Caroline Byrne’s husband reckons she’s a professional eavesdropper. Caroline reckons it’s a great starting point for being a playwright.
It’s certainly the starting point for her first fully-staged play, which will be brought by Pure Fluke Theatre to Brighton Fringe Festival.
In a Better Place runs from May 22-24 at 7pm at Britain’s only rock’n’roll themed hotel, Hotel Pelirocco, 10 Regency Square, Brighton (01273 9172722) - the hotel which inspired it.
Directed by Scott Le Crass, it is offered as a blackly-funny play, exploring the repercussions of the death of a faded pop star when secrets unravel at her funeral, destroying the fragile veneer of a successful marriage.
Priya, a catering entrepreneur, wants more from life; husband Jay is tired of empire building and wants to watch Arsenal. Priya grows increasingly suspicious of his erratic behaviour when Jay delays them from arriving on time at Eva’s funeral. While Priya tries to calm down in their hotel room, Jay reminisces at the bar after the wake, competing with his mates over who knew Eva the best. An overheard revelation unleashes Priya’s fury, forcing them to confront the elephant in their marriage. Can a fragile marriage survive a cruel betrayal or is it best to cut ties and move on?
The play goes back to an incident when Caroline and her husband were staying in the hotel.
“My husband and I got woken up by a couple having an intense argument next door. They were shouting at each other in the next room.”
The next morning Caroline came across the couple in the hotel, recognising them from their voices. Her natural curiosity prompted her to get into conversation with them - not mentioning, of course, the fact she had heard them arguing the night before.
“I was really interested to see how they were with each other, and they were really sweet with each other. They were really, really nice, really good with each other, and it got me thinking how in a long-term relationship it is possible to just flip like that, to go from something really intense and furious and then you can just switch it off.”
It had been difficult to hear exactly what was happening in their room, and Caroline definitely wasn’t going to ask.
“But I think it was basically about sexual jealousy. They were arguing about another woman. I don’t know who she was or what had happened, but in my imagination I started thinking what might have happened, what it was this woman might have done. It got me thinking... what if they were arguing over the person who died? And I started to create a story about a rocky marriage - and what might happen if a major revelation happened at a funeral? And then I wrote it.”
Caroline’s feeling is the fact that the couple were attending a funeral brought things to a head: “At a funeral you are in a state of vulnerability because of the grieving. Things are more raw. I was fascinated by the fact that once someone is dead, obviously you cannot ask them what happened. You cannot know.”
In the play, two people reminisce about the woman who has died: “And as they talk, they realise they have different views of who this woman was. They realise what a complicated person she was, how everyone has a completely-different view of who she actually was.”
The play is offered as a promenade performance within the hotel, but Caroline stresses it is not interactive. People don’t have to worry about being cornered by the actors, she laughs.