Why We Tell The Story: In Conversation with Mimi Monteith

Mimi Monteith will premiere her second play, ‘Sonder’, this February at the Bread and Roses Theatre. Before hearing about this play, I don’t think I had come across the word ‘Sonder’ before. After doing a little digging, it turns out the word was first coined by John Koenig as part of his project,’ The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows’. It refers to the realisation that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. In this interview, Mimi and I discuss what first drew her to write this piece about abortion rights and the importance of sonder in a debate as polarising as this one.

Name: Mimi Monteith

Role: Playwright

Favourite Show/Play: The best play I’ve read is Girls and Boys by Dennis Kelly – It shattered me to the point a stranger gave me a hug on the tube because I was crying so much!

Favourite Part About the Theatre: For two reasons, I think it’s the risk of it all. Firstly, everyone in the industry has risked a lot to be a part of it and it always comes from a place of great passion and commitment, which I think is extraordinary when it comes to pulling a team together. Secondly, it is sitting in a theatre, knowing no show is going to be the same on any night and that it could fall flat at any minute. Everyone holds their breath at the same time, from the audience to the technicians and actors, and it is an unparalleled energy to be around.

Q: Can you tell us what Sonder is all about?

A: Sonder is about a woman brought up to believe that the fact that she did not want children was a respected choice. When she does fall pregnant, she finds herself hugely pressurised to not have an abortion. The show opens up the other side of this argument, allowing the counterpoint to have a voice where it hasn’t been given one before.

Q: What drew you to write this piece in particular? 

A: I think we live in a society where we don’t listen to one another in political debate. I have seen two people debate Brexit for too long, both going in circles and only in the debate so that they can hear themselves affirm their own beliefs. For that reason, when I saw so much protest in America about the abortion laws that had been passed, I wanted to play devils advocate and try and find a way to allow the opposing side to have a voice. The play is pro – choice, but it was important to me that I could at least attempt to understand the decision that was made, when the decision is so terrifying to me.


Q: Sonder is your second play, how has creating this piece been different if at all from your first?

A: I think that with everything, the first time you do it, it is the most scary. Things are always going to go wrong at some point and I think I’m able to approach this show with a lot more clarity and calmness this time round!


Q: Who are your inspirations?

A: David Eldridge’s ‘Beginning’ is the best thing I’ve seen in the last few years – the way he brings out soul from everyday conversation is incomparable. And of course – I want Phoebe Waller Bridge’s career, but I’d settle for being her best friend?


Q: Do you have any advice for writers who are starting out?

A: I’m not sure I can count myself outside of these writers, but my aim that I’ve stuck to since I have started is to ‘always keep the ball in play’.


Q: What do you hope audiences will take away from Sonder?

A: I hope that people come out of the play with an attitude that is open to other people’s perspectives. Just because someone has a different view to you doesn’t make them the most extreme and negative version of it. It is important to listen and understand, before jumping to aggression.That aside, I think its an important story to be told, and I’m really excited to show the piece of work.

 

Thanks for reading and a big thank you to Mimi for the interview. You can catch Sonder at the Bread and Roses Theatre in Clapham from 18 – 23 February 2020.

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