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A Five Minute Interview … with Chelsey Gillard

Kill Thy Neighbour (24 April – 04 May here at the Torch) is a thriller comedy about love, death and hidden secrets. Caryl and Meirion, tired of fighting the powers that be, are constantly at each other’s throats in their postcard-perfect Welsh village. As their community disappears, dark stories emerge from behind the chocolate box façade. Written by Wrexham-born Lucie Lovatt, Kill They Neighbour is Lucie’s first full-length play. This show is a co-production with Theatr Clwyd, directed by our Artistic Director, award-winning Chelsey Gillard.

How would you describe this show to a friend?

Dark, twisty, funny. A bit like an offbeat film (Sightseers) or TV series (Flowers), mixed with some Alan Ayckbourn humour and surprises to rival any good thriller.  

What was your first response after reading the play for the first time?

I was hooked immediately. I had a clear image of who these characters were. I particularly fell in love with Caryl. I wanted to speak to Lucie and find out all about her inspiration for the play and knew I wanted to see it on stage – I feel honoured to be directing it.

This is a brand-new play, is this challenging for you as a director?

New writing of course has its own challenges. With classic plays often it’s about creating your own spin on the well-known tale, with new writing it’s about introducing the play to the world, ensuring audiences see all the brilliance the writer has put into the script, not messing it up! I love working with writers on new plays, it feels like you can speak directly to the world as it is now and that so exciting.

Where do you start when directing a play?

I need to know it inside out. I read the play out loud (badly), so I can be sure I know the characters, the plot beats, the moments of highest tension. I have a copy of the script covered in scribbles, thoughts, ideas.

Then when I’m in rehearsal I start with a clean copy, prepared to be surprised by what everyone brings to the play with all my previous work as a foundation.

Why is this story so important to tell now?

Firstly, it’s a really entertaining play that will hopefully have the audience laughing and guessing what’s going to happen next. Sometimes we undervalue entertainment, but it’s so important. The themes in the play reflect so much of what is happening across the country right now, particularly in rural and coastal areas. The slow erosion of residential areas, becoming sites for holiday homes and tourism, leaving villages and towns empty for much of the year. It’s like a love letter to communities who look out for each other, celebrate together and share the hard times. We could all do with a reminder of how good it is to know (and not kill!) your neighbours.

Do you have a favourite part/moment/character in the play?

There are so many moments that still take my breath away, and I can’t wait to bring them to life with the actors. I can’t say too much because I’ll give it away but the scenes just before and just after the interval are full of twists and turns, beautiful writing and proper drama.

What are you hoping the audience will take away from this show?

I hope they will still be talking about it the next day at work, in the shop, around the dinner table. The moments that surprised them, what they found funny, which character they side with!

Mostly I hope they have a brilliant night out and remember to tell the people they love how much they mean to them. A bit soppy but true.

What advice would you give to people wanting to get into directing?

To watch, read, consume as much culture and media of all forms as you can. You never know what may inspire you. Remember that no matter how hard it is at times you get to play make believe for a living and that’s pretty wonderful.

Who inspires you and who would you like to work with in the future?

So many people inspire me, I could write a huge list. At the moment I’m really enjoying some other forms of culture – video games, TV and I’ve always been a bookworm. Drawing from other storytelling methods can really make you think in a different way.

It’s actually been a dream of mine to work with Victoria John. We met many years ago, before I even knew I wanted to be a director, I was just drawn to theatre and Victoria was so kind to me. She’s also a brilliant actor.

Favourite show you saw in 2023?

Again, this could be a huge list. I LOVED Theatre Genedlaethol’s Rhinoceros, with the brilliant Dafydd Emyr in it. Sorter, a new play by Richard Mylan, directed by Clwyd’s own Francesca Goodridge was poetic, brutal, it’s really stayed with me. And Cwmni Fran Wen’s epic new musical Branwen: Dadeni was powerful and set the bar for ambitious Welsh productions.


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