Category Archives: Theatre

Face to Face Festival – Lost Theatre


I’m very excited (and nervous!) to announce that I will be performing three of my monologue plays at the Lost Theatre on 9th and 12th July as part of their Face To Face Festival of Solo Theatre.

Two of the pieces, which will be performed together on the 9th, are part of a suite of monologue plays called Crossing Lines – a title inspired by the theme of this year’s National Stalking Awareness Day.

Crossing Lines

deb-promoWritten and performed by Deborah Klayman

On the phone, at your home, at work or in the street – they wait.

In the shadows, online, or right at your door.

Where is the line between flattery and fear, attraction and obsession,

persistence and pursuance?


Crossing Lines is a suite of monologue plays that take us inside the mind of stalkers and their victims. Two of these plays, Smash & Grab and Lock Up Your Sons, will be performed at the Lost Theatre on 9th July as part of the Face to Face Festival of Solo Theatre.

“She laughs. She laughs the way she only does for me.”


Civil, another short play by the same author about the impact of civil war on family members overseas, will be performed on the 12th July.

It is not about politic, it is economic…the gun looks the same, the violence is the same.”


All of the plays are written and performed by Deborah Klayman.

Deborah Klayman is a Scottish playwright, actress and voice artist based in West London. Plays include: Smash & Grab, Lock Up Your Sons, Civil, Para, Cause for Alarm, and Eve & Lilith (with Jessica Martenson). Deborah recently completed a twelve month attachment as one of the Traverse Theatre’s ‘Traverse Fifty’, and was previously a member of the theatre’s Young Playwright and Class Act schemes. She has recently finished her first full-length play, The Boundary.

Deborah is one of the founding members of Whoop ‘n’ Wail Theatre Company, and has co-authored a number of plays with Ali Kemp including: eXclusion, Losing Light, My Bloody Laundrette, Majesty, and Cascade of Baubles. Their plays have been performed at The Canal Café, the Edinburgh Fringe, Waterloo East Theatre, Rochester Literature Festival, and South Hill Park Arts Centre.



Poster for She Writes at the Canal Cafe Theatre, 25 September

Catch Ali Kemp & Deborah Klayman’s new play ‘Losing Light’ at the Canal Cafe Theatre on 25th September!


She Writes poster

This pilot night in London will feature three plays directed by Amy Clare Tasker, a director recently arrived in London from San Francisco, where she is a co-founder of Inkblot Ensemble, an Associate Artist with DIVAfest, EXIT Theatre, and Cutting Ball Theater, and an active member of “YEAH, I Said Feminist: A Theater Salon”.

Plays for this first show are inspired by an enigmatic short story by HG Wells ‘The Door in the Wall’, and are written by Sam Hall, Sarah Hehir and Whoop’n’wail (Ali Kemp and Deborah Klayman), and have gone off on some deliciously different tangents.

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The Traverse Fifty – Submissions and the London Collective’s rehearsed readings

Everything has been go go go in Traverse Fifty land over the past week. Firstly, we had our deadline for the twenty minute play festival submission and then each had a meeting with one of the Traverse Theatre creative team about our work. My meeting was with the lovely Hamish Pirrie (Traverse Associate Director), who offered some advice and insight so that I could improve on my most recent draft of Cause for Alarm. I am currently rewriting and hoping…

On Sunday 2nd June some of the London members of the Traverse Fifty took on the task of staging rehearsed readings of our work at the Invisible Dot in Camden Stables Market. Thanks mainly to the hard work of our own Iain Mitchell, the day was great fun and a huge success, with six plays being staged by a talented collective of writers, actors and directors. The plays were:

Sixty by NSR Khan

Culling by Iain Mitchell

Para by Deborah Klayman

Natural Break by James Green

Birdwatching by Helen Shutt

Sweetcorn by Emily Jenkins

A massive thank you to the actors who took part, namely: Gerri Farrell, Jessica Martenson, Augustina Seymour, Helen Shutt, Hugh Coleridge, Julius Metson Scott and Paul Kevin-Taylor; and to Sarah Davies and Iain Mitchell, who were our fabulous directors. Thanks too to the other writers who all came along and participated in making the day a success – NSR Khan brought the amazing food, James Green travelled a great distance and came bearing gifts, and Helen and I lent our acting skills to the event.

Also, in case anyone missed them the first time round, the Traverse Fifty Plays for Edinburgh – all originally staged in January of this year – are to be performed again at the Traverse on the 30th and 31st August 2013. My play, The Boundary, will be shown on the first night. Tickets can be purchased here!

