Dolly Parton? Molly Barton.
Well, this is new! I've never interviewed anyone before, so who better to start with than my very own best friend/co-writer/fellow northerner - Miss Molly Barton. After a technically difficult start (thanks, Zoom), we were off.
A: Molly Barton.
M: Hi Amy Nic.
A: Hi, dear. I think we're alright, I think we're ok.
For context, myself and Molly attended London Studio Centre. She was a year above me, but fate drew us together... Though I actually think it was at an under the sea themed freshers event when she came up to me with pink tentacles on her head and said 'are you Northern?'.
It's quite strange when someone you know asks you to 'tell us a bit about yourself!' but thankfully, Molly is a professional. Molly Barton (age 24) originates from Preston, Lancashire and has been living in London since she started training in musical theatre 5 years ago. She describes herself as 'jack of all trades, master of none, kinda vibes' and in the last few years has 'turned to the creative side of performance' (writing, directing, choreographing).
A: Why did you start writing?
M: Hmm, well... erm, it's weird cos it's always something that I've kind of done, but I never really thought I would like seriously do. Just, even from when I was really young, I just really enjoyed writing bits of fiction, narrative and poetry and stuff like that, erm, and then I just always had a few little bits saved on my laptop that I'd just write when I was in some kind of mood, or, erm, had an idea and then never really did anything with them, like I'm really bad for just starting things and not finishing them, erm, so I had loads of those and then it was around sort of the time that I was doing my dissertation, I started to look into developing bits and bobs and then I found this sketch that I'd written a long while ago and never did anything with and then I just sort of... extended it, erm, and then I used that for the choreography piece that you were a part of, last year.
A: Ah yes, Linger/Beyond.
M: And also submitted it to a new writers festival that my friend was organising, and she loved it. And then I've just kind of gone from there and haven't really stopped!
Molly Barton is referring to her original, genius piece 'Love Train', a classic rom-com connecting two souls over one reserved seat. And get this- WE SHARED THE MAIN ROLE. (My Mum couldn't believe it, I've never shared anything in my life).
M: 'We both did it so differently, but at the heart it was like... the same'.
I'm very pleased to say that I did in fact originate the role in Linger/Beyond (a performance night in October at London Studio Centre where dissertations have the opportunity to be revamped) even though she then revived it two nights later at the previously mentioned new writers festival and has since done it far more than me. But, whatever.
A: So, do you think that piece was like, a bit of a, like, turning point?
M: Yeah, definitely. Even now, it's probably one of the things that I'm proudest of, from just sitting and watching it. 'Cos it went so, so well on the night, the audience reaction was like, everything you want. And I just remember sitting and watching it like: 'Oh, this is good.'
A: What's your favourite thing to write?
I don't know why I asked, to be honest. I've been in her work, it's never not funny. Let me rephrase:
A: Comedy.. like, long stories? Short stories? Monologues? Sketches? What do you love?
M: Erm... That's a hard one, actually-
M: Because, I think for me, the favourite thing I've ever written was the 10 minute piece for Linger/Beyond that I've now since extended a lot (which, a lot of it hasn't been seen by anyone), so it still can just exist as that 10 minute piece, that was interesting because we added a bit of absurd humour and a lot of music and choreography as well, and then I did that version on its own, as a script, in the writing festival, at the same time. And, that was so much fun to do the same piece in two different ways. I just love making stuff that's weird and wacky, and really sort of funny because it's not funny, do you know what I mean? That's my primary vibe, I'd say.
I can safely say, I do know what she means. She goes on to delve deeper and says she enjoys anything with a lot of 'heart and soul, banter, but also makes you feel a bit, aw'. And if Molly didn't have a boyfriend, I'd suggest she put that exact sentence in one of her Hinge prompts. The beauty of Molly's writing is that it's all so close to home. She writes so she can relate. We both agree that 'you've got to write what is familiar to you'. As relatively new writers, I think it's important not to feel pressured to be revolutionary straight away. You are always your biggest influence and when you can be honest and truthful as a writer, you can be successful. Think about Miranda. Speaking of...
A: Do you have any inspirations?
M: I mean I take quite a lot of inspiration just from like... you know those little moments on TV where you're just like: 'oh, that was really special.' And it kind of changes, sometimes, my favourite programmes, from this year, so obviously you've got Fleabag right, obsessed, you know I am.
M: Miranda, obsessed.
