Director of the acclaimed Expensive Sh*t, Adura Onsahile, has been appointed by the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh to spend a year working on a full-length play at the theatre.

She spoke with The Fountain about her past history in theatre, and what she hopes to achieve with this appointment.

TF: Exciting stuff with the new appointment with the Traverse to work on a full length play?

It is a really wonderful opportunity to develop myself as a playwright in a supportive environment, with the input of the wonderful Traverse artistic team. I am at a point where I am keen to develop my skills, and this is a real stamp of approval that I’m heading in the right direction.

TF: And what has your previous experience been like with the theatre?

I wrote and directed Expensive Sh*t as part of Traverse Festival 2016. It was a real honour to have the show at the Traverse, as for years its programme has been a highlight of the festival for me. Over the years some of the most seminal pieces of theatre I have seen have been on the Traverse stage. It was also my directorial debut, and debuting at the Traverse during the Fringe meant that a high volume of folk were seeing my work for the first time on quite a prestigious platform. The pressure was high, but thankfully the show was well received and I learnt a great deal about what sort of support I need as a playwright and director.

TF: Have you any concepts or synopsis yet for this play?

You know, in the past when I’ve asked more experienced writers what they have been working on, I have often got the reply “I don’t really know!”, because they were in the thick of it, and now I’m finding I’m in that same boat. Sometimes you know the area or question you are exploring but don’t yet know exactly where it’s going to end up, so I am reticent to say the piece is about this or that. What I will say is that it is a subject matter that is really important to me personally, whilst also being part of a prescient contemporary conversation.

TF: What is your background Adura, I am aware that you wrote Expensive Sh*t, but how did you get your foot in?

I spent many years primarily as a performer, but I always knew I wanted to lead my own projects. I have now written two pieces – HeLa and Expensive Sh*t. I started writing the one-woman show, HeLa, because I loved the complexities of the Henrietta Lacks story. It also allowed me to play a complex character and lead a multi-artform process.

How did I get my foot in? Well, initially my drive was to head my own projects and I did this by developing a relationship with Creative Scotland. I applied for a small artist development fund to start researching HeLa. I was unknown as a maker but because I was only applying for a very small amount, I suppose I wasn’t high risk and I sort of developed from there. Showing the work had legs meant that I could apply for a little more the next time. In the end I was developing HeLa over a three-year period, not full-time but that’s the level of dedication needed to get stuff off the ground when you are starting out.

The success of HeLa at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2013 opened up writing doors for me, because I could now be seen as a writer as well as a performer. Expensive Sh*t was one step further, as it was a four-hander that I was also directing. I think there was a trajectory between the two shows that meant I could be considered a writer.

TF: What is your hope with this new appointment, where do you long to go next?

I hope it results in a good piece of work that has something to say! I would love to continue to develop as a writer and as a director for mid-scale work. I would love to direct something on the Lyceum stage, for example, because those sorts of stages are not always readily available to the sorts of subjects and ideas I want to explore.

Photo courtesy of Sally Jubb.

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