yellow corners is an exciting new play by University of Manchester students which premiered at the University of Manchester Drama Society’s Shorts Festival. It recently had a preview run (or “tryout”) as a full-length piece at the University of Manchester Students’ Union, which we reviewed, ahead of an official premiere at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Ahead of the play’s premiere, we sat down with writer and director Calima Lunt-Gomez and co-producer Rose Lovejoy (who was also a producer of the short piece) to find out more about yellow corners.
What is the basis of the idea?
Calima: I started writing the play after re-reading my diaries from when I was 13. I realised that I wrote lots of the mundane events of my life down but rarely wrote anything about how I was actually feeling. Reflecting on how insecurity about someone discovering these diaries made me censor myself made me want to write something that delved into the experience of adolescence, and I hope I’ve managed to encapsulate that in the play.
Rose: Firstly, Calima’s diaries are so funny. I’ve got to say I’m not sure we would have been friends. Even so, I think so much of what was (or wasn’t) written to me spoke to a more universal experience. As a 13-year-old girl, you’re really invested in trying to form a sense of self, and I think that liminality makes the protagonist such an interesting canvas artistically.
C: I feel like it was such a confusing time, and I really had no sense of self and it was a kind of liminal transitional phase that is not only interesting to me artistically but also kind of spoke to me as a universal experience that teenage girls specifically go through, so I felt like there was lots of potential to explore there.
R: I get a kick out of reading them! She hasn’t really changed – still very whiney.
Who is the play for? What do you hope audiences take from it?
C: I think initially from our marketing it may appear that this play is for a specific generation of women who had this specific experience of adolescence.
R: And some of the 2012 references definitely resonate with that also!
C: But we were relieved that our Manchester preview showed us that the themes in the play are relatable to a much wider audience.
R: So we’re hoping that the themes can speak to everyone. I would add that whilst an actual 13-year-old might rebel against the representation, we are actively not making fun of this transitional period. It’s about finding what’s funny in that inner dialogue you have with yourself but hopefully resonates with deeper themes of what it means to grow up and learn about sex, death, love, and what came before whilst still having the intrinsically selfish worldview of a child.
C: Though the play was initially inspired by my diaries, my motivation to finish it came in the form of the University of Manchester Drama Society’s Shorts Festival in 2022, in which we put on the show with Stella as the lead and the same creative team as we currently have – plus Lucy who has since managed to bargain her way onto the team. We got a lot of positive feedback on the show, even though it was only 15 minutes or so, which really inspired me to continue with the project.
R: We also had a lot of fun doing it!
C: Lots of fun! Since last year I just felt like I wasn’t done with it yet and I wanted to take it further so I ended up adapting it to make it 50 minutes. I went to the Fringe last year and hated not being involved so it’s exciting to now be a apart of that space where all these incredibly talented people come together. It’s also especially lovely to be able to do this project surrounded by some of my favourite women.
How have you gone about taking the play to Edinburgh Fringe?
R: Our method of fundraising has been quite different, and although we will still be launching a crowd funder, we’ve tried to get people invested in this show not only financially but personally through putting on events in Manchester. Earlier in the year we put on a fundraiser called Yellow Fest, in which we highlighted some of our favourite musical acts, performers and DJs for a night of fun as well as fundraising. It was beautiful to be able to give a platform to our very talented friends but also put on a night that didn’t take itself too seriously. Then we put on a two-day preview of the show not only so people not going to the Fringe could see it but also so that we could get some audience feedback to incorporate into our rehearsals in the summer.
C: Taking this show to the Fringe has required a huge amount of planning which, while terrifying for us as a group of students who have never undertaken this kind of endeavour before, has also been really affirming and made us feel very grown up.
What’s your prior experience as a theatre-makers?
C: Me, Elle and Stella all study Drama together at Manchester, and Rose and Lucy went to school together and reached GCSE drama.
R: Me, Lucy and Calima worked on a play together last year which was what I assume – in combination with yellow corners – made me and Lucy revive our passions and realise that theatre isn’t completely lame.
C: I would personally consider myself a theatre kid however embarrassing the term has come to be. I’ve been throwing myself into as much stuff as possible in the past couple years of uni – producing, directing, and writing – but this piece is the one I’m maybe most proud of.
C: I wrote another show last year called pear-shaped, which was about two sisters. It was so much fun to direct but yellow corners is the longest I’ve ever had to work on one project which has allowed me to put so much heart into it. I started this project halfway through second year and now I’m about to graduate so a lot has changed. I think when I started this piece, I was in a weird place in my life where I didn’t really know what I would be doing after uni and never considered writing something that I could do or be successful at. I wrote yellow corners thinking it would never leave my laptop screen, and I think that has ended up working to its advantage as I included many more personal, embarrassing anecdotes than any sane person would freely reveal. Now I see the show as something raw and honest though I still refuse to speak too freely about which elements are real and which aren’t.
How was the Manchester preview?
R: The preview went really well; we were really happy with it. It’s quite nerve-racking, and I say that when really it’s Stella who had to do all the work. We were chopping and changing until the last minute so we were a bit stressed about all the lines she had to remember. It must be so stressful to carry a one-woman show on your back but she does it with ease and just radiates such joy that she’s a pleasure to watch. I definitely think it was useful to do it in front of an audience as well, see what jokes landed, what didn’t etc. It also made us really think about the staging we will have in Edinburgh and make sure we’re using it to the best of our abilities. We’re very happy with how it went but we’ve also got a form for any constructive criticism in our LinkTree in our bio.
C: Stella is such a joy to watch; she’s a huge reason why I think I followed through making the show longer. Her portrayal of ‘girl’ adds so much to the piece, ad I can’t see audiences not loving her as much as we do.