Sometimes it’s the litte ones that can teach us how to overcome the biggest problems. Dramaturg Laura Lindow has no doubt about that, and so she has proven in her latest show, The Ultimate Pickle, an inspiring story dealing with the grief children may also face – but explored through the eyes of comedy, imagination and, most importantly, a lot of fun! Guillermo Názara chats with the playwright about the creation of this piece, which until the end of the month can be seen at Edinburgh Festival Fringe before touring across the country.
Fantasy and imagination to escape from grief. How did the idea of THE ULTIMATE PICKLE come to you?
In part working as a Clown Doctor over the last 15 years meant I wanted to tell a story about the bigger issues that the world brings along, and to explore one young character’s navigation through a situation where a family goes through a big and sad change. And how ultimately nothing is insurmountable however consuming it can feel. My own family went through a transition when I was young. I was a teenager, but I always think of my little brother throughout that time. I remember his world becoming very closed off in his attempts not to worry anyone. I wanted to make a story that spoke to that experience, but pointing to the laughter, imagination and tenacity that can see a hero through. Plus an added wolf always helps things along.
A family piece about children dealing with pain. It might be centered around the little ones, but the challenge must be huge. How do you approach such a sensitive matter in a way that’s appealing to both kids and adults?
Ah, I hope I approach it in the way that I approach all playwrighting…. with an honest rolling-up-of-sleeves to tell a good story that speaks with humour and heart. Not down-playing the scale of the issues at the core of the work – but bearing in mind the different lenses that the audience might be meeting the work through. I really believe that good theatre for young audiences will also speak to adults. It’s about telling tales of the world we all live in.
Which elements have you brought from your experience as a clown doctor? Which ones did you want to explore?
I hope I’ve brought a bounce that I think comes from my commitment to the very serious business that is play and good fun. I think probably I’m quite comfortable with the potential for light and shade to exist in the same space – one doesn’t cancel out the other. The world is a beautiful but complicated adventure and one which can take a bit of tricky handling at times. But even the smallest hearts can take on the very bravest times if armed with encouragement, understanding and support when needed.
Can children be an example of maturity?
Yes. Absolutely. Now I’m saying that, I’m not quite sure how I’d define maturity. Can adults learn from children? Can we ever! Can children be wise and insightful? Often the most! Can they impress us olders with their abilities to understand and interpret the world in great and creative ways? To imagine inventive solutions? Recover from seemingly impossible impossibles with tenacity and strength?
By gum they can!
But important we have a world that provides what’s needed in order for our children to live their best. Not even talking about the gorgeous things like creative activities to explore and express. Or company. Or conversation. Rather good food, a warm and safe bed and care and protection and education for all… Investment in their world means investment in all of our worlds. Just that please. For children to shine.
Is this a motivational piece?
Absolutely. If our audiences aren’t coming out feeling that they can take on the worries… and win… then I’ll personally come and…. I’ll… I’ll…. Well I’d be really disappointed put it that way. This is not a piece about sitting in a heartbreak stew! It’s about recognising how strong we can be, and how we’re not on our own in going through things, and… and about how difficult it is to hide a wolf in your schoolbag!
How can we find motivation during the direst of moments?
People around you. Hope. Support. Laughter. Chatting things over.
Knowing that things are never too broken.
And that however awful things might feel, tomorrow IS on its way.
Is the theatre (or any art) capable of healing in some way?
Yes of course. The work we do as Clown Doctors is tangible proof in the immediate and practical purpose of play.
Medicine is taken when part of a song (thanks Julie!). Painful physio is easier with a game. Journeys to and from operations are happier with gentle company.
In watching/experiencing theatre you can completely immerse yourself in someone else’s story or adventure and, somehow, I reckon, when the lights come back on it can feel like someone has spoken to your own story. Again… gentle company.
What have you learned from the creation of this play?
I’ve drawn so much joy from working with the incredible team at Paines Plough. Co-Artistic Director Charlotte Bennet is my own all-time-hero. A true inspiration. Working alongside her, and Katie Posner, has been just amazing.
The effervescent and tireless director, Eva Sampson, and the team of incredible actors Sam, Sara and Princess, and all the other brilliants involved… they’ve all been so generous. I’ve felt so unbelievably lucky to have worked alongside the other writers Sami and Dipo… and to have been part of the Roundabout 2022. It’s been a total honour.
Why should we go see The Ultimate Pickle?
It is a cracking good tale. It’s an hour of laughter and heart told beautifully by the most gorgeous trio of talenteds! There are some terrible (read incredible) puns, a race to end all races, and an almost-real-life wolf. Yes really! (not really). All housed in the best ever venue – the yellow gem that is The Roundabout. Most of all you should find that after the story you come out with a bit more bravery in your own pocket to take out into the world for later.
The Ultimate Pickle will play at Paines Plough’s Roundabout, which runs at Summerhall from 3-28 August 2022 before embarking on a UK Tour. Tickets and further information are available on the following link.