for a small to medium-sized dog.]

What are some "feels" an audience might have if they come to watch?

Ben: Joy and happiness, I hope. I think Soapbox Racer is a very joyful play. Willing K, our soapbox racer, to succeed and figure herself out. Kick her detractors to the curb, and rejoice in her triumphs.

I think it depends on who you are. As an adult, maybe some nostalgia too. A teenager, possibly recognition? A feeling of being seen? Or possibly irritation at lack of recognition, if that isn't you.

Also, it's supposed to be funny, so I really hope that people laugh.

Rosie: Oooof, I think all the gooey, warm ones. The show feels like a big warm hug to anyone who's ever felt a bit lost or not knowing what their next step is. I really hope they fall in love with Kay, she's a gem.

What's so good about Alphabetti as a venue?

Ben: It's a new-writing fringe venue, right here in our lovely city, Newcastle. You don't get many of those outside of London, never mind one as community-minded as them. They, like me, believe great art should be for everyone. They try to be as accessible as possible: physically, emotionally, economically, in whatever way they can. They care about art, and they care about people, and they don't see a conflict of interest there. I adore that.

Rosie: The toasties. The people. The toasties. The dogs. The toasties.

And the big warm welcome they give you! From Pay What You Feel shows, to artist development, they're a real community with time for everyone. I wouldn't be doing this without them!

Any other comments?

Ben: I need people to know that this industry can be really tough. I've been working on this play for the best part of five years. I've got as many Arts Council rejections. Venue rejections. Festival rejections.

There have been multiple teams on this project, with multiple successes over the years, and multiple failures. I want you to know this almost didn't happen. I had fully given up. But by some miracle (and that miracle being Ali Pritchard, artistic director of Alphabetti), here we are.

Soapbox Racer is at Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle until 13 May

Photo Credit: Von Fox Promotions


Review: GIFFORDS CIRCUS: LES ENFANTS DU PARADIS, Chiswick House and Gardens Photo
Review: GIFFORDS CIRCUS: LES ENFANTS DU PARADIS, Chiswick House and Gardens

National treasures Giffords Circus return for their annual tour of village greens and stately homes with another show, another theme and, it appears to be, another hit.

Review: IL TROVATORE, Royal Opera House Photo
Review: IL TROVATORE, Royal Opera House

Adele Thomas' new production is a rollicking clash of carnivalesque weirdness and heartfelt desire.

Kristin Scott Thomas and Lily James to Star in New Penelope Skinner Play Photo
Kristin Scott Thomas and Lily James to Star in New Penelope Skinner Play

Kristin Scott Thomas and Lily James will star in a new play by Penelope Skinner, directed by Ian Rickson, that will open in the West End in the fall.

Review: RIGOLETTO, Opera Holland Park Photo
Review: RIGOLETTO, Opera Holland Park

Bullying, sexism, corruption, initiation ordeals and debauched behaviour. No, it’s not another government inquiry into the antics of the elite, but Opera Holland Park kicking off the 2023 season by way of a new and thought-provoking production of Rigoletto.



Recommended For You