OffWestEnd talks to Christina Carrafiell who has written Michaela’s Fluent Aphasia, to be performed at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre on 4 June 2023 at 7:30pm

Photo by Bradford Rogne Photography

Christina Carrafiell is a British-American playwright. Her first play, A Fragile Lift, was performed to sell-out audiences at the Chelsea Theatre when she was just 17. It was then selected for a run at the Edinburgh Fringe, with Scottish newspapers calling it “original” and “impressive” (The Scotsman). Christina continued writing as an undergrad at Yale, and then won a scholarship to do an MFA in Dramatic Writing at USC School of Dramatic Arts in LA. She has just graduated from the prestigious three-year course. Her TV script Surfer Girl reached the quarter finals of the 2021 WeScreenplay TV Writing Competition.

What first attracted you to the theatre?

I’ve been involved in theatre for as long as I can remember, at first as an actress. I’ve always loved unearthing characters’ voices and digging down to find their motivations. Then, when I tried writing my first play as a teenager, all of the elements I loved about the theatre really came together and things started to click. The theatre is where I have always felt most at home and most alive.

If you could pick any one person or theatre company to work with on your next project, who/which would it be?

My absolute dream would be to work with Jez Butterworth in some capacity, either writing or directing. He’s my favourite playwright. I love that he weaves together humour and spectacle in an unpredictable way to create pieces that are very profound and thought provoking. He manipulates language and plot to conjure the perfect mix of suspense and poetry. But he’s also a huge blockbuster guy, so I don’t think it will happen! He’s just amazing and a girl can dream.

What is your opinion of Off West End theatre, in general?

I believe theatre in any magnitude or form is wonderful. The best thing is, no matter how intimate the show is, it always starts a conversation. People can hear each other in the theatre, and understand each other in a way that they perhaps couldn’t in the outside world.

What was the most inspiring performance you have ever seen? Why?

Seeing Ibsen’s A Doll’s House in the West End with Hattie Morahan as Nora really shook me to my core. I’d never read the play before seeing it performed and I found it in parts horrifying, in parts eye-opening. It has informed a lot of my beliefs about feminism and the theatre itself.

What piece of work are you the most proud of?

This play, Michaela’s Fluent Aphasia, is the one I’m most proud of because it has been such a labour of love for such a long time. I really feel like I empathise with and know these characters and want to tell their story.

What makes a really good character?

I believe that characters that are layered and inherently dramatic are the most fun to watch onstage. Also characters really don’t need to be likeable, they can be angry or ruthless or cruel, as long as the audience is rooting for them in some capacity. Saying that, I often try to think of characters that I would personally like to spend time with on a daily basis, and then somehow they make it into my plays.

Are there any actors/actresses you would like to write a play for?

Honestly, anyone choosing to embody my characters and bring my plays to life feels like a huge honour. I also love working with emerging actors. Anyone who is passionate about the theatre and searching for the catharsis it can bring is someone I’d be really excited to work with.

What play do you wish you’d written?

I really wish I’d written Anatomy of a Suicide by Alice Birch. That play is truly fantastic and a great feat of mathematics as well. Because it is scored like a musical piece rather than a play.

Can you tell our readers about what you’re doing now/next?

In addition to attending rehearsals and doing rewrites, I am currently working on a new play, which is an adaptation of The Bacchae. Also, there may be a UK tour of Michaela’s Fluent Aphasia in the works, so watch this space!