Actor and playwright Lucy Roslyn on the inspiration for her new play PENNYROYAL at the Finborough Theater


“Here they are at last, face to face with the problem which, through all these years of silence and evasion, had remained as close to the surface as a hastily buried corpse” – The old girlEdith Wharton

Just before the Covid pandemic hit, director Josh Roche introduced me to the 1922 novel The old girl. It’s about the intimate relationship between two women that becomes strained and knotted in the face of family values ​​and societal expectations. He showed complicated, loving, angry, forgiving women and the lingering repercussions of a life lived by bending the rules. There is an image in their minds of the people they thought they were, and the fragile acceptance of the people they have become. It’s ugly, beautiful, and relatable in so many ways.

I have a sister and I’m very lucky to be very close to her. She is herself a writer (an extraordinary one). As I was writing this piece during lockdown, I spoke with her a few times about our dreams and aspirations. Not to lose hope in the things we had decided to do.

After ten years of trying to find a base for my work, when the halls closed, I felt that the concert might finally be over. However, during my long walks, I was accompanied by the sisters of pennyroyal, Chris and Daf. Their enduring love. The rocky, unpredictable way life works. Opportunities, if you seek them, to find your way back to people. I hope they resonate with others, just as Edith Wharton’s story resonated with me.

I am indebted to the people I spoke to and the resources I read about premature ovarian failure. There is a running theme of frustration that women’s health is kept in the shadows. Often rejected and seldom taught. How you’re supposed to stumble, quietly, from one stage of life to another. That these steps can be the curve ball that shakes the very image of yourself and the things you hope for. It’s a complex and multi-layered topic and I hope I’ve done it justice. In short, it is the story of a relationship. A happy one, I feel. Two magnets, trying to come back to each other.

This is the second piece I’ve written in my own voice (from Coventry) and it can feel very revealing to do such a thing. It is with a sincere thank you to the pennyroyal team that we have come this far. The pandemic has brought many ambitions and hopes to their knees, and this dedicated and talented team – with their scheduled Zoom readings and multiple WhatsApp groups – made me want to put my pants on and finish writing it.

During the pandemic, I’ve been asked to speak with some students in a conversation loosely titled, “When your career isn’t going the way you thought it would.” It took me a while to figure out my place in this conversation, but it was on target. Things didn’t quite work out the way I had expected. I’m not sure about the image I have of myself. That has changed…but not necessarily for the worse.

There is a tradition in pennyroyal. Every Christmas the sisters watch the 1946 classic It’s a wonderful life. George Bailey has the opportunity to look back on a life full of dashed dreams and instead see all the acts of kindness that have improved the lives of those around him. It wasn’t what he had planned, but it was wonderful. “All you can take with you is what you gave” – ​​Pa Bailey

Pennyroyal is at the Finborough Theater from July 12 to August 6

Photo credit: Lucy Roslyn

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