Playwright and director Ché Walker speaks to Theatrefullstop about his latest work, The Etienne Sisters!

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In the heart of East London, there’s a family of two lamenting the loss of a loved one, which in turn results in the unwelcome arrival of an estranged loved one. Well, in the case of Ché Walker’s The Etienne Sisters, this appears to be the character’s realities. Theatre Royal Stratford East will play host to walker’s fierce and fiery family centred tale, accompanied by a soundtrack courtesy of both singer and songwriters, Sheila Atim and Anoushka Lucas, whom have a proven track record with the critically acclaimed, Klook’s Last Stand, showing last year at the Park Theatre. Ahead of The Etienne Sisters premiere at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, Theatrefullstop were lucky enough to talk to Walker about the amount of strong female roles on offer theatrically, themes explored in the play and his inspiration for writing the piece.

Hi Chè, The Etienne Sisters is set to show at Theatre Royal Stratford East in September, how are you feeling ahead of the first show? 

I’m always cautiously optimistic in rehearsals- I make sure to surround myself with fantastically talented people!
As playwright and director of the show, do you continually make edits throughout the run?

Yes, and I also re-write, which can drive my actors crazy.

The Etienne Sisters places four female characters at the forefront. Do you believe that there are many strong female roles in the world of theatre?

I think there could always be more. I’d like to see more women producers and directors also. My mother worked a lot with the wonderful ex-offenders women’s theatre company Clean Break, which made a big impression on me when I was young. A lot of brilliant women’s theatre companies from the 70’s and 80’s have been obliterated by cuts.

The show explores the themes of death, family and memory. Had you initially intended to create a show looking at these themes or were they a bi-product?

The characters always come to me first, then the story, and then I work out what it’s about i.e. theme once these other elements are in place.

The production witnesses yourself collaborating with songwriter and composer Anoushka Lucas once again, after the success of last year’s show, Klook’s Last Stand. How does the collaborative process work?

I tell Anoushka what I want, she ignores me.

The cast consists of 4 actors, how do you find working in a small cast?

You have a real chance to get to know people, and play to their strengths.

How would you describe your approach to directing theatre productions?

I try to make it feel very playful, but make sure all detail, nuance and texture are fully explored.

What inspired you to write The Etienne Sisters?

I had an image of three women on a bare stage, and followed it where it took me.

What advice would you give to aspiring playwrights and directors?

Ignore All Advice.

Interview by Lucy Basaba.

The Etienne Sisters will be showing at Theatre Royal Stratford East from Thursday 10th September until Saturday 3rd October. For more information on the production, visit here…

Enter our competition to win a pair of tickets to the show here…

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