"I want people to feel more than they've felt in a while" Q&A with Alice Malseed

Along with Cliodhna McAllister and Catherine Rees (who she collaborates with), Alice Malseed is one of our HATCH 2022-23 artists. Read more about HATCH here.

Alice Malseed is a writer and theatre-maker based in Belfast. Her work has appeared across the UK, Ireland, in Sri Lanka and New York.

MAC: You have experience of penning plays for other actors as well as performing your own work. Do you have a preference? Tell us about these two processes.

Alice Malseed: It's really important for me to find the right form for the story - I like to let the story dictate what I write and who's in it. For my current production, Anthem, which is happening at Vault at EastSide Arts Festival on 13th August, I knew that I needed to be in it alone. My collaborator Sarah Baxter and I went through many iterations of what it could be, but we distilled the idea down to purity, and the result was me, on stage, in conversation with the audience.

MAC: What kind of person would enjoy your work and why? or Who is your work for?

AM: I like to make theatre with a lot of energy - theatre for people who like going to raves and parties and having big debates. Art for people who have big ideas of how we can make the world better together, or a feeling in their gut that things could be different somehow. I think my work is for people who think theatre is maybe a bit boring and isn't for them. I want them to come and see my work, and be totally buzzed about this art form that they felt previously excluded from. My work has usually got quite a socio-political contemporary subject but I tell the story in a darkly funny, real and visceral way. I want people to feel more than they've felt in a while.

MAC: You've lived in Indonesia and have taken part in a 4-week writing residency in India. How have other places other than where you're from influenced your work?

AM: A lot of everyday sensations feel bigger and richer out there - colours, textures, heat, rain, animals, smells, food, Gods, stories; when things haven't been sanitised or colonised or whitewashed, such a rich deep world is possible. Experiencing life in Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka (with Mind Adventures Theatre Company) has opened me up to new ideas of what story can be, and also to really intense bodily sensations which feed into my work, language and performance style.

MAC: You've written plays that tackle social immobility, toxic masculinity and bodily autonomy, to name just a few. Where do your ideas come from? Tell us more about your writing process.

AM: I have a line in Anthem - I want to be alive, to feel all these feelings. To open my heart and my guts to all people because that is a mad buzz - I feel like this is exactly the essence of how and why I live and where my inspiration comes from. As an artist it's important for me to be really present in the world, to be a part of my city and community; but also to have a nice ability to step to the side with an anthropological lense on which feeds into the work. A lot of my work about subjects such as toxic masculinity and bodily autonomy has come from my own lived experience of these issues. When Catherine and I started writing Poached we had similar passionate feelings about the societal pressure of being women in their early 30s. It can all feel quite overwhelming.

MAC: How important is it to showcase Belfast and/or NI in your work?

AM: Super important! It's home. This is my community and I'm really happy living here.

MAC: Is there something in your career you're most proud of?

AM: I'm very proud of my three collaborations with Sarah Baxter (Jellyfish, it's getting harder and harder for me (MAC, 2018), and Anthem). We met while working together in London about 12 years ago and started collaborating in 2015. Our work is really unapologetic and it manages to connect a lot with audiences who don't normally go to the theatre, which makes me feel really excited about the form.

MAC: Tell us more about the current collaboration Poached that you're working on with fellow HATCHer Catherine Rees.

AM: Catherine and I met when I did a call out in August 2020 for writers to come to some Dramaturgy days that I was hosting in my studio in Vault. We were both thinking a lot about government involvement in reproductivity, dystopias, extremism. Catherine is really really fun, and so witty, so it was great to start collaborating with her because it was always hilarious. We wrote the script over zoom during lockdown 2021. We held a Research and Development period last month in the Mac with some actors and a director- we had some really interesting conversations and used the script as a starting point for building the world on stage.