OffWestEnd talks to Dogmouth co-founder Alice Flynn about 1000 Ways The World Will End, running 24 Jul – 12 Aug at the King’s Head

Alice Flynn is an Irish playwright, theatremaker and performer based in Reading, Berkshire, who specialises in writing Queer, women-led stories, often with elements of folk horror and science fiction. In 2019, she co-founded Dogmouth with her close friend and long-term collaborator, Alice Robb, and together they have worked on a number of semi-devised projects, including their recent piece Sluts With Consoles.  Flynn was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize For Playwriting 2021.  Despite writing for roughly 5 years, 1000 Ways The World Will End (& How It Starts Again) is the first time a full length original play of hers has ever been staged.


What first attracted you to the theatre?

Honestly, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t musicals – the first show I ever became completely obsessed with was Chicago; I was on holiday and some of the entertainment staff did a medley of musicals which included Cell Block Tango. There’s definitely a joke about me not realising I was gay yet in there somewhere, but I loved the drama of it and the juxtaposition of having these powerful, murderous women singing a fun little song about committing murder. I always enjoyed how musicals could take these dark stories and make them entertaining – Little Shop of Horrors was another big one for me too, it had a huge influence on my sense of humour and probably explains a lot about why I am the way I am.


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

Honestly, not even a theatre company per se, but it would be my dream to work on something really weird with the Jim Henson company. I’m a huge nerd for puppetry, and I think that there’s a lot of potential for exploration in Henson’s earlier work like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. I’d love to do something like that for theatre – the magic of practical effects fascinates me, and I think that the fact that most people associate puppetry with childhood gives a writer a lot of room to play off that, particularly if you’re exploring darker themes. A lot of Henson’s earlier, cult work outside of The Muppets and Sesame Street seemed to be very preoccupied with themes around grief and morbidity, and I think that that’s very interesting considering his legacy.


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

It’s great! I love going to see new writing and just new work in general, and while the West End will occasionally get something fresh like Operation Mincemeat or Six, that just doesn’t happen enough – or very much at all for that matter. I do think there’s a place for the big shows and the adaptations of pre-existing stuff, but there’s only so many times you can see an ad being like ‘Hey remember this film from the 80’s? [X big name producer] has turned it into a musical for some reason!’ before it starts to feel a bit cynical. Off West End is where you go to get the weird stuff, the strange stuff and the stuff that feels riskiest because it’s totally original and doesn’t have a guaranteed audience the way that a Disney adaptation or a revival of an Ibsen play with a famous actor would. I think it’s really important that we keep supporting Off West End and fringe work because without it, new voices wouldn’t have much of a fighting chance.


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

Lucy McCormick’s Triple Threat, without a shadow of a doubt. I don’t think I’d be the performance maker or writer I am today if I hadn’t seen it. Firstly, the fact that she appears to have absolutely no fears about how vulnerable and naked (sometimes literally) she is on stage is metal as hell, but I also think that the framework of the New Testament being used to comment on the state of the Arts Industry today is extremely clever. I admire her punk spirit and how willing she is to throw herself into her audience (again, at times that means literally). Her work is equal parts silly cabaret show, and bitingly smart social commentary, and that’s exactly what I’d love my work to be. I want people to leave my shows feeling as galvanised as I felt leaving Triple Threat.


What piece of work are you the most proud of?

It feels like a cop out to say ‘this one’, but 1000 Ways has been the product of over 2 years of work and it’s the one which has changed the most since the first draft. When I first wrote it, I didn’t have a plan, so when Robb ended up connecting with it more than other plays I’d written, it was a complete surprise. I’m also really proud of how much confidence she’s gained as a director through working on that script, and proud of how I’ve learned that writing and making a show doesn’t have to be a lonely job. Creative relationships can really be tested when you’re both working on a piece of new writing together because it can be hard to agree on what you want the end product to be, and I’m really proud of the productive and genuinely caring dynamic that Robb and I have established. I’m very lucky to have her as a collaborator.


What makes a really good character?

A good actor. You, as a writer, can put as much thought and depth into a character as you like, but ultimately it’s the actor who has to make those words on a page into a whole person. It’s your actor who figures out what’s going on under the surface, and has to find the subtext – whether you put it there intentionally or not. I love working with actors like Kalifa and Phoebe because they are so good at finding things in my characters that I didn’t even realise were there, and that really helps me make sense of my own writing sometimes!


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

I’d love to write something for Michaela Coel. Actually, I’d just like to hang out with her and listen to her talk, to be honest. I think she’s incredible.


What play do you wish you’d written?

Wise Children by Angela Carter and adapted by Emma Rice. I was already a huge fan of the book – Angela Carter is one of my personal heroes – so when I found out Emma Rice had been working on her own adaptation, I had to go and see it. It was absolutely perfect; I did my undergrad dissertation on the misconception that Angela Carter ‘disliked theatre’ (what she actually disliked was naturalism) and Emma Rice’s adaptation of Wise Children really embodied the spirit of the book, with all of the artifice and superficial glamour of the Chance sister’s lives in full glory. She managed to capture the glamour and the grime of the book really well, showing the darker parts of it without making it exploitive, but still managing not to de-fang it as some adaptations of these kinds of novels sometimes do.


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

Yes – my debut play 1000 Ways The World Will End (& How It Starts Again) opens on Monday 24th July at the King’s Head Theatre, and runs all the way until Saturday 12th August. After that, Dogmouth is taking a little break, then we kick off our tour of Sluts With Consoles at Old Fire Station Theatre in Oxford on Saturday 14th October. They’re two very different shows, but I’m really excited for both of them! Dogmouth will also have another edition of our Howling At The Moon Cabaret at Rising Sun Arts Centre on Saturday 9th December, if any LGBTQ+ and/or women + non-binary artists fancy getting involved.