"Oi! What you lookin' at!?" Theatregoers in Hammersmith be warned - Sophie Woolley is as hard as nails, and soon she'll have a play to prove it.
Fight Face, at the Lyric for two nights only, is the story of an ordinary kebab shop fight, told in an extraordinary way.
Part of the Lyric Firsts programme, the shows cost a mere £3 and serve as a run-through to get feedback for the full production planned for September.
Sophie, the play's author and star, kindly agreed to tell all to the London Informer.
Christian McLaughlin: Tell us about Fight Face.
Sophie Woolley: Producers at the Lyric saw my last play When to Run, loved it, and asked if I had anything else I'd like to write. I said, 'Yeah, I want to write a two-person play about a fight outside a west London kebab shop.'
When to Run was a one-person play in which I played four characters, so I'm gradually working my way up. I play six characters in this one, as does Richard Katz, the other actor. We have a lot of fun being lazy builders and having kebab shop arguments.
CM : Six characters each?
SW : Believe it or not. I play the female characters: Leanne - cocky teenager from Essex visiting London and looking for a fight; Tabitha - horny artist from east London; Helen - young mum with a baby and a short temper; Olenka - Polish woman who is arguing with her ex over their pets; Mary - cynical police community support officer.
Richard plays the male characters: Jenghiz - kebab shop worker who's coming to the end of his tether;
Jerry - morose drunk who keeps getting thrown out of the strip club;
Eric - a pensioner who gets lucky with an accumulator; Charlie - hopeless romantic/cynical police community support office; Carl - hoodie with his pride and joy, a staff (staffordshire bull terrier); Carl - bored, hanging outside the takeaway and waiting for something to happen.
The two of us each play a builder as well. They're supposed to be fitting out a tanning shop.
CM : How on earth does that work?
SW : You'll have to come and see... CM: How did you get the idea?
SW : I took inspiration from seeing someone have a go at a takeaway bloke for no reason. I also wanted to do more physical acting, When to Run was all about speaking.
CM : Have you been involved with drama since a young age?
SW : I was about 11 and my teacher at Harlesden Primary school let me write the school play. My mum used to take me to plays, but in my teens there was no drama at school. It took 20 more years before I wrote When to Run, which I finished in 2005 after university at Leeds. As for acting, I kind of learnt by trial and error. I performed in discos such as 333 in east London with characters I made up such as a despicable and evil DJ groupie called DJ Bird. That was a pretty tough environment to start in, it's not like theatre audiences which can't talk, wander off to the bar, or go for a dance.
CM : How did you gather the courage to follow an artistic career?
SW : I must have been nuts. I didn't have a game plan, I just had a lot of
energy and ideas. I never really pegged myself as a theatre type until Soho Theatre invited me to do a year-long course as a writer on their writers' attachment programme, which I absolutely loved.
CM : Would you advise others to do the same?
SW : Yes. When you're trying to make it as a writer/actor you're on your own. But programmes like the one at Soho Theatre and Lyric Firsts mean you can work in a big venue with back up from professionals from the word go. It's a different experience.
CM : What's the biggest reward?
SW : They keep coming. Radio 4 bought my last play, which was exciting. But the whole process of writing and performing is always very satisfying. The applause and audience response is a bonus, if I didn't know people loved it I'd do something else.
Fight Face, by Sophie Woolley, is at the Lyric Studio, Lyric Square, Hammersmith, Friday (June 20) and Saturday (June 21) at 8pm. £3. Call 08712 211729. See www.lyric.co.uk