We spoke to 2015 SED Drama graduate, Edie Edmundson about her time at Queen Mary, her career so far and her latest show The Old Woman Made of Stardust which is coming to Theatre N16 on 27 October 2016.
Tell us about ‘The Old Woman Made of Stardust’ and how the project came about?
The first glimmers of the play appeared during my final year at QM, when I rediscovered a letter my Gran wrote for me before she died. It was a beautifully written letter – some of it has made it into the show! The tone of the letter perfectly struck a balance between softening the blow for a young child (I was 8 at the time), and maintaining clarity about the reality of death. I decided to turn the letter into a play!
Things sparked into life thanks to the Queen Mary Theatre Company. I was able to put the play on as part of the New Writer’s Festival and from there it was chosen for the Fuel London Student Drama Festival. I have always loved puppetry, and I wrote my dissertation on the relationship between puppetry and childhood – particularly how puppet theatre can be used to help children deal with trauma. Puppets can help break down the barriers of self-consciousness and distil complicated issues.
My research – and a puppetry course I took after leaving uni – prompted me to revisit ‘The Old Woman Made of Stardust’, to develop it into something which could help promote honest and open conversations about how the grief caused by bereavement can affect children and their families.
What can an audience expect to experience in the show?
The show is aimed at families, and I hope it will appeal to audiences of all ages. It tells the story of Lily, a little girl who loves to look at the stars. Lily and her Gran play games together, dreaming up constellations and flying like birds. What kind of bird would you be? But when Gran dies, Lily’s vivid imagination catapults her into a strange and tangled forest as she tries to find her way through the grief and make sense of death. Lily’s world is full of magic and colour, a place of paper birds, talking foxes and shooting stars. It is a world turned upside down by the loss of her Grandmother. The play uses innovative puppetry and original music to create a magical world and tell a heart warming, hopeful story or love, loss and growing up.
What else have you been up to since graduating from Queen Mary?
I’ve been very busy! Straight after uni I started training to be a puppeteer on the Puppet Theatre Barge in Little Venice (a wonderful place everyone should visit!), and I did an intensive ten week course at the Curious School of Puppetry in Bethnal Green. From there, I’ve teamed up with some fellow puppeteers to start a company called Wondering Hands who use puppetry to investigate complicated issues – our other show is about sex and consent! Alongside working part time at Wilton’s Music Hall (great local venue!) and the Barbican, I’m just about to start rehearsals as a puppeteer for The Little Match Girl at the Sam Wannamaker Playhouse this Christmas. It feels like a lot has happened since leaving QM….!
What was your favourite thing about studying at Queen Mary?
Studying Drama at QM really opened my eyes to a wide range of live art and performance I would not have come across otherwise. The work we studied and also the incredible work created by students as part of the course and through QMTC really broadened my horizons when it came to my options post uni. The course encouraged me to interrogate art and performance and place it in a wider context in a way I had never done before – something I think is very useful for anyone considering a career in the arts! I think my favourite thing about QM in general probably has to be the location… the East End has so many great venues and interesting things going on. And coming from a small town in Devon, the chance to meet people from all over the world was brilliant.
What advice would you give current students that you wish you’d known before starting at university?
Get involved in societies! It was my involvement with the Theatre Company which introduced me to some fantastic friends and helped me gain some valuable practical skills. There are so many great societies at QM, and they need students to make them grow! I wish I’d had the confidence to get more involved with political societies such as QM Equality, I was always hovering on the fringes but never quite got stuck in. I think now more than ever students need to have a voice, and it’s getting together for common goals in societies that can give people the experience and community needed to make things happen!