Angry lady’s got bags to say about life

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Sheffield writer Marcia Layne’s latest play, Bag Lady, comes to the city on Friday with a performance at Sheffield Hallam University’s The Hubs as part of the Off the Shelf festival.

The title refers to Eve whom we meet covered in an old overcoat surrounded by bags, discarded shoes and boxes - the epitomy of the homeless bag lady.

But as she rants and raves layers are peeled away and it becomes apparent that not only is it OK to be angry, sometimes it’s essential for survival.

“The starting point was the notion of the stereotype of the angry black woman,” explains the writer. “It’s something I have heard different women discussing. How the stereotype can be inhibiting and cause some women to censor themselves and suppress passion or assertiveness because it’s too often misconstrued as anger.

“Passion is misconstrued. I wondered what would happen if a woman didn’t worry what people thought and came out with the truth. It was interesting to go to a place and think about what that might be like.”

Bag Lady also explores mental health issues.

“In the play we learn Eve has been sectioned under the Mental Health Act before. I try to explore the definition of ‘madness’ but it’s not an exact science like other conditions.

“I think one of the key things I try to explore in the play is how important talking and listening are for good mental health and how not expressing yourself can be damaging.”

Like many people Layne has family and friends who have had mental health problems. “I’m really supportive of the initiatives like Time to Change trying to lift the stigma attached to it.”

Bag Lady also refers to the question of heritage and looks at the mother-son relationship (a theme which was central to Layne’s last play, Somebody’s Son).

She stresses that the play performed as a monologue by Flo Wilson who has appeared on TV in Coronation Street, Fat Friends and Fresh Meat, does have its lighter moments.

Directed by Amanda Huxtable, Marcia’s co-producer at Hidden Gems Productions. Bag Lady was commissioned for the West Yorkshire Playhouse’s A Play, A Pie and A Pint season.

It was premiered at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield, and next month will have a run at the Tara Theatre, London.

Marcia Layne has written for West Yorkshire Playhouse, Paines Plough, Yorkshire Women Theatre and Radio 4,and contributed one of the Twenty Tiny Plays About Sheffield at the Crucible.

She has signed up for a Masters degree in creative writing at Sheffield Hallam. “I really want to write a novel,” she declares.