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Molly Taylor - Love Letters To The Public Transport System


When Molly Taylor performed Love Letters To The Public Transport System 
just over a year ago as part of the National Theatre of Scotland's 
Reveal season, it was advertised as a work in progress. While such a 
safety net covered everybody's back in case things went wrong, what 
audiences got instead was a lovingly crafted semi-autobiographical 
monologue performed simply and beautifully by Taylor in one of the most 
fully-rounded productions of the entire Reveal season.

Taylor's real life quest to track down the drivers of buses and trains 
who led the Liverpool-born performer to significant moments, and indeed 
significant others, returns for a short run of schools and public shows 
prior to a full Edinburgh Festival Fringe run as part of this year's 
Made in Scotland programme. Any fears that such a bespoke success story 
has been transformed into an all-singing, all-dancing spectacular are 
mercifully unfounded.

“It feels like Love Letters is about to take off on its own little 
adventure,” Taylor explains, “and I'm really keen to get it out there. 
A year and as half after this little show began, I've taken a kind of 
running leap at it and am getting a proper run at it, which is dead 
exciting, but pretty nerve-wracking as well. I've actually only 
performed it six times, and it's been sort of lying dormant since then, 
so I haven't reworked it in any way, and to be honest I don't know how 
much it's going to change or not change. I knew from last time round 
that it didn't need puppets or pyrotechnics or anything like that, but 
I'm in a place now where I want to renew it, but I don't want to overdo 
it either.”

With this in mind, director Graham Maley, who's worked at Liverpool's 
Unity Theatre as well as on monologues by Ronan O'Donnell and with the 
late Susannah York on the Shakespeare's women series, has been drafted 
onto the production as an outside eye. This should provide Taylor with 
a more objective aide to what is a deeply instinctive show.

“Because Love Letters is so personal,” she says, “I've never really 
approached it as a text. I've just wanted to get the words in the right 
place. There's always a danger that something you've done with 
absolutely no expectations, that the spirit of the piece is lost 
somehow. I know Love Letters has to have a bit of a polish, but I don't 
want to polish it so much that it loses that spirit. It's good to know 
as well that storytelling like this still has a role in theatre. It's 
great that you can do things on a grand scale, but there's still a 
place for little people like me.”

Love Letters To The Public Transport System was born out of a crucial 
period in the life of a woman who, even after the acclaim Love Letters 
received, sees herself as neither an actor or a writer.

“The piece came out of a very happy period in my life,” Taylor 
explains, “which followed a fairly low period, when I was being 
trampled on by a relationship in my life, I was jobless, and there was 
just nothingness. Then my life changed dramatically, just from making a 
couple of journeys from Liverpool to London. I got thinking in the 
shower, as you do, that it would make a great speech for a wedding 
day, to talk about how, if it wasn't for these train drivers getting 
people to places on time, some things in my life would never have 
happened. I'd sort of had this lovely year-long love affair with public 
transport, and I just wanted to thank them.”

With no wedding forthcoming to make such a speech, this germ of an idea 
turned into the basis of the show that exists now. Having been on the 
Theatre Studies programme at Glasgow University, Taylor had joined the 
National Theatre of Scotland's Associate programme in the company's 
Learn department, so already had connection enough to approach NTS 
Artistic Development Producer Caroline Newall, who gave Taylor the 
resources for six months of research. The result of the umpteen 
meetings that followed was a series of real life love stories that 
criss-crossed with Taylor's own experiences as a railway track might 
build up an interconnecting network.

“For me it felt like a really energising and incredibly urgent thing to 
do,” Taylor says of the experience. “The totally exciting thing about 
it was that I didn’t know what it was going to be until just before the 
end. I wrote large sections of it on trains, because I don't have a 
car, and the whole thing was born out of love, really, when I was 
stupidly in love with this person, and, instead of a faith or a belief 
system, I put faith into that. But you do have to be careful when 
you're doing something so personal, because it treads a very fine line 
that can easily slip into indulgence.”

The response to Love Letters, however, has left Taylor feeling bowled 
over.

“I got loads of lovely letters ,” she says. “I even got a letter from 
the traffic commissioner of Scotland, who said it was her job to make 
buses safe for people. There's so many more stories you can find, and I 
don't know if I've got one of those faces, but people talk to me all 
the time about the most intimate details of their lives. I know I'm not 
a dramatist, and I think telling stories about my life isn't as 
creative as what playwrights do, so I keep things simple.”

As with so many performers, Taylor discovered drama as a way of coping 
with her shyness. As a child, Taylor's sister was three years younger 
than her, and became “a guaranteed audience of one. Whenever she 
played, I would turn into a piece of character-based drama. I can't 
remember what the turning point was, but I must've put myself up for a 
play at school, and that changed everything. Drama was instructive, but 
it wasn't trying, it was just doing.”

Taylor likens this epiphany to taking drugs for the first time.

“You realise why people do it,” she says, “because it's so much fun.”

Taylor's school didn't do drama A Level, but her teacher, having 
spotted her potential, endeavoured on a course of individual tuition, 
during which “We spent a year talking about Brecht.”

In Glasgow, Taylor's relationship with the NTS began on their 
production of The Wolves in the Wolves, and has continued since Love 
Letters as one of the recipients of the Bank of Scotland Emerge 
programme for developing theatre-makers. Taylor also performed at Oran 
Mor in a piece by Gary McNair in which she ran on a treadmill 
throughout the entire show.

To describe Taylor as irrepressibly chirpy is both an understatement 
and a potential Scouse cliché. Yet, in a free-wheeling if somewhat 
breathlessly one-sided conversation that lasts longer than her show, 
her enthusiasm is irresistibly infectious.

“I should've charged you a tenner!” Taylor says once she's stopped 
laughing after this is pointed out to her. Everyone's a story-teller in 
Liverpool. It's the same in the west coast of Scotland. We just like to 
chat.”

Love Letters To The Public Transport System, Dornie Hall, June 26th, 
Macphail Centre, Ullapool, June 28th, Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling, 
July 5th, then at The Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh as part of Made in 
Scotland, August 2-26.
www.nationaltheatrescotland.com

The Herald, May 15th 2012

ends

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