Specially commissioned for COVENTRY UK CITY OF CULTURE, May Queen is a state of the nation play by Frankie Meredith and performed in ROUNDABOUT as part of POPOUT FESTIVAL 2021 from 7-10 October 2021.
“Roundabout is a gorgeous place to write for, it’s really unique. I was actually really lucky a couple of years ago to have a seed commission with Paines Plough. They got a bunch of writers and for a few days we went and watched some Roundabout shows and then we had a couple of days to start a script. That piece is actually still on my laptop and may become something one day but the experience gave me a really good insight into how to work for a space like that and what kind of shows work there, so when Balisha Karra – one of the co-Artistic Directors at the Belgrade Theatre for Coventry 2021 – got in touch and asked if I would like to pitch some ideas for Paines Plough and City of Culture I jumped at the chance. I pitched May Queen, which they liked, and I think it will be really a special experience in Roundabout.
The inspiration for May Queen came from the tradition of telling female stories and telling their truth. It’s got a lot to do with how folklore is spoken about nowadays, the way we tell our stories. Folklore is hugely significant in the piece and I did lots of research before writing the play. I found Sara Maitland’s Gossip from the Forest: The Tangled Roots of our Forests and Fairytales particularly inspirational. I was drawn to this by the mythical foundation of Coventry, aka Cofa’s Tree, which was supposed to have begun with someone called Cofa and a tree that marked the boundary of the then Coventry. This led to exploring the representation of woods and forests in fairytales. From that, this story just started to tumble out.
Alongside folklore, May Queen also explores ideas of consent and growing up. I spent my teenage years in Coventry, and so in setting a play in the city, it felt right that it be told by a teenage character. It’s a lot to do with growing up and finding out who you are and about how women have been treated and how they are believed or not believed. I think it’s really important to take away how valid women’s stories are and teenage women’s stories as well. I think some people might get a bit angry but May Queen is funny too. I like to think the play works well as a modern folk tale.”