The notion of life after death has dominated the thoughts of society’s greatest thinkers for centuries. With her play, Gate, Artemis Fitzalan Howard brings her own unique take to the subject and we caught up with this emerging young playwright, to find out a little more about her latest work.
In a world driven by science and dominated by technology, religion and spirituality have drifted off the agenda for many westerners and yet the theme of Artemis Fitzalan Howard’s latest play toys with the notion of life after death and the question that continues to challenge humanity. What happens when we shed this mortal coil?
“Although there has been a noticeable shift in society, away from religion, I think a lot of people still have a connection with their spiritual side. The principal idea of Gate was probably influenced by my own Catholic upbringing and I wanted to tackle the age-old question of what happens after we die.
“I also wanted to look at writing something specifically with women in mind. There are simply not enough female roles and even less comic ones, so in Gate it is the women who demand the spotlight.”
There’s a natural symmetry about Fitzalan Howard’s decision to focus on women as the central theme of the story, perhaps echoing the idea that as the deliverers of life, facing up to the inevitability of death is a unique experience for them.
Gate is set in purgatory and focuses on Eve, a “guardian” who is about to welcome in four new appointments, none of whom realise they are dead!
“I’ve tried to take a light-hearted approach to the subject and given it a corporate setting, that I hope makes it a little more accessible to a wider, modern audience for whom religion and the afterlife are not necessarily priority talking points.
“The story is about 4 souls arriving at the Gate and how they deal with the reality of life after death. I want people to leave the production thinking about what they have just seen and continuing the debate at home.”
A drama graduate from Bristol university, who was born and raised in Clapham, London, Fitzalan Howard always wanted to work in theatre. After securing employment at a TV production company, she continued to work evenings and weekends to pursue her script writing ambitions.
“I had already formed Deadpan Theatre with my colleague Eliot Salt and together we had produced several successful productions before I wrote Gate.”
With work and writing taking up so much of her time, does she ever anything left for other hobbies or interests?
“My career and my hobbies are pretty much the same thing but if I’m not writing I enjoy cinema and I’m a big fan of music. I also play the piano – although not as much as I used to. I trained as a pianist from a young age.”
Gate opens at The Cockpit Theatre in Marylebone on 13th September and for more information visit Deadpan Theatre’s website here.
George R Vaughan