Andrew Thompson on his residency, digital theatre and creating I Heart Ice Cream

News 6 May 2021

In early 2020, playwrights Andrew Thompson and Morna Young undertook month-long residencies in Japan with the aim of producing a full-length work for the stage as part of the British Council's 'Scotland in Japan' project and Creative Scotland's UK/Japan Season of Culture 2019-2020.

With restrictions over the last year making physical performances challenging, Andrew honed in on a single aspect of his larger idea to play with and explore in I ❤️🍦 - an experimental monologue that takes a surreal deep dive into themes of abuse, misogyny and folklore. Available to watch now with English and Japanese subtitles.

In this blog, Andrew gives an insight into the page to stage process behind I ❤️🍦 and how he found a way to distil his larger idea into this digital presentation.

The Japanese translation of this blog was provided by Nao Miyauchi.

I’m staring at a screen. I’m sat in my house and I’m staring at a screen watching an actor wearing a pink fluorescent swimming cap pretend to lick an invisible blood-soaked ice cream. Even I’m not sure how we got here.

A year ago I was given the most incredible opportunity. The Traverse, in conjunction with The British Council, were supporting me to travel across Japan and research my ideas. I had proposed a play infused with politics, fantasy and mythology and now I was standing, surrounded by life, in the middle of Tokyo. Driving through the abandoned lives of Fukushima. Absorbing the weight of life in Hiroshima, and witnessing the protection of living things in Ise. I was meeting people and being introduced to so much culture, tradition, and the human response to truly epic disaster of both man and natural making. Returning home to distil all this into my work felt like both a challenge and a gift.

And then the world tilted on its axis. The very idea of ever getting to carry out the sort of journey I had just done disappeared into a painfully distant future. The very idea of theatre disappeared into an equally distant agony.




Behind a row of houses, Mount Fuji is just visible on the horizon.
Behind a row of houses, Mount Fuji is just visible on the horizon.

The idea of writing a large-scale, cross-cultural entertainment for people to gather and watch together felt futile to me, but thankfully not to the Traverse. They very quickly got in touch to say ‘we don’t know what’s happening, we don’t know what’s possible, but what can we do to keep this going?’. And to know that the idea of ‘maybe one day’ still existed was a hugely motivating factor in making me find a way.

As part of this they suggested an online sharing of the work. A scene, a moment, something from the play that gave a taste but translated to a digital setting. It didn’t feel right, to me, to try and lift something from an unfinished play and attempt to put it on its feet (or in this case screen) for public consumption. So I suggested I write something new. Unique. Something that spoke to the ideas of the larger work but that might help me in the process of bringing the bigger script into focus, while still being a something in its own right.




A screenshot from I Heart Ice Cream featuring actor, Laura Lovemore

We talked about how we might stage the piece, what does/could digital theatre look like. I decided I wanted it to be a ‘play’ but that I wanted to capture the theatricality of live theatre, the accepted artifice of it. We would film in the theatre, on the stage. The actor would perform to the auditorium and we would replace sets, costumes etc. with animation.

The first stumbling block was that we couldn’t enter the theatre. The Traverse, sensibly, have a policy against making people travel to or enter their building. Fine. The actor would work from home.

The second stumbling block was… there was no second stumbling block. Don’t get me wrong, there were and are plenty of problems to overcome, some of which have yet to be solved, and I’ve no idea at the time of writing this what the final outcome and piece will be, but it will be. And at this moment that in itself feels like a victory.




I ❤️🍦is supported by British Council Scotland, the Scottish Government and The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation.

The Traverse Theatre is funded by Creative Scotland and The City of Edinburgh Council, with additional support from The Scottish Government Performing Arts Venues Relief Fund.

Image: Alex Harwood

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