Stage Whispers: playwright Nicola McCartney discusses her new play Miracle, staging as part of A Play, A Pie and A Pint
What was the inspiration for your new play, Miracle?
I have been thinking and writing a lot over recent years about real life icons, and who they were before they become who they became. I received an SAC Writer’s Bursary in 2005 to write the original version of this play, which was about Einstein and his second wife, Elsa, in 1919. And then I found this story about Einstein’s courtship with his first wife and decided it was more useful. And Mileva Maric Einstein is a fascinating woman.
Do you have to do a significant amount of research for a play with a historical protagonist?
Well I notoriously do too much research. My play Heritage was almost five hours long when we did the first read-through at the Traverse in 1998! This story lends itself to the imagination more because so little information exists about Einstein and Mileva. We know that the marriage was turbulent. We know she may have helped him in constructing his great theories of 1905. We have letters but there are huge gaps. And that is where the imagination comes in.
Are there particular challenges and pleasures to writing for a lunchtime audience?
Yes. There are tight parameters for Oran Mor, which makes each play an experiment. I think that’s wonderful. I find the lunchtime audience at Oran Mor really receptive. They understand what a new play is – that’s why they come. And that is what makes it a joy. The only challenge is to make it worth their while. But they are such a gracious and open audience it’s a gift for a playwright.
You’re also a director and dramaturge and you’ve worked in education too. Do these different strands complement and inform each other?
If I am honest, I have always done too much. I spread myself way too thinly, mostly in the volume of what I take on. I’m learning as I age. But I do find all these roles complement each other. I do have to switch the dramaturgy head off when I am writing, though, which I find difficult. That is the most difficult stage for me - getting freedom from the brainwork and letting go of that first script. Even after nearly 20 years of doing this I still want it to come out perfectly first time. As a dramaturge, I know that often it’s those ‘imperfect’ bits of script which make it interesting.
Miracle, Oran Mor, Glasgow, Mon 2–Sat 7 May.