Interview: ASHLEY MILNE, Bad Dog (Edinburgh Fringe)

I'm so excited to have my first theatre-themed interview on this blog and especially thrilled that it's with my dear friend, Ashley Milne, the writer of Bad Dog which is currently on at the Edinburgh Fringe. Ashley is a student at the University of York and I can't wait to see what plays (and musicals) she will write in the future.

Bad Dog is on at the Edinburgh Fringe to 18 August. It is an original psychological horror exploring sisterhood and trauma. It is co-directed by Alice Lloyd-Davies and Ben Wilson and stars Sophie Lorraine Parkin as Eve and Jess Corner as Grace.

How did you become interested in writing plays?
I've loved theatre for as long as I can remember, and was acting for basically all of my childhood. At the same time, I was journalling obsessively, writing very sad poems about girls I thought were pretty and whacking out little short stories and the like. At A-Level, my Drama/Performing Arts courses involved some low-level writing and devising, and me and my good pals (Rhiannon Culley and Charlie Pittman!) ended up realising we wanted to try this writing malarky outside of school and wrote a musical called Bridge Over Oblivion. The experience of that and the support of my family and friends made me realise that if I wasn't writing for theatre, it was a big old mistake, and so I've been trying to write for the stage ever since!

(Fun fact: I did a monologue from Bridge Over Oblivion for my Acting for Non-Majors class last year.) 

What's it like studying at the University of York? 
Dreamy. I love my course, Theatre: Writing, Directing and Performance, and all the friends I've made there -- including my collaborators Alice Lloyd-Davies and Ben Wilson! -- but I mostly just really love the Drama Society for letting me play silly parts and mess around, but also for supporting my writing inside the Drama Barn and externally, by taking it to the Fringe.

What plays or playwrights are you really excited about right now? Whose work do you admire? 
No surprise to anyone who knows me at all, but I think Alistair McDowall is the most exciting, interesting playwright to come out of British theatre in the past decade; is the most fascinating relationship drama I can think of, and I reread his Plays One whenever I feel like I'm hitting a creative wall. 

I'm also hugely inspired by the work of Lucy Prebble, Simon Stephens, Lucy Kirkwood, Nick Payne, Polly Stenham and Stacey Gregg to name a few. I wish I could be a little more eloquent as to why, I just think they've been telling incredible stories. I also think Bad Dog probably has echoes of Sarah Kane and Mark Ravenhill in there -- and by echoes, I mean blatant theft.

Sophie Parkin in Bad Dog
Can you describe Bad Dog to us?
This is the kind of question that has a tendency to flummox me, because in my head it's about some very specific things but also not very much at all. I hope it's a spooky story about two sisters trying to reconcile themselves to their past, but I also think it could probably be about quite a few other things. 

How excited are you to be bringing this show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival? 
Just reading that sentence made my heart do a little flip. I really, really, really cannot wait to see all the incredible theatre that the Fringe has to offer, meet people who have made amazing work, and watch the amazing Sophie Parkin and Jess Corner say words that I wrote every day. 

Can you talk about its trajectory from being written to going up to Edinburgh? 
I wrote first drafts of Bad Dog to be assess for my degree, which feels like a very long time ago really. It was performed in a one night show in the University of York's Drama Barn, and we got quite a positive response, so me, Ben, and Alice decided to stay up till half three in the morning writing a pitch for DramaSoc to take it to the Edinburgh Fringe. And then the next night, we did another all-nighter making a presentation. The next day, Ben texted me at work to say it'd been selected and I cried behind the till. 

What's your favourite thing about this piece? 
The people who are working on it. I don't know anyone I trust more than Ben, Alice, Sophie, and Jess; they're all such committed, sensitive people who really bring the best out of the text and add more to it than I ever thought possible. It really is beyond my wildest dreams. 

What's been the most challenging thing about it thus far? 
I really am trying to think of a challenge and am struggling. Other than my little fears and worries about the rug being pulled out from under my feet and everyone laughing because I'm not a writer after all, and all the shaking I do anytime Bad Dog gets performed, I really have loved every moment of it. 

Sophie Parkin in Bad Dog
Why should people come see Bad Dog
Because a lot of people I truly believe to be the future of British theatre have worked on it. I think it'll probably suck you in for its forty-five minute running time, just because the atmosphere the team have created is so intense and nuanced and wonderful. 

Are you working on anything else right now? Anything exciting coming up? 
I'm currently nearing the end of writing my newest play, called Snort, Inhale, Dissolve to be performed in the Drama Barn next term -- also directed by Alice and starring Sophie Parkin and James Chetwood. I hope people like that one as much as they've liked Bad Dog. And I submitted some of Bad Dog sometime ago to the Royal Court Theatre and -- somehow -- managed to get into their New Writer's Programme, so that's also a fun and exciting writing thing I get to do! 

You can find Bad Dog on Facebook and Twitter and buy tickets online. You can also find Ashley Milne on Twitter. Let me know if any of you go see the show! 

Bad Dog's show poster was made by Eleanor Hibbert. Photos of Sophie Parkin by Greg Tiani. 
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