Since St John’s: Kate Reid (2013)
Kate Reid (2013) studied English at St John’s, trained as an actor at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and has subsequently established the production company Plain Heroines. Kate writes for theatre, TV and film and is currently working towards an Off-West End transfer of her play ‘The 4th Country’.
I studied English at St John’s from 2013-2016, spending considerably more time at the ADC Theatre than in the library… With two fellow students I met at the ADC, I formed my production company Plain Heroines, and in my final year wrote a play called ‘Three Days’ Time’. It had a weeks’ run as the ADC late show and we took it to the Edinburgh Fringe that summer (alongside a sister show that was undeniably better than mine).
After a two year pause while I trained as an actor at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Plain Heroines reunited in London in 2019 and our General Manager came on board. We’re a female-led company and try to support and employ as many women in theatre as we can. That’s not to say we don’t work with men – we’ve absolutely been known to have a token man or two in our productions – just that we foreground female narratives in our work and enjoy the atmosphere of female-led rehearsal rooms. We like to say that we make funny plays about difficult subjects, and whilst female stories are key to the work we make, the plays we’ve produced have ranged widely in subject matter, from political conflict in Northern Ireland, to dialysis patients waiting for donors, to the mysterious case of a missing budgie. As I say, it’s a wide range.
We’re really excited to finally bring ‘The 4th Country’ to Park in January 2022
My latest play ‘The 4th Country’ doesn’t have any budgies in it, but it is set in Northern Ireland in 2019. I wrote it whilst Plain Heroines were frantically putting on work at every pub theatre and scratch night that would have us, until November that year when we were awarded Arts Council funding for the writing programme ‘Script Accelerator’ at Park Theatre. That was the beginning of our relationship with Park Theatre, who’ve been a constant source of support. When ‘The 4th Country’ ran at VAULT Festival in February 2020, the Park team came to see the show and offered us a transfer for August. Almost immediately after that offer, things went a little sideways to say the least… so we’re really excited to finally bring ‘The 4th Country’ to Park in January 2022!
The play looks at how Northern Ireland’s political turmoil affects the everyday life of one family. I’m half Northern Irish – I’m actually writing this article from my grandparents’ farm in County Tyrone – so it’s been important to me to put those stories onstage in a way that feels truthful, both in terms of the drama of the story, and also its very Northern Irish sense of humour. Staging this show at Park Theatre is an incredible opportunity, and a huge step for us as a company. It was gutting to have spent two years working towards our first Off-West End run, to have it seemingly slip away at the last second.
Covid-19 had a massive impact on our industry, both financially and artistically, with numerous creatives being forced to leave the industry altogether. A worrying number of funding streams also dried up, making it harder than ever to finance putting on a play. It’s a huge amount of work to put a play on in London at the best of times, but I firmly believe that introducing important, unheard stories to a brand-new audience is such a vital and worthwhile endeavour. If anyone is interested in supporting us in that endeavour, we’re currently fundraising for the show, so please visit www.plainheroines.com/the-4th-country for details on how to donate or book tickets at https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/the-4th-country.
It’s hard to look back at the pandemic and find silver linings, but one professional positive that came from that period was that, with the closure of all the theatres, I turned my attention to learning how to write for television. With Zak Ghazi-Torbati (yes, he is a man, but he’s Plain-Heroines-approved), I developed a sitcom pilot and we recently found out it’s been greenlit for 2022 (I’m 99% certain I’d get into big trouble for revealing anything else about that…but watch this space!). Zak and I also had great fun over lockdown writing sketches for the BBC show ‘Age of Outrage’. It was a joyous process because he and I met at Cambridge writing sketch comedy, so it felt like a real trip down memory lane, reminiscing about endless cups of tea and terrible punchlines in my room in New Court.
Looking forwards, my main ambition is to keep making work I feel strongly about and finding a home for it in front of an audience. I also hope I’ll someday be in a position to help younger creatives find their feet. There’s been a huge amount of trial and error in the first years of my career… mostly error, if we’re being honest… and I would love to keep learning and passing on the lessons I’ve been lucky enough to stumble across since I left St John’s.
Kate and the Plain Heroines team are currently fundraising for the their upcoming transfer of ‘The 4th Country’, visit www.plainheroines.com/the-4th-country for details on how to donate or book tickets at https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/the-4th-country.