Comedy writer Abigail Burdess made her name writing gags for the award winning Mitchell and Webb show and now she’s bringing her first play All the Single Ladies to the Leeds City Varieties.
“It is three interweaving monologues but you don’t know how the women are going to be connected or if they will be connected at all. I was doing the programme notes and I thought ‘what the hell is this play all about’,” laughs Abigail.
Searching for an answer Abigail thinks it’s about the old age problem of how to find love, but with a digital twist.
“It was trying to write something about dating in the Internet age because it has changed so much. The net has pushed a spotlight on the same old problems, but in some ways things like our attitude to privacy have shifted.
“Everyone lies when they are presenting themselves for romance. There is always some sort of embellishment, which doesn’t have to be a bad thing as sometimes you can become a better person by pretending to be a better person.
“Loads of people have said that when you go on your first date through the net it’s like going a seventh date because you’ve kinda learnt everything already online.”
Abigail has recruited three actors at different stages of their careers – veteran thesp Leslie Ash who is coming back to the stage after a long absence, former Eastender Brooke Kinsella and Irish stand up Tara Flynn.
“I hadn’t seen Brooke in Eastenders, but she is playing a northerner and she’s really transformed from when we started rehearing, and she is properly good.
“Tara lives in Dublin and is a bit better known in Ireland, but she is in Stewart’s Lee Comedy Vehicle. She’s got comedy chops, and she’s got a really funny part so I wanted someone who could tell a joke.”
So is All The Single Ladies just a rehash of the Vagina Monologues with a few more laughs?
“I haven’t seen the Vagina Monologues, but this play has a narrative which the Monologues doesn’t have, and although I don’t want to alienate people it has some filthy jokes because I find some rude jokes funny.
“I like characters to have failings and foibles, but I hear a lot of stuff about how there are no parts for strong women. I’m not interested in strong women because they aren’t funny, real women are funny because they can be vain or silly, and all the things people really are.”
Theatre has long been a refuge for female writers but TV comedy still feels like a bit of a lad’s club drowning in its own testosterone.
“I never want to sound like a whinging bastard on this but I think things are changing with shows from funny women like Watson and Oliver on BBC2.
“In the old days there used to be a bit of a one in, one out policy for women’s comedy shows on TV, so I hope there is some sort of cumulative effect where we can turn on panel shows and there will be three women and one man sitting there.”
All The Single Ladies is now on the road and the show is attracting decent word of mouth support.
“There were a lot of women on first night, I was expecting 70% and it was more like 90% which was surprising. The jokes about women’s experiences got a big response which was really nice, but I hope it’s funny for men too because the characters are funny. It will speak to everyone’s experiences, it’s not just for girls.
“The characters are versions of people I know really well so it does feel quite personal, and I think it’s funnier than other stuff I’ve done.”
* All the Single Ladies is at Leeds City Varieties, Feb 13-15. Tickets 0113 243 0808.