Anna Chatterton is a librettist, playwright, and performer. She is also a two-time finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama—in 2018 for her play Gertrude and Alice (co-written with Evalyn Parry), and in 2017 for her play Within the Glass. Her solo play Quiver was a finalist for the 2019 Hamilton Literary Awards in Fiction. Anna’s plays have been produced by the Shaw Festival, Nightwood Theatre, Tarragon Theatre, and Alberta Theatre Projects, among others. Anna has been a playwright-in-residence at Nightwood Theatre, the National Theatre School of Canada, Tarragon Theatre, and Tapestry Opera. She lives in Hamilton Ontario.1
In 2017, she was the artist in residence for NotaBle Acts. As such, we were absolutely thrilled to hear more from her, and to present this exclusive interview with Theatre UNB on the upcoming production of her short play Liatorp. In this humorous and melancholic piece, a couple struggles through their relationship’s past and future while assembling a notoriously difficult Ikea unit.
“It is a calm optimistic time, the beginning of your relationship”
Liatorp as a play begins with the characters as a young couple, but quickly spans a large period of time in their relationship. Deftly woven with quippy comments and inner monologue, the early play gives room for each of the characters to travel through an emotional journey – while still remaining brisk and funny.
“I allowed myself permission to play with time as I wanted, I said I’m not going to look at this in a realistic sort of way. I’m just going to allow them to be in an Ikea and then be at home. I just decided to give myself the liberty and the freedom to to be fluid with time and location.”
The play draws inspiration from the altogether too familiar woes of furniture assembly.
“Liatorp was inspired by an article that I read about a piece of furniture from Ikea that is notorious for being so hard to put together that it has caused divorces. I thought that was pretty hilarious but also very metaphoric.”
“So I decided to set it between a couple. I was thinking — this is a couple that is not getting along famously, and there’s got to be some sort of a journey. And so who are the type of people that might break up as a result of the difficulty with this piece of furniture.”
She describes going on a deductive journey through the characters-wondering if the couple had kids, if they communicated enough.
“It was that sort of thing, — placing problems in their relationship that would allow this crack to occur between them, so that there was something simmering underneath already. This was what allowed everything to shatter, as the glass (of the Liatorp unit) does in the play.”
Of course, the students playing the characters (Shelby Gilley and Adrien Saliendra) are significantly younger than the characters they play throughout the majority of the script – who start off their journey as prospective homeowners in their early-mid twenties, but move quickly into their thirties burdened with the passage of time. This provides a unique set of challenges and opportunities for actors.
“I’ve been in their shoes, where you’re in university or theatre school, and you’re playing people that are older than you. There’s part of you that doesn’t fully comprehend things as you would when you’re older. But I think that there’s part of you that has observed (these relationship dynamics) or of course understands breakups. I think that’s universal, no matter what age you are.”
“They may not be grappling with owning a house, or what floors they are choosing for their bathroom, but at the core, most people have been in relationships, and they’ve had them break down.”
“It’s also playing house in a way. When you’re a kid and you play house, you’re pretending to be growing up. You’re imitating what you’ve observed in your life. I assume that these 18/19 year old theatre students are sort of playing house a little bit with this play, where they’re projecting themselves into the future and trying it on for size.”
Additionally, while the play was written long before COVID-19, it seems prescient in its appreciation of interpersonal drama as a microcosm for global issues. The shadow of climate change, and an unspoken anxiety for the future casts a heavy shadow over the latter half of the script. It speaks to today, where we find ourselves (more literally) trapped in our homes.
“At the end, with (Matt) talking about global warming, – that hasn’t gone away, it’s only gotten worse. But we are kind of ignoring it because of the pandemic. (As) a metaphor for grappling with the larger world. It’s both epic and domestic.”
“They’re doing things that we aren’t of course. We aren’t doing going to IKEA and that sort of thing, but it’s true. They are kind of trapped together in this house. And there is something bigger and larger going on that is a bit of a metaphor for the relationship- which is the break down of normality.”
In a play built so heavily around the collision course a a relationship can take, it begs the question for the audience – was it all inevitable?
“That’s a really great question. I love thinking about that. I think actually, it’s very clear to me what they could have done. This is, I think, part of the reason probably why I wrote about it”
“I think it’s about communication. I think it’s about a relationship, if you’re not staying in clear communication with with each other – it can reach a point where you’ve gone too far. […] If they had stayed close to each other, every inch of the way, instead of sort of turning their backs to each other, I think it could have maybe been saved.”
Liatorp will be put on as part of Duels and Duet. More information, including dates and ticketing can be found on our Facebook event page at:
Theatre UNB Presents: Duels and Duets
Want to hear more from the author? Chatterton’s interest in memory and domestic drama continues in her upcoming work on the memory loss of Agatha Christie:
“When she was in her 20s, she disappeared for 10 days, and nobody knew where she was. It was the largest manhunt at the time in the UK, in search for her. When she was found, she was found at a spa, where she had been enjoying herself for the last 10 days, pretending to be someone else. And then until the day she died, and and beyond, she claimed that it was amnesia. And so it’s this big mystery, which is so funny, because she’s a mystery writer!”
To see more of Anna’s work, and where to purchase it, check out:
Anna Chatterton | Playwrights Canada Press
1 Bio thanks to Playwrights Canada Press