Playwright, Amie Maria Marie speaks her mind with extraordinary openness. “The long and short of it was, I was really frustrated with Theresa May. I didn’t like her as home secretary. I didn’t like her Go Home vans, which cost a lot of money and got barely anyone to self deport.”
The driving force behind Amie’s work has been politics. But as she quickly notes, “I think as a society, we tend to underestimate the significance of politics in our everyday lives. Food is politics, home is politics, the quality of the potholes in your road is politics.”
She laughs, but not for long. Besides, Marie is, in fact, deadly serious. And yet whilst politics might not define her work, it certainly drives it. In a political world where decisions have such far-reaching implications – a matter of life and death for some – theatre feels an appropriate way to illustrate feelings towards the actions of our political leaders.
After graduating from the University of East Anglia with a degree in Scriptwriting and Performance, she has already put her experiences to good use, saying, “For me, staying aware of what’s going on, what the law changes are, different campaigns around people’s rights, how topics change, how the national mood changes, [have] been something I have been following for a really long time. All of life is politics, and therefore our reactions to it all is activism.”
In Marie’s play, written a year after the Brexit referendum, Theresa May is a clear culprit. “ I view her as a ‘white feminist’ because she focuses on being the right kind of person, whereas intersectional feminism says people of different demogragphics have different struggles, and you can’t have a one size fits all.”
“I think she oversimplified her vision of a Conservative utopia to exclude people who needed help from the central government. I especially disrespect her for the negative influence she’s had on trans rights. It’s just led to the rise of transphobia.” Frustration pervades her tone, “[May] said she’d do one thing, and instead she’s hurt a lot of people.”
Marie sighs deeply before continuing, “Theresa May continues to be in politics. She continues to speak out in the House of Parliament. Strangely, I’ve found her to be much more reasonable since resigning, speaking out against Boris Johnson.”
Marie’s play focuses on May’s brief time at Number Ten, taking charge of a government torn apart by the aftermath of an unexpected referendum result. “What people in power choose to do and say affects the rest of us. A big part of the play was about mocking the buffoonery of these politicians versus the very real harm they inflict on people.”
So, what’s the core message? “Pay attention and make up your own mind. Are you proud of the choice these people have made, or should they have done better?”
On the Street Urchin Theatre website, the play’s synopsis suggests its satirical quality, the story of a “political clown show featuring all your favourite politicians but only two clowns.” But should a woman who was thrust into the limelight at a difficult moment really be blamed for the chaos caused by her predecessor?
Marie is reasonable. “I don’t hate Theresa May. I just think some of what she’s inadvertently inflicted on people has been very cruel, causing needless suffering. And she’s smart enough to know people suffered as a consequence, but she believes it was worth it.” Her play conveys this resentment towards the former Prime Minister: “I mistrusted her opening speech. This was my version of going to the pub and saying to a neighbour, ‘can you believe what’s going on?’”
The question of ‘blame’ has stalked Marie ever since the play’s first release in 2018. Theresa May’s leadership came in the aftermath of a Brexit referendum in which more than half of the British electorate voted to leave the European Union, causing widespread dismay and forcing the resignation of May’s predecessor, David Cameron.
“I wanted to vent my frustrations, and have an audience that felt the same way by the end of the piece, and be like, ‘this isn’t good enough, this isn’t the person she’s claiming to be’”.
Far and wide, the play is still spoken about, and Marie thinks she knows why. In February, the play’s script was made accessible to audiences who missed out on the live performance. “It feels very strange,” she admits. “The play was written in 2017 and toured in 2018, and yet people still come up to me asking about it.”
Three years is a long time in the entertainment industry. “I think the reason they do is because we don’t have theatre quite like it at the moment. We have theatre dealing with politics in abstract, characters on stage that suffer tragically from’ homelesessnes, drug addictions, abuse, bad things that happen to individuals rather than something that can be literally affected by laws, or better funding, or different taxation.”
I ask her what she means. “We see potholes in the road and think, ‘the council aren’t doing enough’, instead of, ‘is the government allocating enough funding to the council to enable necessary change?’”
Amie’s work has been and gone but remains to this day her most renowned project. “Part of the reason I published it was to keep a record of what was said. I wanted to remind people that we didn’t have it easy before Johnson, we just had someone different in charge. In essence, Johnson just follows a long trajectory of poor leadership.”
Time to cut in. Or not. “David Cameron cut welfare for disabled children despite having a disabled child himself. The hypocrisy is like a snake eating itself, getting faster and faster, so we mustn’t assume the headline today is worse than yesterday’s story.”
What next for Amie Maria Marie? “I have spoken to many people about what a play about Boris Johnson would look like. Johnson wears a cloak of buffoonery so you can’t weaponise making a mockery out of him in the same way. It’s like trying to imitate Donald Trump, saying bigoted things hoping someone would laugh, and the next day Trump would say something even worse.”
She talks candidly about her mother who, after a surgery that went “horribly wrong”, consequently lives with a disability. “I’m currently working on a play called ‘Scrounge’, my 2018 dissertation project, about the experience of asking the government for help but being treated with absolute suspicion. This is an ongoing problem with welfare for disabled people in the UK where they’re treated not only as burdens, but also as horrible people.”
After recent success, the firmness of Amie’s tone is unmistakable, reflecting a person who makes theatre to make change. And people are taking note.