Some writers say they have a ‘knot’ they keep worrying at that makes them write. Maybe my mother, Wendy, has been my knot. I always knew I would write about her after her death, when I was no longer caught up in the intense, all-consuming business of being her daughter. Tribute’s origins lie in the eulogy I wrote for her.
Rather than a lachrymose farewell, this was largely a celebration of Wendy’s idiosyncrasies and wicked sense of humour. Instead of trying to choke through it myself, I had my sister-in-law, the accomplished actress Jessica Turner, ‘perform’ it – voicing my mother’s many Lady Bracknell-esque quotes and capturing her curious ability to be both withering and warm in one exchange. As the many mourners knew her so well, I could use shorthand, but while further developing the eulogy into a dramatic piece for Tribute, I needed to explain Wendy’s quirks to strangers – thus her backstory and her relationship with her own impossible mother, the fascinating Flora, required an airing.
Though I have much in common with my mother, getting inside her peculiar head to recreate her is sometimes hard. Furthermore, she was from a different world, almost a different planet. Her 87 years spanned some serious historical upheavals and took in experiences well beyond the ken of my generation: from the luxuries of colonial life to real poverty and hunger; from un-anaesthetised teeth pulling to adventures on troop ships; she both witnessed the horrors of and served in World War Two. She told a million stories I’ve yet to relate and through this project I’ve begun to reanimate a person that I at once knew deeply, but sometimes couldn’t fathom – a strange hybrid woman. At times it has been painful… let her rest. But also somehow necessary – the start of the unravelling of a knot that will probably be a lifetime’s work.
THE WRITER – CAROL COOPER
Since graduating with a Distinction from City University’s MA in Creative Writing (Plays & Scripts), my comedy sketches have been performed in Edinburgh Fringe shows, London’s Hen & Chickens Theatre and comedy clubs in Bradford. My short films, Married Bliss and Massive Butternuts, reached the finals of the 2012 Gumption/Cofilmic comedy screenplay competition. In 2010, my short film The Love Machine was one of four finalists for the John Brabourne BIG 5 Comedy Award. In 2009, an extract of my play The Monk of Doom was performed at London’s Southwark Playhouse. In 2014, an extract of my feature film The Celestial Teapot was one of three rehearsed readings at The Soho Theatre’s new writing showcase.
Last year, my short comedy film Prince Charming, starring Anna Wilson-Jones and Rob Heaps, was produced and directed by Sky One/C4 director Gavin O’Grady. It can be viewed at happynowwebseries.com
By day I’m a journalist and by night I write contemporary drama or comedy – my strengths lie in creating character and dialogue and I enjoy writing collaboratively.
THE ACTOR – JESSICA TURNER
Since leaving The Central School of Speech and Drama in 1975 Jessica has worked extensively in theatre, television and radio. Her career began in weekly rep in Frinton-on-Sea but soon after, she joined the National Theatre where she stayed for some years playing in a wide range of productions including The Spanish Tragedy, Hiawatha, The Fawn, Lorrenzaccio, Animal Farm, Martine, Neaptide, Mrs Warren’s Profession, The Beaux’ Stratagem, The White Chameleon and Speer. Her London and West End appearances include Equus (Albery) The Apple Cart (Pheonix) That Summer (Hampstead) Good (Donmar) Waste (Almeida) King Lear (The Old Vic) The Second Mrs Tanqueray (Rose Theatre Kingston) She is about to start rehearsals for All My Sons for the Rose Theatre Kingston to take to the Hong Kong Festival in Feb 2107
Her many TV appearances include: Prime Suspect, Dr Finlay (3 seasons Dr Napier), Midsomer Murders, The Mill on the Floss, The Cazalets, Heartbeat, The Line of Beauty, Spooks, Waking the Dead, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, New Tricks, Law & Order UK, Father Brown.
Films include The Murder of Princess Diana, Deeply, The Ottoman Lieutenant (to be released in Feb 2017)
Jessica could be heard regularly on BBC radio in 2015 when she was a member of the BBC Radio Drama Company.