New play ‘Ugly Virgins’ rolls in to The Blue Room this week

Ugly Virgins
New play Ugly Virgins opens this week at The Blue Room, set in the world of Roller Derby, it’s the latest offering from creative duo Lindstedt & Davies.

The latest roller derby season’s arrived and a motley crew of skaters find themselves out of luck, out of practice, and out of a team. Tossed together in the reject pile, the unlikely gang gear up to find their feet before they fall on their face.

We chatted to co-writer and co-director Anna Lindstedt about the production.

How would you describe Ugly Virgins? What kind of a production is it?

It’s fast-paced, that’s for sure. I’d say Ugly Virgins tiptoes the line between comedy and drama, and it’s heavily character-based. It’s about the uncoordinated, the un-sexy, the uncaring, and the uncomfortable. And ugliness, in many forms.

There’s lots of skating, but we aren’t staging a real derby game. People should be expecting to see a play, about womxn, who can’t seem to love themselves or each other.

Where did the idea to include the world of Roller Derby in the story originate from?

For a while Sally and I were grappling with how to make a play about women’s bodies and sexuality without making an ‘issues play’ or a TEDtalk. I have to admit it was Sally’s genius to include Roller Derby as a lens for these issues.

It’s a contact-heavy sport, that requires you and your team to use your whole bodies against the whole bodies of the other team, at speed and on wheels. And, of course, it’s a sport that is driven by and for womxn. We love the idea that you have to be completely in control of your body and all its moving parts in derby, and comfortable with owning and utilising exactly what shape and size you are.

It also has this incredible community attached to it, much like theatre, of people who give so much of their time and energy into making it happen, and have this devout love for the game and each other. I think all of this makes for a potent framework to explore the complexities of female friendship and sexual disempowerment.

The Blue Rooms a pretty tight space, we’ve seen Roller Derby in action, should the audience be taking out extra safety measures?

We have had the pleasure of working with Wheels McCoy, former Captain of the Bloody Sundaes and our Skating Trainer and Consultant, to make sure that our cast have all the skating skills they need to safely turn, stop, slide and stack it throughout the show.

We’ve spent a lot of time falling, perhaps more time than we have doing anything else! So the audience should be assured that they are in safe hands.

We have some pretty cool stunts and stacks in the show, which have been tightly choreographed and rehearsed, but of course part of the thrill of roller derby is the unpredictability, so I don’t want to assure anyone too much!

If you’re sitting in the front row, or ‘The Splash Zone’ as it’s called in derby, you shouldn’t be worried about needing extra protection so long as you keep your arms and legs inside the seating bank at all times.

You’re a co-writer and co-director alongside Sally Davies, what’s the process for co-directing, how do you work together?

This is our first time co-directing and co-writing, despite working together many times since we created Lindstedt & Davies in 2018. Over the past year and a bit we’ve created a great shared language and system of communication, which has been a godsend.

I’m so glad there’s been two of us leading this show, it has certainly been a two person job. I also think it’s great that despite us often thinking in very similar ways, we both have very different strengths that we bring to the show, and I think we balance each other out really well.

In terms of a process, I think we came into rehearsal with a really clear structure for who would take care of what and when each of us would lead the room, which we quickly tossed out the window.

We very naturally fell into a rhythm of leading together, which was great because in the directing of Ugly Virgins in-the-round, we were almost never sitting together, and often had to communicate through eye contact from opposite sides of the room.

I think the main thing that makes us great collaborators is our super open and honest communication. The last year and a half that we’ve been working on this show has gotten us into the practice of debriefing about anything and everything, which has provided us with what has become an essential platform to vent, problem-solve and make decisions as a team.

I can and always do tell Sally exactly what I think or feel, and I trust that she will do the same.

Tell us about the performers in the show, how would you describe them?

We auditioned most of the gang back in 2020, thinking that we’d rehearse for a couple of months, put up the show in June and then all be on our merry way. The pandemic obviously disrupted this quite dramatically, but somehow we managed to keep all five of our performers the whole time.

This has meant we’ve had the luxury of developing the script further with them over the extra year, including two creative developments where I feel our cast took great ownership over their characters and our story. Their influence on the show as it stands is enormous.

I think audiences are going to love our motley crew of Amber, Danielle, Courtney, Mikayla and Katie. They’re fabulous skaters, generous collaborators and a strong ensemble. And a mixed bag for sure!

We’ve miraculously stumbled across the dream cast for this show, and they all have really different performance backgrounds and perspectives. They all bring a really wide range of skills and knowledge to our rehearsal room, where we’ve had a mixture of intellectual discussions, ridiculous anecdotes and a lot of laughs.

Get tickets to see Ugly Virgins, running  from Tuesday 1st – Saturday 19th June. 

Graeme Watson, image Duncan Wright

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