As I post this I am also packing to go to the airport, ready for another packed day of workshops at the Traverse tomorrow! Exciting times 🙂

The Traverse Fifty – The Journey Continues

In the six weeks since my last Traverse Fifty post, many exciting things have been going on in Travworld!

Firstly, the London chapter of writers (plus the sole representative from the Midlands) met in the main RADA building, in a boardroom so plush it seemed Alan Sugar was about to burst in and give one of us the boot! We had a great discussion and some of us shared work-in-progress, and I was delighted to get such honest and constructive suggestions on my piece, Smash & Grab.

Next we all decamped to Edinburgh for a weekend of workshops at the Traverse. Friday 8th was International Women’s Day and it was so exciting to be in a room full of so many talented and creative writers and to have so many of them be women of all ages. This is not to put down my male peers in the slightest, but with only 17% of plays on UK stages currently being written by women, the egalitarian and positive ethos at the Traverse makes me feel confident that many in the room will be part of improving representation of female playwrights. The workshop itself was an excellent session about structure and rescuing a play that has gone stuck and was delivered by Olivier-nominated playwright Tim Price. Tim was extremely likeable, approachable and supportive and the day was a lot of fun, as well as being invaluable to me as a writer. I took away a lot of tools that will help progress a number of ideas I have had but am struggling to develop, and I am very excited about the rest of the attachment throughout the year.

Saturday’s workshop was led by Zinnie Harris, a prolific playwright and associate artist at the Traverse. The session had some more practical work and we were sent out into the inclement Edinburgh weather in search of interesting people and conversations to inspire some short dualogues which we then worked on back at the theatre. The workshop was about imagery in plays and was very useful as it gave me a different perspective on playwriting being that my pieces are generally very dialogue driven. Zinnie gave some direct feedback on work people shared, including myself, and I definitely learned a lot from her and the other writers in the group.

Before I left Edinburgh to return to London I was lucky enough to be able to make it to a work-in-progress night arranged by one of the Edinbugh-based writers, J.A Sutherland. It showcased work by seven of the Traverse Fifty writers, and was a superb evening and full of exciting new plays. It really made me feel like part of a creative community, and I felt very lucky to be working with so many talented people, many who are teaching me more about the sort of playwright I want to be.

Lastly, the Traverse have just announced the eight writers who have had work selected for the next event – ‘Scratch the Fifty‘ on 13th April. Unfortunately I was not one of those selected, but I am delighted to be able to go and support those who were and can’t wait to see their plays!

Until then, I will be continuing to work on my plays, applying all of the techniques and knowledge I have gathered so far. The rest of the year is looking very exciting indeed!

Launching The Traverse Fifty

The Traverse Fifty Board

After an exciting and nerve-wracking wait, the Traverse Fifty officially launched on 14th January 2013! The launch day had the feel of a first day of school or uni, with all the participants – if they were anything like me – feeling like the new kid and tentatively approaching each other in the theatre bar. Fortunately, the excitement  quickly took over and all the writers were soon chatting and swapping stories and experiences like old friends.

We then took part in a day of discussions with and talks from well-established playwrights Zinnie Harris, Douglas Maxwell, Lynda Radley, and Kieran Hurley. Orla & Hamish gave us some insight into the year ahead, and also told us that the ‘Plays for Edinburgh’ evening on 26th Jan would now be two evenings, as due to popular demand they had added a show on the 25th!

The event was a bit of a whirlwind, and I found myself heading back to London the following morning just dying to pick up a pen and start writing. Before my play ‘The Boundary’ was even submitted to the Traverse Fifty I knew I wanted to develop it into a full length play, so between the launch and the play night I set about sketching the outline and researching some new aspects of the play. I received a call from Assistant Director Jo Rush during rehearsals for the play as some questions had been raised by the cast, and I was so delighted to be involved in the process and to offer my thoughts. At the same time, the actors’ questions gave me some things to think about, and pushed me in the direction of some new research which was incredibly helpful.

I landed back in Edinburgh on the 25th, and made a beeline for the Traverse where the first performance was underway. Running at a staggering 3 1/2 hours, the performance went really well and the audience all seemed to be in really good spirits. I had the chance to chat with a few people I knew in the audience as well as other Traverse Fifty writers who had been in, and when I went home that evening I just couldn’t wait to see everyone’s work the following night.

The Traverse Fifty Photo by Eoin Carey

The Traverse Fifty
Photo by Eoin Carey

On the 26th, as we all clustered together on the Traverse One stage for the photo call, there was a definite nervous energy in the room. Afterwards in the bar here were some new faces who hadn’t made the launch day, plus many of us had friends and family in tow, so there was a fantastic buzz and air of expectation.

