Made It Theatre Company Presents
Written by Ann Brown / Directed by Daniel Brennan
Backed by Arts Council England and The National Lottery, writer and performer Ann Brown brings her inspirational, true-life story to The King's Arms in Salford and Square Chapel in Halifax. Undeniably brutal in places, Green Door is a story that will also make you laugh out loud – not least at some questionable dance moves – as Ann takes you on a journey that encompasses suffering, grief and fear, all somehow bound up with humour and, ultimately, the power of self-worth. This story took its first tentative steps in 2018 as part of the Stigma showcase at The King's Arms and returns to the place of its birth as a fully developed one act play. It is a must see for all mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons. Ann’s experiences are not unique, you will recognise yourself in her words. Join Ann to find out how one woman’s eyes were opened to the truth of the life that she was being forced to live, and how each and every one of us has the ability to turn trauma into triumph.
What brought you both into the acting/directing world?
Ann: I don’t think I can answer this without giving a huge spoiler. What I can tell you is ever since I can remember, my mum and dad had some audio tapes in their attic. They were from the early 70s and the machine on which they could be played was long dead. My brother recently had the tapes converted into digital format. On one of the tapes is me, my brother and my
Daniel: I've been an actor since I was 16. A fantastic teacher of mine saw I wasn't thriving academically and arranged for me join an acting class outside school hours. Such an insightful and kind thing to do. It gave me focus and brought me such joy, I was never going to want to do anything else. Of course, I struggled, but, one way or another, I've always worked within the business. I turned to teaching during the dry months, which led to directing drama students and I developed a love of being at the helm through them. Been at it for a good 15 years now.
dad. I think I was about nine, so my brother would be six. It’s very clear from the tape who is in charge (hint: it wasn’t my dad). I am singing, reading stories and poetry and reciting the names of all the books in the Old and New Testament (!!) and I’m introducing my brother as a guest on my radio show which I am presenting, producing and starring in. I have no memory of us making this tape but, combined with an almost obsessional interest in old Hollywood movies when I was a kid, I believe that I was always meant to be doing something in front of an audience. It’s just taken me a very, very long time to get here.
Without any spoilers what is 'Green Door' about?
A: 'Green Door' is about something that is so common in our society that everyone should be completely clued up on it. But they’re not. They’re not because, for centuries, it was not talked about, it was swept under the carpet, it was considered shameful. Shame bred silence and silence perpetuated the problem. Green Door breaks the silence wide open with a true story that is undeniably brutal at times but is also funny and ultimately offers hope and solutions.
D: 'Green Door' is a heartrending, thoughtful, laugh-out-loud and magnificent tale of a true survivor.
How did the collaboration between you both come about?
A: When I first got the opportunity to perform some of this story at The King's Arms in 2018, I knew I needed a director. I had a list of three women that I would have liked to work with – because of the nature of the piece it never for one moment occurred to me to consider a male director. Top of my list was Karen Henthorn because I’d done some acting for camera classes with her and was really impressed with what she was able to get me to do. She liked the script but said that she wasn’t a director and she suggested Simon Naylor. Well, I’d met Simon a couple of times when I was producing a play for GM Fringe Festival and, to be honest, I was a bit scared of him (I know, mad innit!). Karen insisted he was ‘a sweetheart’ though. Simon had too much on to work with me on a long-term basis, but he gave me several hours of his time and said he’d find someone to work with me for longer. That’s how I came to meet and work with Daniel. I liked and trusted him immediately and I’m very grateful to Simon for putting us together.
D: A very happy accident, really. I was asked to help out on a scratch version of the play at the last minute. Ann and I hit it off straight away and a natural momentum propelled us to where we are now. It's been wonderful.
What have you found challenging about bringing your script to life?
A: Moving and talking at the same time! I’ve had very little actor training so I’m learning on the job. I still feel like I did when I was first learning to drive a car; a dozen things to do all at the same time. Sometimes it feels overwhelming but even so, it’s also completely exhilarating. The other thing I would say is that, because it’s a very emotional piece, I always feel wiped out at the end of every rehearsal. This might also have something to do with playing myself at 32 when I had more energy and less painful knees!
Why was it important that you performed the piece instead of offering your script to another actor & has it been difficult to direct such a personal story?
A: It never occurred to me to offer the script to anybody else and I think that is because of the way the play came about in the first place. I wrote this story just for my own benefit, to get it out of my system. It was nothing more than a whole load of diary-type entries. It only morphed into the beginnings of a play when, out of the blue, someone asked me to tell a bit of my story as part of a showcase on the subject of mental health stigma. The timescale was short so, with Daniel’s help, I just did it myself. There was no time to even consider doing it any other way. The reaction I received was so positive that it gave me the confidence to extend the original 20 minutes to 40 minutes, to perform that and now, to have a full one act, Arts Council Funded play on my hands. I would never have believed myself capable of this 18 months ago. I’m glad it’s happened like this. I was silenced for so long. It feels absolutely right that my voice is heard at last.
D: To be honest, no. Don't get me wrong, the subject matter would be difficult for any actor to explore, but this is Ann's own true story. So, of course, sometimes rehearsals are raw. Distressing, even. But there is trust between us; we have created a space in which it is safe to be dangerous. Also, we both laugh like drains. A lot.
What reaction do you expect from an audience?
A: The subject of this story is one that many people will have seen portrayed by actors in films, on television and in other theatres. But how many will have seen such a story portrayed by the person to whom it actually happened? I’m not saying that what I am doing is unique, but I don’t think it happens a lot. Judging by the reaction received in 2018 when it was a work in progress; I expect tears, laughter, shock and questions - lots of questions. As long as there are questions, I'll be
happy. Green Door is very much about starting conversations, spreading knowledge and, ultimately, finding solutions and saving lives.
D: There will be as many different reactions as there are people in the audience. For those who are directly affected by it, I hope for the strength to talk, to heal and to triumph. For the rest, I hope they will become a little more aware and appreciative of their loved ones.
What piece of advice would you give your younger self:
A: In 1976, when you see child actress Chloe Franks being interviewed on Blue Peter about her role in the film Escape From The Dark, and she tells the presenter that the most important asset an actress needs is to be beautiful, your options are to:
a) Believe you are beautiful too.
b) Research which drama school Chloe Franks went to and nag your mum and dad to send you to a better one.
c) Tell Chloe Franks she’s talking out her ass.
The option to believe Chloe Franks and go and work in an office does not exist!