The Next Stage: Kathrine Smith’s new project about lesbians in the 1970s

Jaq Bayles February 26, 2020

The Next Stage

After winning major plaudits for her play about gay men’s lives in the 1960s, Kathrine Smith is gearing up a new project about lesbians in the 1970s. She talks about telling real stories to Jaq Bayles.

As she reflects on the success of her award-winning play, All I See Is You, Brighton-based TV, radio and theatre writer Kathrine Smith clearly still finds the audience reactions very touching.

“Wherever we went I received emails, mostly from men who had lived through the period of the play touched to see their story told. Sadly, it is still rare for our community to see representations of our lives on stage, which is why we need lots more queer stories.”

And the play – a love story between two men in Bolton in 1967 – has been to a lot of places. It was originally performed at last year’s Brighton Fringe before touring nationally and to the International Gay Theatre Festival in Dublin, where the actors won awards for outstanding performances and Kathrine won the Oscar Wilde Prize for Best New Writing.

The production also won the Brighton Fringe International Touring Bursary, which took it to Sydney and Melbourne Fringe Festivals in September. “It was incredibly moving to see how a story of queer men in 1960s Lancashire resonated with present day audiences across the world,” says Kathrine.

When asked the inevitable question of why she chose to write about gay men, she responds: “I get asked that a lot.” Of course she does – and, indeed, why shouldn’t she write about men? After all, it’s not like men don’t give voices to women when it comes to the arts.

Kathrine – who has written for, among others, EastEnders and The Bill and is currently writing for TV drama London Kills – cites some rather depressing statistics released in May 2018 by the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, which show that only 16% of working film writers in the UK are female, and only 14% of prime-time TV is female-written. Ergo: “A lot of men are writing about women.”

Kathrine wrote All I See Is You for Bolton’s Octagon Theatre 50th Anniversary Prize (it won), and one of the reasons for the characters being male was that it was also the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality, which of course affected men much more than women. She says all her ideas are based on real events and she’d been reading accounts of queer life in the 1960s when she saw the Octagon Prize advertised.

“But on a personal level I found it much easier to write about queer issues through the mask of men than I would women. Through the response to the play I now feel much more confident and open about writing about issues that are closer to home.”

All of which means a new play is in the offing. Kathrine is currently researching to write a play about lesbians in the 1970s and is hoping it will be finished this year.

“I love history and particularly enjoy telling stories inspired by real events in the queer community so that we don’t forget how hard equal rights were won.”