Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Sarah Page: Punts

By | Published on Tuesday 30 May 2017

We are always tipping and featuring stuff by producing company Kuleshov round these parts, and that’s because they are always doing interesting, thoughtful, clever stuff. Their latest show ‘Punts’ sounds like no exception.
To find out more about what to expect, I spoke to playwright Sarah Page.

CM: Can you start by giving us an idea of what the show is about? What’s the story, and who are the central characters?
SP: ‘Punts’ is about Antonia and Alastair, loving parents who hire a sex worker to take their disabled son’s virginity. It begins with the evening Julia, the prostitute, visits the family’s home and shows the fallout of this event on each of the characters’ lives. The play centres around the sexual awakening of Jack, which is carefully orchestrated by his parents.

CM: What themes do you explore through the play?
SP: It explores several themes but, at its heart, ‘Punts’ is a play about the various, often contradictory, forms of love – familial love, romantic and sexual attachment, the jealousy of finding yourself loved less than another, the sometimes destructive power of love and the paradox of wanting to look after those you love while also wanting them to be free.

CM: What inspired you to tackle this story? What made you want to write about this topic in particular?
SP: My interest in the subject matter first started with an argument about decriminalising sex work between a group of my university friends. I realised that this is something that people had strong, often black and white, opinions about and I wanted to explore if there were any grey areas where people might meet in the middle. I started my research by visiting the red-light district in Amsterdam and arranging interviews with sex workers. The central idea for ‘Punts’ came out of these interviews.

CM: The focus on sex workers, those working with people with learning disabilities – was it your desire to bring the issues that affect them into the spotlight?
SP: I’m always interested in exploring worlds that we don’t often see on stage – in this case, a view of sex work that we might not have seen before and the sexual empowerment of a young man with a learning disability. However, I’d certainly say that this isn’t an ‘issues’ play. My intention wasn’t to raise awareness or change audience members’ minds – though I think people could come out of seeing the play with completely different opinions on sex work.

CM: Is it a funny play?
SP: Definitely. Humour is a useful tool to draw in audiences – to make them like your characters and lean back a little in their seats before unsettling them. I love plays that dare to find the comedy in the darker moments – some of my favourite playwrights like Stuart Slade and Jez Butterworth do this masterfully.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the interviews you did with sex workers? How do they inform the piece?
SP: In researching ‘Punts’ I interviewed a number of sex workers based in London, ranging from women working on the streets, those employed in Soho walk-ups, to a retired dominatrix who used to earn an annual income higher than our Prime Minister. All of the women had, at some point in their career, worked with clients with physical and mental disabilities. It was from these fascinating, often moving, stories that ‘Punts’ emerged.

CM: As playwright, have you been much involved with the actual production?
SP: Kuleshov and Theatre503 have encouraged me to be involved in all aspects of the production, which has been wonderful. It’s been a really collaborative process and I’ve been fortunate to find myself working with a very talented cast and creative team.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about said cast and creative team?
SP: I’m delighted that the creative team is female-led, with a female writer, director, producer, designer and stage manager. Kuleshov’s producers Holly Hooper and Stuart Slade are at the helm alongside the director Jessica Edwards. The creative team also includes designer Amelia Jane Hankin, sound designer Owen Crouch, production manager Will Herman and stage manager Annabell Arndt. We’re also thrilled to have secured a fantastic cast – Christopher Adams, Clare Lawrence-Moody, Graham O’Mara and Florence Roberts.

CM: What’s next for this production, and for Kuleshov?
SP: Kuleshov have a number of superb, new plays in development, details of which will be announced in the coming months. And as for ‘Punts’… well, you’ll have to wait and see!

‘Punts’ is on at Theatre503 from 31 May-24 Jun. See the venue website here for more information and to book.

LINKS: | |