Despite the name, there were actually fifty-three plays in the running order. Zinnie Harris and Kieran Hurley’s plays top and tailed the bill, and my little play, ‘The Boundary’, was close to the end of the first half. It is impossible to pick out favourites, but the other writers’ plays were a lovely mix: funny, touching and surprising pieces all performed by the fabulous cast and thoughtfully staged by Orla and Hamish. I was delighted with the performance of my play, and a few days later was overjoyed to get a mention in Joyce McMillan’s review of the evening:

“I loved Deborah Klayman’s Boundary, which brought images of cities divided by war home to the urban boundary between Edinburgh and Leith.”

All in all January’s events were fantastic, and made me all the more focused on developing ‘The Boundary’ and my other ideas while I have the Traverse’s support and other events to help me hone my work. 2013 is looking like a very creatively exciting year, and I can’t wait to see what happens next…

The Traverse Fifty

In celebration of their 50th anniversary in 2013, the Traverse Theatre launched a competition in September to find 50 writers from Scotland and beyond for a year-long attachment.  The Traverse Fifty application was a 500-word play submission with the theme “Plays for Edinburgh”, and being both a writer and an Edinburgh native I thought this was a brief I could get my teeth into.

I promptly set about writing The Boundary, my uber-short about the Edinburgh/Leith divide, and was delighted to be notified in December that I had been selected as one of the Traverse Fifty! This certainly meant my 2013 started with a bang, and the year ahead is looking very exciting indeed, albeit extremely busy…

Since I no longer live in Scotland the main issue is physically getting to the monthly events at the Traverse.  I have begun the intricate juggling act that is finding regular travel between London and Edinburgh that does not require a remortgage, and so far have managed to book up until April without too much difficulty. The theatre are kindly assisting with costs which is a huge help, particularly as this month we have two events that I certainly would not be willing to miss.

This Monday, 14th Jan, is the Traverse Fifty official launch day so I have already landed in Edinburgh and am eagerly awaiting my first opportunity to meet the Traverse team and the other fourty-nine and to hear about the plans for the year ahead.

1 city, 50 writers, 50 plays, 25,000 words

On the 26th Jan the Traverse is staging the plays of all those selected in an evening entitled “50 Plays for Edinburgh“. The showcase is directed by Orla O’Loughlin and Hamish Pirie, and tickets are a very reasonable £6 (£4 conc). I will be there with very excited bells on!


We had a lovely time at the last She Writes of this year. Our theme was ‘Passions’ and we showcased a selection of plays which widely interpreted this brief!

* Maggie Drury’s short play ‘Fish on a plate’ was about a very strange couple –
one whose passion is words and the other whose passion is glass!
* ‘Such a nice girl’ by Melissa Keighley told a dark tale of a woman whose desire
to have her own space leads to murder.
* Sarah Davies’‘Nigel the dark destroyer’ told the hilarious tale of a goat who
could well be possessed by Satan…
* ‘The Star and the Painted Snipe’ by Sam Hall is the first stage of a play about
Aphra Behn. It will be developed into a longer piece.
* Whoop’n’wail (Ali Kemp and Deborah Klayman) gave us a really dark story of
domestic abuse with an intriguing reverse…

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Read Our Guest Post on 17percent’s latest Blog!

Guest post: A Right Pair…

Ali Kemp and Deborah Klayman talk about writing together

Originally published on

Posted on November 29, 2012

Ali Kemp and Deborah Klayman are the founders of Whoop’ n’ Wail Theatre Company. They write together and this is their guest blog about the joint writing process.

Why did you decide to write together?

There were several reasons, and most came out of our shared views and interests. When we first met in 2006 we were actors on a theatre tour together, and we spent the next two months living in each other’s pockets, quickly finding out we had a lot in common and becoming firm friends. After that we enjoyed performing together in a variety of other productions, so when the idea of writing a play for the Edinburgh Fringe presented itself writing together was a natural progression. Because we already had that close relationship we knew we could be honest with each other and disagree without taking it personally, which is really important when you are creating work that you are both passionate about.

Our shared interest in social justice and the under-representation of women in the theatre led to our first play, eXclusion. In 2009, after several years working in prisons and secure mental health services, Debs was at the Edinburgh Fringe and saw a number of excellent plays about men in prison, and began thinking about the lack of plays about women in similar circumstances. Because of our close friendship and Ali’s own background in mental health work it was the obvious choice to begin talking about and researching the subject together, and the play developed from there into a piece about women in the criminal justice system through a pastiche of a reality TV show.

