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Stellar Quines and Pearlfisher theatre companies bring playwright Ellie Stewart's swan of a kind script to life as Hope and Joy arrives at Lyth Arts Centre and the Universal Hall, Findhorn next week

By Kyle Walker

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SINCE its premiere performance, Ellie Stewart’s latest script has been the subject of more than a few eggs-ellent reviews.

The play sounds strange on paper – the story of a woman (Hope) giving birth to a large egg that hatches into a swan-boy son called Magnus, and the friendship she forges with hospital cleaner (who moonlights as Hope’s midwife) Joy.

But lest you think that this play sounds somewhat flighty, playwright Ellie is happy to assure audiences that the message and the world of Hope and Joy remains somewhat grounded throughout.

“It actually started a long time ago as a very short piece of writing after one of my daughters was born,” Ellie explained. “And it was an unexpected thing – she has Down Syndrome – and we didn’t know that before she was born.

“So it actually started as a reaction to that. The moments we all have in life that kind of just knock you sideways a bit, throws you a curveball as you do.

“And then through this amazing capacity we have to adapt as human beings, this becomes your normality. So I think that was very tangibly the start of the writing for me – but that was 16 years ago for me now! She’ll tell me she’s an adult now!”

Hope and Joy from Stellar Quines and Pearlfisher was written by Ellie Stewart and stars Beth Marshall and Kim Gerard. Picture: Jassy Earl
Hope and Joy from Stellar Quines and Pearlfisher was written by Ellie Stewart and stars Beth Marshall and Kim Gerard. Picture: Jassy Earl

Over the years, Ellie tinkered and played around with the idea, developing it and exploring the ideas that interested her. “What happened over the years was that I started to explore our capacity to adapt and to support each other as human beings, to change and to the curveballs that life throws at you – whatever they are.”

So from that idea, Ellie has created a world in Hope and Joy of swan/boy hybrids, of Stornoway dancing – “not of the louche lapdancing sort, but more of the acrobatic type thing!” – and of a central friendship between Hope and Joy that survives thick and thin.

“I think that in the writing of it I’ve tried to stay as truthful as possible to the character’s will,” she said. “So when I’ve been writing it I’ve not been thinking about the metaphor, I’ve been thinking about Magnus and his lines and maybe his slightly webbed feet. And so the questions we’ve been asking as well for rehearsal have been very practical as well – what would they eat for breakfast, you know?

“So within this slightly magical world, we’re trying to be as truthful as possible to the characters and their emotions and their every day lives. And from that what I hope is that the metaphor can be different for everybody in the audience if they want it to be.

“So that hopefully that it will feel meaningful, but that might be meaningful in different ways to different people, because I think everybody has encountered their own obstacles and own differences and challenges and pitfalls in life, haven’t they?”

Hope and Joy comes to Lyth Arts Centre on Thursday, before travelling to the Universal Hall, Findhorn on Friday, November 15. For more info, go to www.stellarquines.com

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