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Interview with Jeanette Hill, author of new play Vicious, being presented at Deaf Connections Theatre in the Gorbals, in association with Horsehead Theatre.
Yvonne Alexis: So, Jeanette, tell me something about your play, and where your inspiration came from?
Jeanette Hill (JH): Essentially, I got really angry and aggrieved at the decision of the Tory government to change the pension age for women born in the 1950s, meaning that pension age for someone like myself, who has just turned sixty, will now be delayed until I am 66. Adding another six years to our working live is daunting and brutal. I’ve worked continuously since I was fifteen years old, and this feels entirely unfair.
YA: How did it reach the point where you decided to write a play?
JH: In the first instance, I got involved with the WASPI campaign. Women Against State Pension Injustice. This group got together as a direct result of this governmental decision, and has grown to be quite substantial, applying pressure to government at every opportunity. As time passed, I felt that it would be cathartic for me to write the story as I saw it. Through my interaction with the WASPI women, I heard some other women’s stories. I was shocked at the brutal effects on their lives of both pension changes and other benefit cruelty such as sanctions and PIP assessments, and the impact of these changes on mental health.
YA: Where did you take it from there?
JH: I heard Vickie Cooper talking about her book The Violence of Austerity at Aye Write last year. Her academic research summed up the impact this barbaric change to the welfare system has had thus far, including the number of deaths as a direct result of its application. A recent UN report confirmed this. This spurred me on to do something more concrete.
When I was younger, I was blown away by the work of the 7.84 Theatre Company, which produced plays such as The Cheviot, The Stag and The Black Black Oil, highlighting injustice and oppression of the working classes in the 1970s. I felt that a play would be an ideal public outlet enabling people to see the human cost of these societal changes.
YA: How did you get involved with Horsehead Theatre Company?
JH: I first saw Horsehead at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017, where I was impressed with their stagecraft and vibrancy. They reminded me very much of 7.84. I met up with the director, Caroline, who looked at my script and agreed to produce the play, with strict rules in place about our different roles. I agreed fully with her rigorous approach. She loved my inclusion of real stories, solid research, and respect for the women, I loved her focus on equal pay scales, socialism and feminism. We’ve been working hard on the play ever since, and I’m really looking forward to seeing it fully staged.
YA: What approach will the play take to the issues?
JH: My work tackles serious themes, however I’ve included humour and tolerance! to provide the audience with new theatre writing which is intended to be entertaining, dramatic and thought-provoking, while steeped in both traditional and contemporary music.
YA: Can you confirm for me details of when and where your play will be performed?
JH: Yes, we’ll be at DEAF CONNECTIONS THEATRE, NORFOLK STREET, GLASGOW, just around the corner from Bridge Street Underground. (Full details below).
VICIOUS – Wed 27 – Sat 30 March 2019 7.30pm £12/£10 Deaf Connections Theatre, 100 Norfolk Street, Glasgow Tickets available from Eventbrite https://www.facebook.com/Horsehead-theatre-1721051784799946/
Contacts: Jeanette Hill 07510413497 Caroline Lewis 07974 869622 firstname.lastname@example.org