An Interview with Penelope Skinner
Penelope Skinner, author of Eigengrau, was kind enough to grant an exclusive interview with us for our first production. Find out below her thoughts on the play, feminism and love....
Feminism in her work
It’s more like a reflection or experience for a particular perspective which inevitably encompasses my work. In Eigengrau it’s overt because one of the characters is a feminist.
I feel a responsibility to write parts for women in which women say something, because I think there’s not enough of that at the moment.
With plays you always think you have a message, but by the time it’s written and it’s on stage, you don’t really have control over what it’s expressing. I guess the interpretation depends on the person watching it, but feminism is certainly the intention.
Being a feminist
It’s complex. I used to not identify myself externally as a feminist. When I was a student I wasn’t aware of any feminist organisations at university. It had become very unpopular for a while and it’s beginning to become popular again which is great. I have writing contemporaries who also identify themselves as feminists and I know women in London who are active, campaigning feminists. It’s easier than it was to become a feminist but you still encounter the negative perception that it’s anti-men. You can understand where that comes from but that isn’t what it really is.
It’s possible to internalise the messages of mainstream culture to the point where you don’t understand whether it’s what you think [internally], or something that you have received [externally] and this is shown in Mark and Rose’s interaction in Scene 15 in particular - neither of them really want to be doing what they’re doing but both feel they have to.
My personal view is that I am more concerned with how the women in pornography are treated and where it comes from - the origins of porn. I think we can miss the point about looking at the effects on the consumer and not at what is really going on in what can be really violent porn.
The initial inspiration for the play
I think that Tim Muffin was maybe the first character, but the initial inspiration was living in London and dealing with life: finding somewhere to live and the impossibility (it seemed) of finding work you didn’t need to be qualified for.
I guess the voices section come from that overwhelming feeling of searching and everything being available, but at the same time nothing being available to you due to lack of training or money. It all starts to feel insurmountable. From that the characters emerged.
They are all extensions or aspects of myself and experiences I’ve had. When we did the London show, so many of the reviews were derogatory about Tim Muffin, but Mark’s view of Tim wasn’t necessarily the view of Tim - of a loser or a lazy slob - that you were supposed to take. I certainly don’t think that he’s a lazy slob so probably I have the most sympathy for Tim. In a way, Mark is the one you would least want to be. He’s the most apparently well-off but underneath it all his capacity to be happy is more limited.
Cassie is an aspect of the angry rediscovery of feminism I was interested in exploring at the time of writing the play. And I think many people believe Rose is crazy, but - in terms of the conversations she has with Cassie - most of my friends and I have definitely all had our Rose moments!
The truth is we’re all crazy when it comes to love.
Many thanks to Penelope Skinner for giving an interview.
Interview conducted and edited by Michaela Frances in February 2013.
Penelope has won The George Devine Award (2011) and the Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright (2011), and has been dubbed ‘our leading young feminist writer’ by The Independent. For more information on Penelope’s work, including upcoming projects, click here!