Artistic Director Vicky Featherstone on curating Snatches: Moments from 100 Years of Women's Lives for BBC Four

Published on Thu 14 Jun 2018

An interview with Royal Court Artistic Director Vicky Featherstone, originally published by the BBC Media Centre, ahead of the broadcast of Snatches: Moments from 100 Years of Women’s Lives. The eight monologues, curated by Vicky Featherstone, will be broadcast on BBC Four at 10pm Monday 18 June 2018 – Thursday 21 June 2018. For more information click here.

How did you get involved in the project?
Jonty Claypole, who is Head of BBC Arts, approached me and asked if I’d be interested in doing a parallel project to Mark Gatiss’s Queers monologues, marking the 50th Anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act. Jonty asked me to commission eight women writers to respond to the 100th year anniversary since some women got the vote.

As a female creative was it important for you to mark the 100th anniversary of suffrage?
As a country I think we’re a bit obsessed with anniversaries. Britain loves looking back – we love our tradition, our nostalgia and our past. I’m actually much more interested in looking forwards. It’s about how we could celebrate, but actually learn from it and think about the future. So it was a really interesting challenge.

How did you go about selecting the writers, and did they decide on the subject matter for the monologues?
The Royal Court artistic team came up with a list of writers who I thought would be interesting, that came from different backgrounds, with different levels of writing experience that would be representative of eight women today. It was important that I was asking them, as playwrights, to write their monologue for television, in terms of the way into it and thinking about the form and what they would write about.

We had a fantastic researcher, Sam Brown, who came up with a timeline of moments in women’s history, political and social, from the last 100 years. The writers responded to subjects they connected with and picked an area which became their story.

What was important to you in the casting process?
Because the writers have written such a broad range of characters, we’ve got an 18 year-old actress and an 80 year-old actress, the age span is extraordinary. The writers are all very different and distinctively needed different things in terms of the actresses, so I’m very proud of the brilliant calibre and the range of actresses that we were able to attract.

What are the challenges and positives about working within a 15 minute context?
In theatre the monologue form is incredibly dynamic because it’s someone talking directly to the audience.

I think it’s almost the opposite on screen, because audiences are so used to high action and great things being able to happen, that the simplicity of the monologue can sometimes be quite challenging. So the structure was very important in terms of how we tell stories and how we keep the audience interested.

What do you hope will attract audiences to the monologues?
I hope they’ll primarily be entertained, challenged, provoked and a bit surprised by how they look.

There’s something about the voices represented in the monologues. They’re stories we haven’t heard before and moments of history that would otherwise have been forgotten if we hadn’t done this project.

Was it exciting to be able to cast a largely female production, acting and writing team?
It’s been a really interesting experiment, from what started as a playful challenge between the producer Debbie Christie and myself, and became something that we committed to. I think everyone learnt a lot and commented that it’s really rare to be in an almost all-female filming environment. We proved it’s almost achievable.

How have you found working in TV differs from the theatre process?
Fundamentally, at heart, it’s exactly the same. It’s about ideas, ambition and trying to communicate to an audience through drama – it’s just the medium that’s different.

We’ve had amazing people to work with, so, I think it’s a really good model for developing talent and bringing people into the industry that might not have had the opportunities.

The format allows for people’s individual creativity to be shown and these films have enabled people to do it.