Eleanor Tindall: Before I was a Bear interview

Ali Wright

“A woman turns into a bear.”

That’s as much as I’m allowed to tell you about playwright Eleanor Tindall’s debut, Before I was a Bear.

In fact, I can’t even tell you if the protagonist, Cally, turns into a bear during the production, or if she is more grizzly than Yogi. What I can tell you is that whatever happens, it’s going to be a wild ride.

Tindall’s script covers social media, slut-shaming, fluid sexuality, friendship and of course, hot TV detectives. Inspired by the Greek myth of Callisto, Eleanor laces it all with a dash of dark comedy to delve into, as she puts it, “The generation of slut-shaming.”

The mythology aspect inspired the play, but Eleanor is keen to clarify that working knowledge of the tale is not necessary to enjoy the show.

“It was very important to me that it was separate. I would never want to assume someone had prior knowledge of anything they’re coming to see. I don’t think that’s what theatre is about. I wouldn’t want anyone to come into it thinking this story is not for me.” 

Eleanor thinks Greek Mythology is transferable to our lives today and becomes audibly excited telling me why she loves them. “I’ve always been fascinated by mythology especially Greek mythology. I’m fascinated by the fact that they’re so dramatic and so moralistic in so many ways, yet they’re so current still.”

The playwright actually knew the story she wanted to write before she had read the myth and tells me that she, “wanted to explore what happened when a normal woman has an affair with someone of great power, and why it’s always the woman that gets abused afterwards, when the man gets off scot-free.” 

This idea is very timely and Eleanor ties it to the internet in celebrity obsessed times, adding “It’s about sexuality. It’s about being confused about your sexuality. It’s about the internet and it’s about fame, and how people can turn against people so quickly if they feel they’ve ruined something that’s sacred to them.

“If someone loved a celebrity so much, or loved the idea of a celebrity, or a celebrity couple and then something comes along and ruins it, the public are so horrible and women suffer a lot from that.”

The play had a long creative process, going from a 15-20 minute version in 2016, before a few different iterations brought it to The Bunker, where it will start its run on 12 November.

Throughout the process, Eleanor worked with director, Aneesha Srinivasan, and thinks collaboration is vital to making a good production.

“I think it’s really important that the person who takes it on is someone that you trust and somebody you feel understands the work possibly even more than you do.” Their working relationship is so good that Eleanor tells me, “I think she knows more about the play than I do.”

The Bunker is known for allowing creative freedom but will sadly be closing next year. The venue is the perfect place to host Tindall’s script, and the show is in keeping with the daring work the theatre is known for.

But, despite all the weighty themes involved, I know what you’re all thinking…does she really turn into a bear?

Before I was a Bear is showing at The Bunker from November 12th. Tickets can be bought here: https://www.bunkertheatre.com/whats-on/before-i-was-a-bear/book-now 

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