Interview : Chris Woodley, The Soft Subject (A Love Story)

Interview : Chris Woodley, The Soft Subject (A Love Story)

Photo : Chris Woodley, star of The Soft Subject (A Love Story) | Credit : David Monteith-Hodge

TODAY’S LESSON IS ABOUT LOVE, HEARTBREAK AND THE LITTLE MERMAID. CHRIS WOODLEY’S AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SOLO SHOW THE SOFT SUBJECT (A LOVE STORY) INVITES US BACK INTO THE CLASSROOM TO LEARN ABOUT LOSS, SURVIVAL, AND BRAZIL NUTS. CHRIS TELLS US MORE ABOUT THE AWESOME PRODUCTION THAT IS LIGHTING UP THIS YEARS EDINBURGH FESTIVAL FRINGE…CHECK IT OUT!

We’d love to know more about The Soft Subject (A Love Story)

The Soft Subject (A Love Story) is an autobiographical love story which invites the audience back to the classroom to learn about love, heartbreak, survival and The Little Mermaid. The show is Hyphen Theatre Company’s fringe debut and has been supported by Shoreditch Town Hall, Old Vic Lab and Greenwich Theatre. It’s highly energetic, pop-fuelled, heart-on-the-sleeve, exploring the peaks and troughs of wanting it all in the modern world. Think pop music, meets drama class, meets storytelling. Oh, and we are currently the Critic’s Pick of the Fringe in The Stage. My mum is well chuffed!

Where did the inspiration for the show come from?

I’ve worked as a drama teacher for over a decade, and during that time I was in a long term relationship with a theatre producer. That relationship didn’t work out as expected and the show explores how we move on when splitting up from a long term partner. I’ve always been fascinated about when a relationship ends, how you do and don’t continue a relationship with a partner’s family and friends. How do you move on? Essentially the show is about falling in love, The Little Mermaid – aiming for a ‘happily ever after’ – and the highs and lows of being a drama teacher. It is autobiographical and all the locations have stayed the same. My story takes place in Bromley, Cambridge, New York and of course at The Edinburgh Festival.

It’s autobiographical. Any nerves about putting the story out there?

I’m so excited and ready to tell this story. However, there are some difficult parts about the state of my mental health which I felt a lot of shame about at the time. I play fourteen different characters in the show but every name has been changed except one, my therapist Helen. I couldn’t quite face having her live as someone else in the show. She changed my life at an incredibly difficult and dark time.

“It’s highly energetic, pop-fuelled, heart-on-the-sleeve, exploring the peaks and troughs of wanting it all in the modern world. Think pop music, meets drama class, meets storytelling.”

Photo : Look, it’s Arial and Chris | Credit : David Monteith-Hodge

It’s a one person show. Does this make you feel more nervous and vulnerable on stage?

Well, as a teacher, I’m very used to standing alone and holding a group of students’ attention for an hour teaching a lesson. However, as an actor, this is the first time I’ve done a solo show telling a story for an hour, which is daunting. It is also very physical, there’s some groovy dancing and it’s very high energy! I’m apprehensive about what my family will make of it as they are such an integral part of the story. Also there are things about my personal life I’ve never shared, that even my closest friends won’t know about. I’ve being brutally honest. So there are some healthy nerves about doing it, certainly with some vulnerable moments added in for good measure.

The show has a close link with a mental health charity. Tell us more…

The show is being supported by MQ who are the first major charity to research into mental health. For more details please check out their website at www.mqmentalhealth.org.

Why should someone come and see this show?

If you love 90s pop music, The Little Mermaid, a love story and a giggle, this will be right up your street. The show does ask some bigger questions about love and family and that’s always worth your time. The reaction at the previews has been very overwhelming with people wanting to share their own stories about love and heartbreak and how we move on with our lives when things don’t go to plan. Love is a universal theme and we all have a relationship with it.

“I know a few people who’ve experienced divorce and heartache and have found it really refreshing to hear about the bit where you come through the other side.”

What feelings do you hope people will have when they leave the show?

I’d love someone to leave the show and think about being more honest and kinder to themselves. I know a few people who’ve experienced divorce and heartache and have found it really refreshing to hear about the bit where you come through the other side. It’d be great if the audience left wanting to give their nearest and dearest a wee hug! I’d also love it if drama teachers (and teachers in general) who are frustrated with the system relate to the ‘joys’ of how formulaic and devoid of creativity it can be teaching drama in a certain way. I can’t watch The Woman in Black anymore!

