Interview: Marissa Landy on A NON-EMERGENCY – An Urgent Call to Increase Ambulance Worker Pay
We caught up with Marissa Landy to talk about how theatre can highlight real issues of NHS pay, her inspirations and London/Edinburgh haunts.
Tell us about your theatre company Baloney Theatre how it came about and your new show A NON-EMERGENCY?
It’s hard to answer this question without sounding very vague or pretentious but overall, Baloney Theatre creates work that often tackles subject matter related to either mental health or physical health.
This is always done through the form of dark comedy but we can get very absurd here and there. ‘A NON-EMERGENCY’ follows a day in the life of two ambulance care assistants (ACA). It explores the strength of our elderly population over the last few years, the wonderful cultural diversity of South London and how under-represented our ACA’s are.
The show goes into real issues of urgent need for pay increases for Ambulance Care Assistants and the show is supported by GMB union. How do you think theatre can help highlight this issue?
There is one thing just hearing about our NHS on the news and to feel bogged down with the generally very disheartening information. It is another thing to hear from someone who actually worked in the ambulance service but through a theatrical medium.
Theatre, if done well, will not only help audiences to understand the subject matter more deeply but it may affect the audience emotionally as well.
We hope that when audiences see our show, they will want to get involved politically afterwards (even if that is simply a signature on our petition) but they may never be able to forget what they have seen. That is change in itself.
Who or what are your inspirations for creating theatre?
I am a character writer through and through. I have never been drawn to writing huge and elaborate narratives, but I would rather focus on people and how they interact. I was an odd child that was obsessed with Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter.
I loved watching people being placed into the room, with often no story to really follow, and just see what they end up saying and doing. If you asked me what was happening in half of Beckett’s plays I’d say I have very little idea, but it’s the characters that grab me and the dialogue.
This show is completely based on real experiences and all of these characters are based on real people. They are my inspiration. In this show I am writing about the ambulance service, not through some vast story, but just through introducing some wonderful characters to each other and showing what life really is like in the NHS.
What advice would you give people trying to tackle real world issues through their art?
This is a great question! I think whenever someone is writing a show about an issue, the immediate response is to simply go to the people suffering because of the issue. This is, of course, a very important step in the writing process. The next step for many is to speak to the people causing the issue (if you can actually access them). Again, a very important step. But, what I think can be missed is going to the people that are already trying to change that issue.
Working with GMB union has been an incredible help for me as these are the people that spend every day focusing on trying to resolve wages for workers. They have all the information I need to try and make a difference. It takes one bold email to someone and then you could create a connection with that person who can give you the information that the internet cannot provide!
What are your favourite London and Edinburgh haunts? (to eat, to party, to watch new theatre)
With London, my favourite theatre has to be Southwark Playhouse. I am a musical theatre gall at heart and this gorgeous space produces such intimate new musicals. As for food, I’m a Northerner so I’m happy in any curry house but there is an INCREDIBLE pizza place in East London called Papi’s Munchies. Great name, and delicious pizza.
In Edinburgh, it has to be pie and mash from Auld Jock’s! As for theatres, I’ve been to so many Edinburgh shows it’s so hard to pick a favourite but I have to say that Underbelly’s Cowgate spaces are GORGEOUS! Eerie but gorgeous.