Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Lights Down Productions: Hear Me Howl

By | Published on Sunday 16 September 2018

Beginning a run at the Old Red Lion this week is a production from a very promising new company, Lights Down Productions. ‘Hear Me Howl’ is an excellent sounding piece looking at the choices available to women, with particular reference to the decision whether or not to reproduce.

It sounds like a fairly seriously themed piece, but actually, it sounds like it might be a bit of a riot. To find out more about it, I spoke to three representatives of the group – producer Caley Powell, director Kay Michael and writer Lydia Rynne.

CM: Can you start by telling us what story Hear Me Howl tells? What’s the play about?
Lights Down Productions: Hear Me Howl is something that Lydia and Kay have been developing for 2 years now, with the support of Soho Theatre Young Company. It came from the frustration of feeling that whilst there were plenty of shows exploring the difficulty women might have to conceive; there were no stories of women deciding that they didn’t want children at all.

We wanted to explore this from the point of view of someone reaching the age where people (rather annoyingly) start asking women if and when they’re going to “settle down”. So our protagonist Jess is turning thirty, ostensibly has a job and partner that should make her happy, but radically starts to question the direction her life is going in and whether she wants to be a mother at all. Along the way she meets two kick-ass post-punk musicians who enable a musical, political and philosophical revolution in Jess’s life.

CM: What are the themes the play explores?
Lights Down Productions: This is an empowering pro-choice play, in every sense of what ‘pro-choice’ can mean for anyone of any gender today. It explores a woman’s rage at society’s conventional expectations of her, and how that anger can be harnessed to overturn the norm. It’s a liberation story. In Jess’s case her liberation comes via her discovery of music-making. She uses her drumsticks to express something that her body and words are unable to, and in the process discovers something bigger than herself: a world that, like her, needs deeper care and attention. With her new band members she engages for the first time in activism, particularly environmental activism – arguably one of the most important themes of our time.

CM: How would you describe the style of the production? What approach have you taken to the text?
Lights Down Productions: The text and the production has been heavily inspired by punk and post-punk. So, aesthetically there’s a very DIY thing going on; we’re trying to not give too much of a shit. We’re working to capture something anarchic and playful. Musically, the rhythms and screeches of punk music have inspired the writing and how the words come out of Jess’s mouth.

CM: What attracted the company to this piece and its themes?
Lights Down Productions: The comedy. Which people are often surprised by for a play such as this. But it is really very funny. Lydia has quite a unique, quirky voice, and Jess’s character is very relatable and inspiring because of that.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the playwright?
Lights Down Productions: Lydia is soon to be graduating from National Film and Television School, where she was the Odeon Scholar. She’s currently on commission to Horizon Films, so keep your eyes on your screens! But the stage has always been her first love. She’s been a Soho Theatre Young Writer for a couple of years now, and is currently one of their Comedy Sketch Lab writers. Earlier this year her first full-length play ‘The Buzz’ came second place in the inaugural Bread and Roses Playwriting Award and performed a lauded three-week run earlier this year. She was also a finalist in the BFI/Creative England Funny Girls’ scheme.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the performer?
Lights Down Productions: We found our actress Alice Pitt-Carter whilst casting for our work in progress performance at Landor Space at the beginning of the year. Our producer thought she had a great look for the character so brought her into audition and then realised that her sister is the best friend from school of our writer Lydia. So Alice shares a similar upbringing with Lydia (both from Bournemouth) and also has a unique insight into Lydia’s brain! Amazingly Alice had just under 3 weeks to learn to play the drums for the role. But she’s got natural musical gifts. She’s also one to watch, having been nominated for Best Lead Actress at the International Film Festival 2016.

CM: Lights Down Productions is a fairly new company – can you tell us how it came together and what aims it has?
Lights Down Productions: After producing for over 2 years Caley decided to set up the company with an aim to produce female led plays. It’s an exciting time to be committed to telling stories that place women front and centre. ‘Hear Me Howl’ is Lights Down Productions’ first production.

CM: What plans does the company have for the show after the run at the Old Red Lion?
Lights Down Productions: After our run at The Old Red Lion Theatre we’re hoping to secure a regional tour for the play in 2019. We’re also keen to make the band Jess joins in the play a reality. So, watch out for some kind of post-post-punk band touring in the near future too! EPs, web-series… We dream big.

CM: What other plans do you have? What’s coming up in the future?
Lights Down Productions: As well as ‘Hear Me Howl’, Caley is also producing a new play called ‘Shards’ written by Catherine O’Shea, and is always on the hunt for new female led projects. Lydia and Kay have worked together for 10 years now since their uni days, and they don’t see that stopping…


‘Hear Me Howl’ is on at the Old Red Lion Theatre from 18-29 Sep, see the venue website here for more information and to book.