Here at Daisie, we love seeing Daisie projects become a reality. 'Drain' is a Daisie original play that will be hitting the stage this weekend. It's running between Friday 20th and Sunday 22nd of September at The Kings Arms in Salford.
Drain's story is one that is deeply-rooted in the lives of many of our Daisie creators, following five working-class creatives attempting to battle their way into the creative industries, the play explores the reality of being an aspiring creative whilst fighting the poverty, exclusivity, and nepotism that constantly limits their progress. The cast and crew of 'Drain' were found through the network.
We chatted with Lana O'Kell (@lanaokell), the writer of 'Drain', to find out a bit more about her journey.
Lana, tell us a bit about yourself.
I've been working as an actor for a few years now, acting in everything from short films to musical theatre to force my way up the ladder. I've also been writing on-and-off for a while too. I'm currently based in Manchester, because all of my projects are in the north, but I've been flipping between here and London for the past few years.
What was the inspiration behind this project?
My life! Well, my life, the lives of other actors, writers and creatives who are all in the same boat. The creative industry is so hard to get into at the best of times, but it's a lot easier if you have money or live in a particular location. If you're working class, or live outside of central London, it can be really difficult to get work because you have to balance that opportunity against affording to live.
You tend to think it's only yourself who is struggling; that it's because you don't have a car, or that other people have more money than you, or this person was able to get a day job to fund this or that, or they have well-off parents, but when you talk to people, you find so many of you are in the same boat. Hearing other people's stories and struggles of trying to pursue their career or keeping a day job, as well as the horrors experienced by those who've had to sign on at Universal Credit, was the inspiration.
There's much less work and funding out there than there once was, so opportunities are limited. A lot of creatives have to turn down work simply because they can't afford to do it. During the scorching heat of last summer when everyone was feeling positive about the World Cup, I decided to write a play about a small group of friends facing these struggles. I wrote this against a backdrop of the upbeat, positive energy that seemed to fill the summer of 2018. I feel really over-dramatic when I say this, but I thought it was a story that needed to be told, and the response people have had to the script has confirmed that.
Can you tell us a bit more about 'Drain'? What stage are you at with it?
It's a play about the struggles of being working class and trying to break into the creative industry and how you can afford to live while pursuing your dream, especially when there are so few 'day jobs' available as well. It explores how soul destroying this can be, but I didn't want it to be a depressing piece. So, there's a lot of humour in there. It's observational comedy even amongst the tragedy. When I was running auditions, I described it as being in the style of The Full Monty (only without any stripping!), the idea that despite the depressing subject matter, the piece itself is relatable and funny.
I've just finished auditions and now I have a full cast as well as a wonderful female director (another thing that was important to me, as every theatre project I've been involved in has always had a male director, and I want there to be more opportunities for women). The show is booked in for 3 dates (20th, 21st and 22nd September, 7pm at the Kings Arms Theatre in Manchester).
Which users have you worked with to create this project? How did you meet?
Oddly, those that have joined the Manchester part of the project have all been word-of-mouth from Daisie, rather than active users. It shows how generous people can be - if you have someone on Daisie seeing something that doesn't fit their particular interest or skills, but immediately passes it on, sharing that opportunity with someone who might not otherwise have seen it. However, for the developments outside of Manchester, the list is currently ongoing. The project stands at a total of 52 people at the moment and I'm only just moving into the active stage of that, so I've been contacting people about their availability, location etc.
Have you had any meetings outside of Daisie?
Yes, we've had studio meetups. I've mass-messaged everyone on the project to get details together, because I want to do map of everyone's base alongside their experience and interests, so I can see the best locations for other productions and how to get everyone together easily.
Who are you looking to collaborate with?
Anyone from the working classes, especially women. This play is part of a new company I'm forming which intends to help working class creatives, especially females, get their foot in the door. Not everyone gets lucky and not everyone gets access, so I want those who work hard and have talent to be given more opportunities.
I didn't want to limit this to actors and writers, I want to eventually have a pool of all creatives in the industry. I've had someone who was starting a performance course at university soon who's asked if she might intern on the production so she could get some experience and decide what area she wants to focus on, and that is exactly the sort of thing I want to keep being able to do.
What are the next steps for the project?
Firstly, it's getting the initial production of Drain on its feet, getting it performed and the word out. The more successful it is, the larger the next stages can be for the project. But after the show [this weekend], I do want to work on getting it on in more places, and perhaps even having other people staging their own production. I also have other plays which are nearly finished and I'm interested getting submissions from other writers, to cast and stage in the near future. So, Drain is sort of being used as the launch pad. The first step to something even more collaborative.
How has Daisie helped you with this project?
By getting the word out. Interest really skyrocketed once I put it on the site, not just from other members on there, but people who were told about it by members. As it's relatively new, not everyone is currently on Daisie, though I know more and more are joining, so some people on the site who weren't a fit for the project passed the message onto others. It also really showed me the scale of interest and how many people found the story relatable and interesting. It's actually through Daisie that I've been able to move forward sooner with putting on the play in other places, because I was able to gauge interest sooner, as well as numbers, so it might be possible to have productions work simultaneously something which would not have been possible, or even occurred to me if I hadn't put the project on Daisie.
Do you have any advice for people looking to do the same?
Prepare to be exhausted. When you're starting your own projects and producing your own work, you become a staff of one trying to do the work of ten. It's a lot of hard work and you will want to just curl in a blanket and watch Netflix for 24 hours straight to recharge. But, if it's something you're passionate about and really, really want to do, the madness and exhaustion is worth it.
Organisation is key: write everything down, plan weeks in advance, make allowances for things not going to plan. Have a lot of notebooks, and colour code!
Be prepared for things becoming overwhelming- interest in your project may be larger than you predicted. The moment I put this project on Daisie, it exploded within a very short time and I was getting messages on the site and via email constantly. It was great, but you can't cast and use everyone, as much as you might want to, so it can be overwhelming. Be prepared for a large amount of interest, step back, take a breath and carry on. Don't feel pressure to immediately reply to any message within seconds. I did that at first and it got overwhelming; set a certain time of the day for replying, it's a way to keep control and focus.
View the full project here
Drain is opening THIS weekend, at The King's Arms in Salford. Head here to book tickets.