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Interview: Selina Thompson Writer of Salt at Royal Court Theatre

Interview: Selina Thompson Writer of Salt at Royal Court Theatre

1. When did you start working as a writer/theatre maker?

In 2011! I had had a breakdown, so was doing an extra year at university. I decided to use the extra year, so I was resident at Bank Street Arts in Sheffield where I hosted a performance night and made a small piece of work on bedrooms, depression and dreams. I’ve been making ever since. So 7, 8 years.

2. What are the messages you would like to convey when you create a piece focused on identity?

It depends on what aspect of identity I’m focused on. Identity is a broad and sprawling thing. I guess the best place to start is with the overused, but essentially true adage – comfort the disturbed, disturb the comfortable. But maybe instead it’s less about comfort. And it’s about centring those marginalised and disrupting those that society privileges.

3. Do you think that we are moving towards a separatist society due to the hybrid of voices each shouting louder for their need to be “identified”?

There’s lots of interesting stuff happening in this statement that’s masquerading as a question, so let’s unpick it.
I guess the first thing I find myself thinking is – to which society do you refer? In the UK? In its 4 different countries under that banner? Britain is big and small at the same time – from one town to the other city you can feel like you are living in a parallel universe.
And I guess that brings me to my second point, which is that the idea of moving towards a separatist society suggests that there is a unity that we’ve moved away from. But historically, this doesn’t stand up, at all.
You’ve spoken about a hybrid of voices – hybrid is an interesting word choice here, because hybrid suggests a cross pollination, that things that have been bought together – the very opposite of the separatist spectre that’s at the heart of this question.
I’ve never come across anybody shouting to be identified – so I’m assuming this is a fairly rudimentary dig at identity politics: where those historically oppressed and expected to be the receptacle of society’s violence refuse that, and advocate a liberation politic that means that all of us are free. It’s a politic that refuses to compromise or settle – but that the growth in intersectional discourse suggests a desire for there to be multiplicity underneath its umbrella.
So, in short, no.
(Alt Africa says – if the question was rephrased it would be: Right now more than ever before we are standing up for our rights but not everyone agrees with each other: especially if you are the oppressed voice so with that in mind are we moving into a more separatist society?)

4. Tell us about Salt and the intention behind the piece?

In 2016 I retraced a route of the Transatlantic Slave Triangle via cargo ship as a pilgrimage, reflection and meditation on the afterlife of slaver and colonialism, and the UK’s place in that triangle. The work tells the story of that journey, and how I got to the that point, as well as placing my personal and political histories onto its route.
The intention was to share that space of meditation and reflection – with all its pain and love and anger and grief.

5. Who is the lead character, what motivates her?

The Woman is the lead character. If you want to know her motivations you’ll have to come and see the show!

6. What is the most important message in the story?

I don’t really think about it in terms of one coherent message. You tell the story you need to tell, and people will take from it what they need and are able to take in that moment.

See Also

7. What do you think the #Metoo movements has done for women?

I think the movements have been important for all genders. It’s been tricky and murky in theatre where I work, and there is a huge amount of work still to be done. People were mobilised for a time, but I’m not sure if the strategic long term planning that is organising has been in place.

8. Who inspires you artistically?

Bobby Baker, Rebecca Sugar, Zanele Muholi, Saidiyah Hartman, Missy Elliott, Solange, Eska, bell hooks, Gwendolyn Brooks, Hannah Black, Season Butler, Scottee, Marion Burge, Grace Jones, Sonia Boyce, Moses Sumney, The girls I went to school with, Audre Lorde, Frida Kahlo, My Dad, Stuart Hall
SALT: Written by Selina Thompson  Directed by Dawn Walton Book Tickets
-Tuesday 14 May 2019 – Saturday 1 June 2019
Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs
All images are credited to Johan Persson
Performer in the image: Rochelle Rose.