Edinburgh Fringe show based on 7th July 2005 London bombings
Whenever I Get Blown Up I Think of You addresses 7/7 London attacks
This article is from 2010.
Poet and playwright Molly Naylor was aboard one of the trains attacked on 7/7. David Pollock speaks to her about the difficult task of putting a personal and national trauma onto the stage
Molly Naylor is nervous, she doesn’t mind admitting. That’s partly because her first ever one-woman Edinburgh Fringe show is nearing the end of its rehearsal period when I speak to her, and is about to be unleashed upon preview audiences within a matter of days. And it’s partly because the show itself deals with such a monumental and painful event in not just her life, but in the lives of many others and the consciousness of an entire nation. ‘It’s a story told through poetry,’ she says. ‘It’s a coming of age story, but with a twist. It’s a true story about growing up, and also about the 7/7 bombings, because I was on one of the trains. And through this story I want to look at human fallibility, at how we deal with events which throw us off course and how we put things back together after they’ve been torn apart.’
Which sounds like heavy going, although Naylor’s CV suggests we might not want to attach too many preconceptions either way. Originally from Cornwall but now based in Norwich, she’s an alumna of the well-respected Masters in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, and has read her work at festivals such as Glastonbury, Latitude and the Big Chill. She writes and directs stage plays, and is in the midst of writing a TV sitcom. ‘It’s a question I get at parties: what do you do for a living?’ she sighs, when asked pretty much that exact thing. ‘I just say I’m a writer, that’s easiest.’
How does she tie all of these different strings together in one show? ‘It’s a dialogue between me and the audience members, there is no fourth wall. Within that there are bits of comedy and very lyrical moments which are told with poetry. Different parts of the story lend themselves to different modes of delivery, and from events which don’t contain much humour at all, I just looked back and saw funny things there after all.’
Naylor hopes that she’s written a story that’s recognisable to everyone about growing up, making mistakes and learning from them, and about the different ways in which humans connect with each other and the various relationships we all have. ‘The bombings link into that because it was a human who made the decision to set them off, and their decision then had an effect on other humans around them, even people on the periphery like me, who still had that connection within the moment and have to deal with the aftermath.’
Was it perhaps a cathartic piece to write? ‘No, not at all,’ Naylor says flatly. ‘Perhaps if I had started to write it directly after [the bombing] it would have been a form of therapy, and I really didn’t want that. I want it to be a good story, to be entertaining and to say something to an audience about what it is to be human and how we live our life. I talk about me, but I really want to say something about everyone else.’
I wonder if perhaps there is a part of her which worries about how the piece might be perceived, given the subject? Will audiences think she’s being too flippant, too overwrought, too bold? ‘I hope I’ve managed to get that balance. I certainly don’t want to make light of what happened, I just want people to enjoy the journey I go on. It’s a long and complicated one, and there are moments of sadness, of humour, of revelation. I would love to know what someone else who was there thinks of it. I don’t think it would alienate them, I just think it would be really interesting to see if our experiences were different or the same, and in what ways.’ Perhaps this show itself is one big rehearsal for that conversation.
Whenever I Get Blown Up I Think of You, The Zoo, Pleasance, 0131 662 6892, 8–30 Aug (not 17, 24), 1.55pm, £7.50. Previews 6 & 7 Aug, £5.