Guest Blog: Katie Jackson & Jessica Daniels from PearShaped discuss the process behind Conquest

In our latest Guest Blog, Katie Jackson (writer) & Jessica Daniels (director) of Conquest talk about the inspiration behind the show and what it’s like to work together. Do not miss Conquest  as part of The Shape of Things to Come; two weeks of hot-off-the-press projects from CPT’s favourite artists, here Wed 29 Nov at 9:00pm. Click here for tickets.

Where did the idea for Conquest come from?
KJ: It originated from a personal experience that I soon released was actually very common. I’m surrounded by strong, confident women who self-identify as feminists but who had similar experiences and had never really talked about them. Whilst conversations about the gender pay gap, or unequal distribution of domestic labour were common in my groups, at the time no – one was talking about how common sexual assault and rape were and particularly not their own experience of it. It seemed to me that whilst we were improving in so many ways, this was the way that gender inequality manifested itself in the majority of my peers’ lives. Our society has facilitated sexual misconduct by saying often that it’s not a big deal, and that’s partly because we don’t talk about. #MeToo has gone a long way in helping people feel able to open up about this but now we know about the prevalence of these events, what are we going to do about them. I hope Conquest contributes to this conversation.

What excited you about the script?
JD: Katie’s writing is fierce and funny and definitely packs a punch. As soon as I read it I knew that I wanted to direct it! I love working on scripts that are a bit unconventional, and that don’t fit a naturalistic setting. Conquest fundamentally tells the story of two women and their friendship, but in doing so tackles the patriarchy, sexual consent, sex education in schools & more. I read it and I wanted in!

Why did you choose to have 2 actors playing all the parts?
KJ: I’ve always been interested in how people personally tell stories and in particular their own: what we choose to include and emit, how we remember our own actions and place within the story and how we depict other people. And as theatre is all about telling stories, how do we begin to show these complexities on stage. Traditional theatre leaves little space for interpretation as to why we were being shown a story or the choices in the construction of it. By having characters telling their stories directly to the audience we get the unreliable narrator effect that you get from first-person storytelling. But the fun of having two characters means you get to play around with dialogue and the characters are the given the opportunity to affect and influence one another. 

What have been the challenges rehearsing Conquest?
JD: One of the things I loved about that play was the way that the two characters decide to tell their story, and how they represent the different scenes they’re replaying. Part of this happens in ‘Conquest HQ’ where there are up to 7 different characters at one time. The biggest challenge was working out how to stage a conversation between 5 or 6 people at once, with just two actors. And without it becoming stale, repetitive or obvious. Let’s hope we’ve managed it!

What has been your favourite moment in the rehearsal room?
JD: My favourite moments in any rehearsal room, and this has happened a few times with Conquest, is when you discover the solution to something that hasn’t quite been working up until that point. It’s a real rehearsal breakthrough and you normally have to work through some bad ideas in order to get to the right solution, but when you hit it you know, and it feels amazing.

Tell us about your favourite part or line in the show?
KJ: Seems like an odd one and probably doesn’t make sense out of context but a line I really like: “I’m about to do this to someone who loves his Gran”. I think it illustrates well the grey area around sexual assault – that it isn’t always committed by those that we perceive to be bad people.  It’s also done by people who love their Gran!

JD: I have a few favourites – my top one I can’t say because it will ruin a joke, so I’m going to go for; “you jizz-a-minute supermen”

Tell us about an amazing lady that has inspired your work/working practices.
JD: Ever since I was at uni in Hull, I’ve been inspired by the work that RashDash make (so strictly that’s not just one lady…). They are so bold and creative in the way that their stories are told. I also love that they often intertwine different stories and different ways of storytelling. I’m really interested in different ways of communicating with audiences and I always come out of a RashDash show feeling inspired & energized!

KJ: I love Ali Smith – she’s a novelist but has written plays too. Whilst her stories aren’t always perfect and her prose is not the most beautiful, her use of language and form is always playful and for that reason, her books exude joy. All her works read as though they are written by someone who loves words and loves making up stories. She is always experimenting and trying new things and is one of the few authors who I think is trying to re-invent the novel form and I find that exciting. And her female characters are great too.