Will you get a chance to catch any more Fringe shows whilst you’re in Edinburgh?

Are there any that have caught your eye? Yes! I’m a theatre whore. I’ll see around four shows a day for the next month. So many shows I’m excited to see. Under My Thumb at Assembly. Tumble Tuck, FIX, Quarter Life Crisis at Underbelly. The Secret Life of Humans at Pleasance. The list goes on. Tweet me @ImChrisWoodley I’ll tell you what’s amazing.

What do you love most about Edinburgh?

The people who are so super friendly. It’s also wonderfully refreshing to be so much fun and no bullshit. The city is beautiful. It still takes my breath away every year. Some of my family are coming up for the first time, I can’t wait for them to get to fall in love with Edinburgh. I love this city.

What is your fondest Edinburgh related memory?

In 2014 I was performing KATE with Lost Watch Theatre Company at The Pleasance Courtyard. It won the NSDF Award and we sold out. It was an amazing feeling when you’ve just left drama school to experience that buzz around a show you are in; that was rare. I remember calling my mum in The Pleasance Courtyard and crying big, happy tears trying to tell her we’d won an award. I was mess. I’m hoping to make some more amazing memories this year with The Soft Subject (A Love Story).

QUICK FIRE…

Live action The Little Mermaid movie…yay or nay?

Yay to The Little Mermaid live action movie. The first one will still exist so fans just need to enjoy the revamp and get swept up in the Disney magic.

Starbucks or Costa?

Starbucks – my company partner is going to be livid I said that. Sorry Esmé. But mainly because the wifi is easier to use. I’m a tea drinker anyway.

EastEnders or River City?

EastEnders is a firm fave of mine. The doof doofs used to mean it was my bedtime when I was a kid. I’m so thrilled they’ve brought Kathy back from South Africa. My ultimate favorite was Cindy Beale. They need to bring Cindy back. If Dirty Den has risen from the dead, surely Cindy can?

First date time…movie or theatre?

I say movie. I did a second date to the film Angry Birds. I enjoyed it very much…and the film.

Movie time…Pride or Priscilla The Queen of the Desert?

I can’t choose between Pride and Pricilla! That’s too hard. Pride is set in Bromley where I’m from. Also, Monica Dolan as the mother gives the performance of her life in that film, she smashes it. But the fun and glamour of Pricilla…. Oh god, I’m going to choose Pride as it’s all about Bromley. Big up the Bromley massive. Stay true to my South London roots.

CHECK OUT THE SOFT SUBJECT (A LOVE STORY)

Venue: Assembly Hall, Baillie Room, Mound Place, Edinburgh, EH1 2LU
Time: 16:25 Running Time: 60mins
Dates: 03 – 28 August. Previews 3-4 August. No show Mon 14 August.
Tickets: Previews £6; 5 & 6, 9 & 10, 15-17, 21-24 & 28 August £9 (£12); 7 & 8, 11-13, 18-20, 25-27 August £11 (£10)
Bookings: assemblyfestival.com, 0131 623 3030 or Assembly box offices at Assembly Hall and Assembly Roxy, Assembly George Square, Assembly Checkpoint and Assembly Rooms

About The Author

Thomas Anderson

Founder and MD of Inclusive Networks. Thomas was Chair of the award winning LGBT network for The Co-operative Group, ‘Respect’ (2011-14). Thomas named the network and designed and managed all of the branding, communications and engagement until he stepped down from the role of Chair in March 2014. He also created the branding, name, was Editor of the quarterly magazine and developed the launch of the UK’s first Inter-Retail LGBT network ‘CheckOUT’. He contributed to the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index 5 Year review. In recognition of his work in the diversity field he was shortlisted for ‘Diversity Champion of the Year’ at the 2013 European Diversity Awards, shortlisted for ‘Role Model of the Year’ at the 2012 Lesbian & Gay Foundation Homo Heroes Awards and shortlisted for the ‘Positive Action’ award at the 2013 Asian Fire Service Association Fair & Diverse Awards. He also won the 2012 ‘Pride of The Co-operative’ award. He is a judge for Scotland's biggest diversity awards, The Icon Awards.

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