Features Q&A and Interviews Published 28 March 2011

Ella Hickson

On audience choice and writing away from herself.

Natasha Tripney

Ella Hickson has just pulled an all-nighter. The playwright has been working on re-writes for the forthcoming London transfer of her play Precious Little Talent to the Trafalgar Studios. First staged at the Bedlam Theatre during the 2009 Edinburgh Fringe, it’s being revised and revived with a new cast and director and with no scene left unmodified.

Precious Little Talent is a nuanced and affecting three-hander about an English girl who, having recently lost her job, embarks on a visit to her father in the United States. There she meets and falls for a bright-eyed American and comes to terms with her father’s gradual physical diminishing. It’s the deals – or at least dealt – elegantly with the cultural gulf between England and America, but more importantly it was one of the first plays that dealt overtly and astutely with what it meant to arrive at adulthood during a time when the rules seemed to be shifting, the ground unsteady.

The play’s themes if anything seem more pertinent, more broadly applicable than they did a couple of years ago. “We haven’t come that far,” says Hickson. In fact the optimism of America has waned, the picture has grown bleaker. “It will be interesting to see how it’s perceived now. Most importantly for me is that age group, to see how they feel about it.”

Precious Little Talent rehearsals at the Rag Factory, Aldgate East. Photo: Idil Sukan

The play was also one of the few fringe plays of that year to feel limited by its slot, to feel like it would benefit from a bit of room to breathe: now Hickson has that room. The Bedlam production was directed by Hickson herself this new revival will be directed by James Dacre (director of Theatre 503’s Olivier-winning production of Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop). Is it a wrench to step back from her work in this way and entrust it to someone else? “I have a huge amount of trust in James Dacre; we’re a very symbiotic pairing. We share ideas very laterally and he’s as open to suggestion as I am.” She seems to be relishing the process and the fact that someone else’s input can “show you things in your own writing you didn’t ever realise were there.”


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Natasha Tripney

Natasha co-founded Exeunt in 2011 and was editor until 2016. She's now lead critic and reviews editor for The Stage, and has written about theatre and the arts for the Guardian, Time Out, the Independent, Lonely Planet and Tortoise.

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