Since her first major dramatic success (Colder Than Here, which premiered at the Soho Court Theatre in 2005), Laura Wade has gone from strength to strength in the world of theatre and film. If you aren’t already a fan of her introspective and dynamic work, here are half a dozen reasons why you should be…
1. She makes difficult themes accessible
To put it simply, Colder Than Here is about a woman dying from cancer, and how she and her family try to come to terms with it. And yet, Wade somehow manages to make the play easy – even enjoyable – to read. By mixing dry humour with the hardship of accepting a terminal illness, Wade has created a window into a 21st century dysfunctional family. Via undeniably difficult subject matters, the play manages to leave audiences with the resonating message that anyone can get through hard times – Myra’s unorthodox way of coping is to watch Have I Got News For You while sat in her own coffin. There are few modern plays which treat such complex themes with a similar buoyancy.
2. The adaptations you know are even better in the original
Take Posh. It was adapted by Wade herself into the 2014 film The Riot Club, which made millions at the box office and received rave reviews. Cleverly released at the time when Bullingdon boys David Cameron, Boris Johnson and George Osborne were prominent government figures, the film really got people thinking about the class system in Britain today and what it means to be ‘posh’ – which brings us back to the original play. There’s a claustrophobia about it being performed in one timeframe, on one stage, in one setting – which cannot translate to a film – as well as some fantastic monologues. If you get the chance to read the published copy or see a live performance, take it.
3. Her plays are genuinely relevant
Laura Wade adapted Sarah Waters’ novel Tipping The Velvet for the stage in 2015, a story which tells the story of a Victorian woman who falls in love with a cross-dresser. Admittedly, it doesn’t sound astoundingly relevant, but the themes of acceptance and cultural oppression are certainly applicable to aspects of today’s society. More obviously pertinent is her play Other Hands about a couple that has semi-platonic relationships with other people and both suffer from repetitive strain injuries. The major theme of the play is actually how reliance on technology has desensitised us towards the feelings of others, and how emotional discrepancies have become normalised in modern relationships. The picture it paints is quite bleak, but it certainly makes you think twice about how people relate to each other in the modern world.
4. There is incredible variety in her work
Somehow, Laura Wade has managed to write plays about the dangers of technology, class entitlement, terminal illness, identity theft, and numerous dead bodies, without becoming a sensationalist. The latter play is perhaps the wackiest she has written: Breathing Corpses, which premiered in 2005, tells the story of ordinary people discovering various corpses, and how they and their families deal with it. Again, it’s not particularly cheery – Wade’s plays often aren’t – but the way she layers the clues and leaves the audience to join the dots is truly remarkable.
5. She doesn’t take the easy way out
The concept of retelling a classic story onstage and updating it for a modern audience is nothing groundbreaking. But the Independent dubbed Alice, Wade’s version of Lewis Carroll’s famous children’s book, “a brilliant slant on an old tale.” And while Alice In Wonderland has been adapted innumerable times, few have begun the story at a funeral for Alice’s elder brother, who has died in a drink-driving car crash. In 2010, Ruby Bentall played the titular character, who is forced by the various Wonderland characters to tackle her personal issues. The Mad Hatter’s tea party turns into a parody of the funeral scene, and the Cheshire Cat serves as an embodiment of Alice’s conscience. It’s surprising how a well-known classic can sometimes be the best way to approach a traumatic story.
6. If you don’t already, you will (probably) love her plays
In short, Wade’s plays place a spotlight on a variety of weird and wonderful characters in wild situations. Her knack for witty dialogue, rounded characters and incisive stagecraft have earned her acclaim as one of the brightest playwrights of her generation; it seems that everyone could learn a thing or two from Laura Wade.
Words by Annabelle Fuller