What inspired the writers behind Breakfast Plays: New Tracks?

News 19 Aug 2020

The end of the world, ancient mythology, Black Lives Matter, divisive politics and quantum time.

This year's Breakfast Plays explore the issues impacting our lives now and those that have been affecting us since the beginning of time itself.

With the plays premiering next week, we asked the writers behind Breakfast Plays: New Tracks to share the inspiration behind their pieces.

Breakfast Plays: New Tracks will be available wherever you get your podcasts from on Mon 24 Aug.

Conor O’Loughlin - Doomsdays

Doomsdays may seem to have been born out of current circumstances, but the genesis of the idea probably dates back to at least 2016.

That’s certainly the year many associate with a kind of collective gallows humour about the deteriorating state of the world, for reasons which have only magnified since. I found myself thinking about those who’d believed our time was up back in 2012, which would eventually spark the image of members of a doomsday cult reuniting and taking stock many years later.

The opportunity to flip status is always a sure-fire engine for drama and so I knew this should entail the former leader’s new life being infiltrated in some way. It also struck me that this figure of a cult leader or preacher – in real life and in pop culture – tends to conform to certain patterns. This led me to explore how much of that to embrace and how much to break away into something more distinctively Celtic and primal.

Uma Nada-Rajah - The Watercooler

I started this play during lockdown. A man had been lynched in the streets and America was about to implode.

I’ve always been interested in how global events trickle down and filter into the conversations of our daily lives. For example, I remember vividly in 2015, at the ‘height’ of the refugee crisis, when pictures of “swarms” of dark-skinned people in boats seemed to be on the cover of every newspaper (oh, how much has changed).

I was nursing in the West of Scotland and it affected the ease of my chat. I couldn’t help but try to see myself through the eyes of white strangers consuming that media. I remember squirming on the train, feeling the need to explain myself: “Me? Oh, no. I’m not like them. But I guess I am. Really. When you think about it. But, I’m a human! I like music, see? There’s history. I’m not invading. Or am I…? Och, aye and the weather…”

The Watercooler started as an exploration of how the horrific events that shook America in the spring of 2020 and the Black Lives Matter movement affected our friendships and workplaces. It is a play about failures in communication across the chasm of race. It is a work in progress.

Rebecca Martin - Rabbit Catcher

One of the main inspirations for Rabbit Catcher is the Highland landscape, its partnership in beauty and brutality. I want to tell a story that contextualises this into words and imagery through poetic language and to use the language in the deglamorization of the land.

Searching into mythology from Greek, Norse to Celtic and many others really helped in the inspiration and exploration of creating Rabbit Catcher, especially the Greek goddess Artemis, the protector of young women, resonated deeply within this piece.

I had the urge to offer audiences a different perspective about the Highlands that isn’t the typical narration of the Highland Clearances and The Battle of Culloden. I believe it’s important to showcase a different representation and a contemporary voice from the Highlands, about the Highlands.

Jamie Cowan - Contemporary Political Ethics (Or, How to Cheat)

You’ve probably noticed that whenever the question of politics comes up in conversation, things can end up getting pretty ugly. Recently, however, politics has started to feel like a sport; pick a team, support them, and treat everyone else like an enemy. After the last few election cycles, where this issue became more and more prevalent, I knew that I wanted to write a piece examining the way we engage with our political beliefs in modern times – and what better way to do that than to lock three radically different characters in a room for an hour and watch them implode?

Amy Rhianne Milton - Matterhorn

When I first began writing Matterhorn I had a very clear image in my head of two people constantly stacking and burying bodies, over and over again. To begin with, that’s all it was; I didn’t know who they were, why they were doing it, or why they had to keep doing it.

I soon saw that in the background of my burial ground there was a large stone building, with Gothic arches and a wooden door. It actually took me a while to realise it was Durham Cathedral, a place I know very well being from County Durham. After watching this odd image for a while, I realised I was looking at cycles of the same event. I am quite experimental when it comes to structuring a script, I try to really interrogate why a story should be told in a particular way or order, what does the structure tell me about the story and vice versa. These two people were burying bodies repeatedly, things were slightly different in each cycle, but things were being un-done. Okay, why?

I read an article in the New Scientist titled “In the quantum realm, cause doesn’t necessarily come before effect”. That was a huge kick-off for me.

There were many things I didn’t understand, and learning about the various theories regarding time, and cause and effect, has been fascinating. From there I connected the dots between my plot and my structure. Just as time was being un-done in my play, the structure of my play cycles round to undo one version of events to attempt another. I wanted to create a world in which the linearity of cause and effect is not experienced. This linear version of events is our weathervane, a distinction between past, present, and future, that shows us the direction we are facing. My challenge to myself was to create a world for the play where time no longer functioned as we experience it today and to structure it in a way that could provoke many possible answers, but keep the solution just out of reach.

What are The Breakfast Plays?

The Breakfast Plays are one of the most-loved elements of our annual Traverse Festival programme. Traditionally taking place at 9am during the Traverse Festival (and enjoyed with a breakfast roll), the bite-sized Breakfast Plays are also a key element of the Traverse’s creative development programme for writers, bringing brand new short plays by early-career writers, who are often alumni of the theatre’s Young Writers Group, to the world and showcasing the best, new Scottish writing talent to the international audiences who flock to Edinburgh in August.

Though a selection of previous Breakfast Plays have been broadcast on the BBC World Service, 2020 marks the first time that the plays have been written specifically for an audio format and been made available to global audiences on-demand, so that Breakfast Plays: New Tracks can become the Lunch Plays, or Dinner Plays, or be enjoyed at any other time you, the listener, would like.

We hope you enjoy tucking into Breakfast Plays: New Tracks from Mon 24 Aug.

If you're a young writer looking to develop your skills and would like the opportunity to possibly see your work on at the Traverse (digitally or physically), we're now accepting applications for our Traverse Young Writers programme.

The Breakfast Plays: New Tracks are generously supported by the Noël Coward Foundation and the Turtleton Charitable Trust. 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: Mihaela Bodlovic