Having taken eXclusion to Edinburgh in 2011, and subsequently mounting a successful tour, we found ourselves at a crossroads: would we continue to write together or would this be a one-off? It was an easy question to answer as the research and development phase of eXclusion left us with so many things we still wanted to say, plus we both found the writing process really enjoyable. With a limited number of roles for actresses, even in London, finding we had this ability to create our own work was very liberating and motivated us to keep writing.

The pros and cons of writing as a pair

A number of writers we have spoken to described the idea of writing as a pair as horrifying! – or at the very least a surprising choice. It may be unusual, but as performers we find collaboration very natural so co-authoring plays is just an extension of the way we already work. Neither of us find working together has pros and cons exactly, but that there are challenges and aspects we both find far easier as a pair.

At the heart of the process is respect and fun: respecting each other’s ideas and vision and sometimes running with things, trusting they will end up where they are supposed to go, and enjoying the weird and wonderful journey. We lay a foundation, sparking off each other to create one integral idea, then once we have this overview we sometimes go away and write something, bring it back and weave it in. We see it like stacking building blocks, choosing the right ones together then working out the best way to assemble them so that we are both happy with what we have created. There will always be an element of compromise – not in terms of giving up or giving in, but in hearing the other person out – which can often change your outlook on a scene. Much of the work we’ve been proudest of had come from a tangent one of us has gone on which has got us off a sticking point or inspired a whole new direction.

One of the bugbears for a lot of writers is the creation of realistic, truthful dialogue, but as actors we feel we have a head start as we are so used to working with and shaping spoken text. Having someone to bounce dialogue off is a great advantage, and actors who have worked with our texts have described them as ‘actor-friendly’ and commented on the naturalistic style.

Having to plan dates and times to work together means we have to be organised – neither of us can wimp out if it’s in the diary! This drives our writing and keeps us on track, we can’t stagnate as we are both very busy with our other work so have to make the most of our time together, although as friends we definitely have to fight the urge to gossip too much!

It’s often said that in a writing partnership the one at the keyboard is really the one who writes it – what are your views?

When we sit down to write one or other of us will be the one physically typing the words, but a lot has happened before we get to that stage. We tend to discuss scenes or structure a lot before putting fingers to keyboard, and often work from paper in the early stages which is less limiting as we can throw ideas around more easily and jot down words or impressions. We take it in turns to type, with the other person freed up to be more creative and instinctive, and often the one at the keyboard is scribing for the other rather than driving the process. When you’re typing you sometimes throw in a line or sentence construction, but we constantly review everything so what we are working on is always truly collaborative. Sometimes one of us gets bogged down in semantics or structure (or in Debs’ case endless formatting!), but luckily with two of us we don’t stay stuck for long.

Ali & Debs and 17%

Our friend Rebecca Peyton wrote a guest post for 17% earlier in the year, and that is how we first came across She Writes. We were in the middle of our second full length play, but were intrigued by the idea of writing a short piece to a brief, and loved the ethos of what Sam is trying to achieve for female playwrights. As we only found out about What is Art? days before the deadline we had only one day together to get the piece planned, written and submitted but we like a challenge so put our thinking caps on and wrote My Bloody Laundrette, which we were thrilled to have selected. We now follow Gina Gough’s brilliant blog ‘Playwrights’ Competition Calendar’ and have had great fun writing three new short plays which we’ve submitted to a variety of competitions in the past few months. We are delighted that our latest play, Cascade of Baubles, will be performed at She Writes on 5th December 2012.

Reviewers on the Rocks – Is theatre reviewing a thankless task?

Having read with interest Amy Taylor’s well-written and extremely even handed article on this evening I began thinking of the many unpleasant exchanges I have had with individuals and companies in response to pieces I have written since I began reviewing in 2006.

What many people do not realise is that the vast majority of critics do not get paid for their work, regardless of whether they are publishing their reviews on or off line.  Of course there are free tickets to the productions, and occasionally a nice press function, but by and large critics are people who love theatre – or their chosen genre(s) – and give up their free time to see and write about it.  In most cases critics will see the production and then rush home to write the review in time for their deadline, which is more often than not the next day.  If you are also working at another job, as most freelancers are, this can mean you are under a great deal of pressure, particularly during a period as jam-packed and frenetic as the Edinburgh Festival.  I personally reviewed 54 individual productions at Edinburgh this year, and saw a further 15+ of my own volition, and trust me – we want them to be good.  I find a 60 minute show translates to approximately an hour of writing about it, and when you are seeing 8 shows a day a terrible show can be soul destroying, particularly as you have given up the opportunity to see another production in order to attend.

