Cecilia Knapp - “The biggest challenge was grappling with the formal conventions of playwriting”


Cecilia Knapp

An interview with…

From hobbyist to heroine, Brighton & Hove's very own poet turned playwright Cecilia Knapp is a voice worth hearing. With a successful national tour under her belt, a novel in the works and piles of poems to her name, Cecilia is a force to be reckoned with. We sat down with Cecilia for a chat ahead of her visits.

Hi Cecilia! Thanks for taking the time to chat to us – can you tell us a little bit about how you got started in your career and why you wanted to do what you do?
It was by complete chance! I was very young and living in London alone and a bit directionless. I signed up for a year long poetry course at the Roundhouse and it all kind of spiralled from there. I’d always loved reading and writing but never saw it as a career really. I began with poetry, going to lots of open mics and building it up from there then got into theatre and fiction.

You’re both a performer and a writer. Do you have a preference between the two or do you find it differs from time to time?
At the moment its writing. I love performing and the exchange you have with an audience, the ability to share something but there’s nothing quite like the feeling of writing. When you crack something and get it down, it’s incredible.

Your first show, Finding Home, has just finished touring the UK. How did it all go?
It was amazing! Really fun visiting new towns and meeting new audiences. I was sad to let the show go, it was such a big part of my early writing life but touring is hard and I needed to make room for new work.

You’re going to be at TOM to perform ahead of the performance of I Wanna Be Yours. Are you looking forward to being in Brighton?
Yes! Its my home town! Every time I come and do a gig down in Brighton it feels so special. I look at ideas of home and place in my work quite a lot and so there’s lots of mentions of Brighton and it feels powerful talking about those things to a home crowd.

The show is Zia’s debut play. As you’ve made that jump from poet to playwright yourself, from your perspective, what would you say is the biggest challenge when writing for a different performance purpose?
I actually didn’t find it too challenging, I found it incredibly freeing. You’re giving over your words to another performer, to amazing actors. It’s such a joy to see what they do with it, how they interpret your characters, your dialogue, they are so talented and intuitive, they bring a whole new layer to the piece and to the characters. I guess the biggest challenge was just grappling with the formal conventions of playwriting – I had no experience so was sort of learning on the go about structuring a piece and how to present it. Luckily I have an awesome director Beth Pitts who helps me get to grips with all of that.

You’re also going to be back at TOM in November, performing as part of the BHAC Poetry Festival alongside Hollie McNish. Can you tell us what you might have planned for your return visit?
I have no idea yet! I’m writing a lot at the moment so hopefully some new poems.

Outside of this, you’re an ambassador for the charity C.A.L.M (The Campaign Against Living Miserably). Can you tell us a little bit about why this cause is important to you?
I just think they do important work in both breaking down the mental health stigma whilst also lobbying for more mental health provision and funding. They support those suffering and also those bereaved by suicide (which I myself am, and so many people I know) so I think the work they are doing is essential. The way they go about it is fantastic- building communities, getting the message out, supporting people through art, sports, creativity, and celebrating creativity as a way to raise awareness and help people. They’re a truly great bunch.

Final question – what exciting projects have you got in the pipeline?
I have a run of my play coming up in November at the Roundhouse (20-22nd) and a small tour next year. I’m writing new poems all the time and have just finished the manuscript for a novel!

Cecilia will be performing as support at I Wanna Be Yours on Wed 30 Oct
Click here for tickets and more information

She will also be part of the BHAC Poetry Festival on Sun 24 Nov
Click here for tickets and more information