phone mail2 facebook twitter play whatsapp
On Record – An Interview with Sophie Willan
Image Credit: Steve Ullathorne

On Record – An Interview with Sophie Willan

11 April 2017 Belphoebe New

Sophie Willan is a rising star in British comedy, and her first solo stand-up show, On Record, has been making waves across the country. After becoming one of the breakthrough stars of the Edinburgh festival, On Record has had a sold-out run and received substantial critical acclaim. In this hour long show, Sophie tells her story of growing up in care, critiquing some of the language surrounding mental health through the lens of her own experiences. At times both hilarious and harrowing, On Record’s discussion of mental health and social services comes at a time when the dialogue around mental health is ever expanding. We spoke to Sophie about the show and the process of reclaiming the narrative around some of her most difficult childhood experiences.

London Calling: Tell us a little more about how On Record came about.
 
Sophie Willan: I started writing it in 2015, and I was inspired by the negative representations of welfare in the media and cuts on social services, and I wanted to do something that addressed that and humanised people, but by exploring that through my own personal experiences.
 
LC: In On Record, you deal with topics that certainly aren’t traditionally comedic. Was that ever a challenge for you or does it feel quite natural just to talk about your own experiences?
 
SW: Yeah, because it’s funny and optimistic. I explore a lot of dark themes, but the execution and the pathos makes it funny.
 
LC: I’m really interested in the idea of personal records that you speak about in the show. With On Record, did it feel like you were reclaiming and retelling your story from all those records of your childhood?
 
SW: It’s about the reclaiming of negative language used on mental health, social services and welfare recipients. And through that I explore the language used about me in my personal records and my mother. There’s a bit where I talk about the fact my mum never worked, and the response I got from people. There’s a lot of looking at negative viewpoints and flipping them on the head, and looking systemically at how we can change our attitudes.
 
What I didn’t want to do was another depressing story about care, and I didn’t want to be a sort of role model. It was just about being honest about my experiences, which I think is ultimately more inspiring for people really.


Photo credit: Steve Ullathorne
 
LC: Mental health is quite a prevalent topic at the moment. Did you feel that, despite it being your own story, you had a responsibility to cover it sensitively?
 
SW: What I was really determined to do was create a show free of blame. I didn’t want the narrative to be ‘well this is a show where Sophie gets back at social workers’. Lots of social workers come to the show, so it’s a collaborative thing. This show, for me, is a conversation between myself and my experiences. I’m not here to tell anybody how it is, as every child in the care system has a very different experience.
 
LC: On Record sounds like it’s a rollercoaster of emotions. How have audiences been reacting to the show thus far?
 
SW: I’m very proud of it to be honest! I think they either feel empowered or ready to have a conversation about it. And I think people feel that they’ve made a connection with me too, and the audience have been so positive so far – it’s been wonderful!
 
LC: You only started performing stand-up fairly recently. What drew you to start, and does it still feel like a relatively new thing for you?
 
SW: I’ve been doing theatre for years, so I kind of look at things from the perspective of a wider narrative. I like the structure of writing jokes, and I think it suits my personality because I’m optimistic, yet also quite blunt! With standup, you’re very economical with your words, you get to your point quickly so that’s it funnier, I like that outlet.
 
LC: What’s next for you, are you planning more shows like this?
 
SW: I’m working on my second show, and I’ll be taking that up to Edinburgh this Summer.  I’ll be continuing to explore the sort of things I looked at in On Record, particularly the idea of how people often get put into boxes, and what that means for identity. My book will be published in July, so there’s a lot of work on that too!
 
Sophie Willan performs On Record at Soho Theatre between 21 April and 29 April. Find out more and book tickets here.

Tell us what you think

You may also like

Great is the hope that makes men cross borders

Great is the hope that makes men cross borders

Theatre can be a great source of entertainment or escapism – but viewing it merely as a tool for these purposes would be to sorely underestimate…

Gold Rush! Free Summer Family Activity at the Bank of England Museum

Gold Rush! Free Summer Family Activity at the Bank of England Museum

Do you have what it takes to solve a 100-year old mystery at the Bank of England Museum?

Hidden gems at the Camden Fringe Festival

Hidden gems at the Camden Fringe Festival

This year’s Camden Fringe Festival has a jam-packed programme of new work, but with everything from chat shows to experimental sound pieces, it can be hard...

This week: 23 – 29 July

This week: 23 – 29 July

Summer is getting to that stage where, if you are not on holidays yet, things can start to drag... We can't offer sandy beaches but…

The Everywhere Bear at Polka Theatre

The Everywhere Bear at Polka Theatre

Illustrator Rebecca Cobb has worked with best-selling author Julia Donaldson on numerous children’s books, most notably on ‘The Paper Dolls’ which was turned into a play at…

A Disturbingly Provocative Play

A Disturbingly Provocative Play

‘We can both pretend - that it’s all pretend’ says Kristina (played by Thalissa Teixeira) after she witnesses an act of complete betrayal between her fiancé and…

The Everywhere Bear

The Everywhere Bear

A beautiful new story from best-selling author Julia Donaldson and illustrator Rebecca Cobb springs to life in Polka’s fun and exciting stage adaptation.

The Best Theatre in August

The Best Theatre in August

Whilst the majority of the country’s writers, performers, fringe venues and journalists decamp to the glorious surrounds of Edinburgh for a month, here in London there…

An Interview with designer Lucy Stephens

An Interview with designer Lucy Stephens

Book cover designer Lucy Stephens set up LucyLovesThis, a small design studio in Brixton, where she creates hand-draws illustrations revolving around her favourite thing -…

Most popular

Win 2 tickets to Black Cat: Bohemia plus a £50 food and bar tab courtesy of Rekorderlig

Underbelly Festival - Win 2 tickets to Black Cat: Bohemia plus a £50 food and bar tab courtesy of Rekorderlig

With the summer months fast approaching, there is nowhere better to unwind than at the Underbelly Festival Southbank.
AIM to Win 5 Tickets to Psychopath’s Den Immersive Escape Room Experience!

Aim Escape - AIM to Win 5 Tickets to Psychopath’s Den Immersive Escape Room Experience!

Can you escape a dreadful fate, or will you become another blood stained, or blood drained, statistic?
Win tickets to Thomas Cole: Eden to Empire!

National Gallery - Win tickets to Thomas Cole: Eden to Empire!

Enter for the chance to win a pair of tickets to the National Gallery's Thomas Cole: Eden to Empire Exhibition.
This week: 30 July – 5 August

This week: 30 July – 5 August

Stuck in the city this summer? Lucky you!
Great is the hope that makes men cross borders

Great is the hope that makes men cross borders

The Jungle, full of soaring joy and gut wrenching desolation, exposes the best and worst in humanity and is easily the most important play of the decade.
Sounds and Sorcery

Sounds and Sorcery

The Vaults are host to an inventive and imaginative conception of Disney’s cult film ‘Fantasia’, interpreted as an immersive environment of installations and performance.
This week: 16 – 22 July

This week: 16 – 22 July

Summer goes on. Cheer up and get some culture in your life!
A Disturbingly Provocative Play

A Disturbingly Provocative Play

Julie at the National Theatre, a contemporary adaptation of the Strindberg classic, transports the power game between a wealthy heiress and her chauffeur into a way too familiar modern day kitchen

Your inbox deserves a little culture!!