M: Erm, this year... Brassic.
A: Oh, I love Brassic!
M: Absolutely the best thing, the best thing I've seen. Erm, I love old sketch shows like The Fast Show is one of my absolute faves, I just love it.
Cue a business meeting about how we can bring back sketch shows because we both feel they are a dying breed in British comedy. Watch this space.
M: I think that, fast, simply humour.. it just gets you doesn't it? That's what gets me.
Molly and I have the same mind. We think the same, we write the same, we watch the same. In general, we both seem to gravitate towards British comedy rather than US (no offence, ily US sitcoms). Molly goes on to gush over Alan Partridge, Gavin and Stacey, Not the Nine O'Clock News, claiming that was the show that 'taught her what banter is' when her Dad let her watch it well before she was old enough, and Showstopper! The Improvised Musical (which she highly suggests seeing, once it's back open).
A lot of this interview is just Molly saying what she likes and me agreeing with her, if I'm being honest. Anyway, we're both very excited for The Vicar of Dibley Christmas Special.
Warning: this section features some self-promo. You can't complain now, because you have been warned.
A: So, like... what's next Molly B? For you. For YOU!
M: Well, at the moment, erm.
A: Yeah, say it loud and clear. Loud and clear, LOUD AND CLEAR, here we go...
M: Actually got a live performance *gasp* shock horror! Erm going live in a week! The 18th-21st of December, there will be a performance of The Little Match Girl at The Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, which is a World Heritage Site! So, I'm very excited about that. I've written that, well, co-written, because it's a musical. So, I've done the book&lyrics, music is by the wonderful Toby Ingram, and we're very excited! I'm loving the buzz.
Obviously, this hasn't been the best year for the performance industry. So, for Molly to be putting on a show featuring new writing, new music and new graduates is an incredible opportunity. But, it comes with its challenges. Lockdowns and restrictions make organising events quite impossible, so Molly reveals that it's all come around very last-minute, but nevertheless she confirms it's going to be a lovely, heartfelt, Christmassy, magical experience. Tickets can be found in the link below:
She really didn't have a clue what was coming up, so this bit required some encouragement on my part, We'll forgive her.
A: So, what's the plan for after that?
M: ...erm, well...
A: Psst. Pssst. Talk about panto. Psst, psst, pst.
M: Oh yeah! So, basically. Erm, this year, I erm, had the pleasure of spending some online time with the wonderful writer called Amy Nic*. This year, for me and you, has been a time where we've kind of like, got loads in the store cupboard I'll say, so there's a few things I've kind of, got on the back burner, one of which is our wonderful adult pantomime that we wrote this year. Which, I feel like we were so excited about and now we're just like... it's just sitting there.
A: The thing is, like, we've done the hardest bit of work on it [the script], haven't we?
M: That's true. And because that's completely done, I suppose, if we have the privilege, we'll have time to workshop it and stuff, for quite a long time in the run up to whenever/wherever it will be on. Writing that was so much fun, because like, I didn't really know how far we were going to get.
I truly believed we'd get nowhere. Not because of Molly, because of me. To tell the truth, I was very apprehensive about writing a pantomime. I thought, no way, I'll never be able to do that.
A: I was at a stage in my writing, where I was like, oh god, like I've only written sketches, like, I don't know how to... all I know is how to write a bit of funny dialogue. I don't know how to actually construct a story! And, I mean, this is the beauty, because I think in my head, I was like, well, no, for a pantomime you've got to have this classic story! And then... we started it, and... you don't. I'll say that, you really bloody don't, do you? It's just a laugh isn't it!
M: What you said about only knowing how to write funny dialogue... it's all you need isn't it?
Yes. (No, but yes.)
A: We've got very in-depth characters haven't we? Because, like I already feel more attached to those characters than I do to to some other things I'm writing at the minute.
M: It's that close to home.
A: Maybe it was because we had, like songs that almost, like, went with the characters? And it was so close to home wasn't it? Especially for you.
M: We were in the North, writing about the North.
A: Reeking of gravy.
*I didn't even ask her to say that.
It was an absolute treat talking to Molly (even though we voice note about Strictly every Saturday) and I hope this conversation is a glimmer of hope for new, young writers. We're both just muddling through it all! But we're doing the best we can and having fun doing it. If two northerners with an unhealthy obsession with Gary Barlow and Robbie Williams can manage to write an entire pantomime this year, you can do anything babes.