“Representation of women is hugely important to me as a writer” – Laura Turner

Chloe Deakin | 18th June 2018

image credit: John Aron

Chapterhouse Theatre Company are bringing open-air adaptations of well-loved classic stories to over 180 of the UK and Ireland’s most beautiful garden venues throughout the summer. VIVA spoke to Laura Turner, associate playwright, to find out more about Chapterhouse Theatre Company and her own career.

What was your favourite story growing up?

It’s hard to pinpoint just one story as I was a total bookworm! Jacqueline Wilson and Enid Blyton were two of my favourites when I was very young and I think certainly had a big impact on me growing up. The first single book I remember having a really strong reaction to was Jane Eyre. I read it when I was about 13 and I identified so clearly with the character and was just gripped from page to page – it was like nothing I’d ever read before and I genuinely felt that thrill of discovering a book that feels like it is yours and yours alone while you’re reading it.

Who inspires you as a writer?

So many of the brilliant directors and actors I work with inspire me to constantly be braver with my writing and the creative choices I make. Collaboration is so key to this industry and it’s really exciting to discover what happens when all those voices get in a room together.

What is the most enjoyable part of your job?

Getting to do what you love is an absolute joy and privilege. I feel very lucky to be working on a variety of different projects at the moment – as well as the adaptations of classic novels for Chapterhouse, I write my own original plays and a number of film and television projects.

What is the least enjoyable part of your job?

Sometimes it’s hard forcing myself to sit inside alone on my laptop and write when there are deadlines looming – today being a good example of that as it’s the first sunny day of the year but I am ensconced in the library!

the adventures of sherlock holmes adaptation by Laura Turner, chapterhouse theatre company

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Saturday 14th July at Dunham Massey

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

I think highlights are a difficult concept in this industry as I really believe you’re only as good as the project you’re working on and what’s coming up next – you can’t ever stop or rest on your laurels. I’m constantly looking forwards and trying to do more and do it better. But of course there are projects over the years that stick out as particularly memorable, usually because everything came together and there was a sense of creative magic happening with the actors and the directors, which is really exciting. Little Women this year is feeling like one of those – I’m very excited about it.

How do you choose which stories you will adapt?

It’s a conversation between myself and the artistic team at Chapterhouse, led by Producer and Artistic Director Richard Main. We think about which texts will have an appeal to our audience and stories that will reflect and respond to the beautiful open-air venues we tour to. Then for me it’s thinking about why I would write an adaptation of that particular novel – how does it relate to today, what reflections and connections between the past and the present does it inspire? Representation of women is hugely important to me as a writer so this always plays a part in our decisions.

How does your version of each story differ from the originals we all know and love?

My process of adaptation has evolved over the years. When I first started I would focus very closely on the text of the original, often copying out dialogue or scenes from the book to shape them into a dramatic narrative. Now I have a much looser relationship with the novel in some senses. What I focus on now is trying to capture or engage with the heart of the novel: what it made me feel when I read it, the atmosphere it conjured, the questions and tensions at the centre of the story. I’m passionate about true and honest representation of character. It’s the characters people remember from stories, so I focus on capturing these truthfully. And of course, the most memorable scenes from any novel will always be present in any good adaptation!

Which is your favourite adaptation so far?

I have really fond memories of several! Jane Eyre was always going to be a special project for me as I love the novel so much, but Little Women became a really personal project to me – perhaps because Jo the main character is also a writer. I’m excited to see it come to life this summer.

Finally, what advice would you give to someone who is hoping to pursue script writing as a career?

Write every day. Even if it’s just a sentence or a few lines – whatever kind of writer you want to be, practice is the only way to get better at it. Don’t be afraid to share your work with people you trust as well. Feedback is such a huge part of this industry, it’s not only good to get used to it as soon as you can – it also really helps you develop as a writer, throwing up new ideas and conversations. Most of all – enjoy it!

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Saturday 4th August at Dunham Massey

Four of Laura Turner’s classical adaptations are heading to Greater Manchester this Summer. The first adaptation, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, will arrive at the Waterside Arts Centre in Sale on Thursday 28 June. Three more adaptations will then arrive at Dunham Massey in July and August including The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes on Saturday 14 July, Sense and Sensibility on Sunday 22 July and, new this year, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland on Saturday 4 August. Get your tickets from the Chapterhouse Theatre Company website.