As a performer I have been in productions that have received reviews ranging from 2 to 5 stars (so far I’ve avoided the painful 1 star…) and negative press is a hard pill to swallow.  That said, if you invite someone to review it you are presumably confident that it is good, and understand that in asking for someone’s opinion on your work you might be unpleasantly surprised.  By all means be annoyed, particularly if you feel the piece has inaccuracies, but if that is the case contact the publication to ask for a correction or, quite frankly, suck it up.  Shows I’ve been in have been given less than sterling reviews by publications I write for!  If that doesn’t show a lack of bias I don’t know what does.  I have personally reviewed shows where I have known one or more of the actors, or the writer, the director, or sometimes all of the above.  I do not do this intentionally, however if you write and perform it is always a possibility, and those are the times when your professionalism is really tested.

As a general rule I always try to find a positive note, even in the direst of plays, but sometimes a show truly has no redeeming feature.  Those are the 0 star shows, and I have yet to give one out (although one show at Edinburgh this year came close).  If I can find a glimmer of hope or positivity it will be 1 star, and on two notable occasions – both solo shows – those reviews have provoked the unbridled ire of the companies who received them, along with allegations of unprofessionalism, “targeting” the performer, and public defamation.  One of these experiences was in my second year of writing for Fringe stalwarts ThreeWeeks, while the other came two years ago while reviewing for The Public Reviews.  Even though you, and those who know you and your work, are certain that the review you have written is one based on your honest response to a production you have experienced – and one that your readers will pay for if they see it (often at great expense) – it is still hard not to question yourself and take verbal and written attacks personally.

Like Amy I will not name the companies in question, but suffice it to say that both experiences were extremely unpleasant.  The first individual, rather than contacting the publication or my editor to raise concerns, stalked me over the internet in order to get my personal email address to which they sent abusive missives suggesting my mission in life is to destroy the work of others.  I did not respond, but forwarded it to my editor who replied on my behalf.  I heard nothing further, but a couple of years later was reviewing a production and realised that this person was in the cast.  As it transpired I knew the writer of the play I raised this as a concern and asked if they would prefer someone else review the show.  I was told this was not necessary and duly attended the show in which the lady in question was very good, however on hearing my name she apparently hyperventilated and begged that I not use her name in my review, regardless of context.  Although I thought this was unfortunate – given that I would have otherwise positively name checked her – I acquiesced and instead referred to a “strong supporting cast”.  I hold no grudge against this person, but clearly she is still reeling from a review published more than four years ago and is unable to understand that it was a professional critique, not a personal attack, which is sad for a myriad of reasons.

The second incident was rather more dramatic, with my poor, long-suffering editor being inundated with emails and web posts from ardent supporters of the actor they felt I had maligned in my review.  Fortunately for me I was not privy to all of these, and TPR has my eternal thanks for that, as I gather some were fairly unpleasant.  The upshot, however, was that my editor received many calls for my review to be removed and for me to be banned for writing for the publication.  Again it was suggested that this was “personal”, despite a positive 3 star review of another of the actor’s solo shows – written by me and published on the same site – was still in evidence on the site and ad received a grand total of zero complaints since it’s publication.  In a bizarre twist, the actor in question latterly met my editor in the street and claimed he had nothing to do with the behaviour of his fans and said my review was helpful in improving his show, inviting me to see it in its new incarnation and offer my thoughts on whether or not it had improved. Finally a professional, no? No, because that same person told a colleague and friend of mine, only weeks later, that I am “evil”, “the devil”, that I clearly have it in for him and told her that my editor had banned me from reviewing him and would instead see all of his shows personally in the future. True? Not one word.  Luckily the person he approached is a good friend, and someone who is often my plus one and knows my work, however I know he continues to hold a grudge and to blacken my name at every opportunity.

As a performer myself I do often wish I had begun writing under a pseudonym because of these incidents, but I didn’t and refuse to change now so far into my career.  I hope that my writing continues to reflect my passion for and love of theatre, and that the reviews and features I write retain their positivity and impartiality as that is what companies and their productions deserve.  I begin every show at 3 stars and work my way up or down from there, and always challenge myself over negative reviews to ensure I am being fair.

It is worth mentioning that these experiences are extremely rare, and that from the hundreds of reviews I have written over the years I have had far more thank you’s than screw you’s!  I continue to enjoy watching and writing about theatre, along with a variety of other genres, and envision myself always doing so.  If I stop enjoying it, or worse stop caring about it, then that will be the time to retire my paper and pen and go back to passive viewing.

Ali Kemp & Deborah Klayman at ‘She Writes’


Ali & Deborah’s short play will have a rehearsed reading on 12th September in Whitstable in Kent!

The lineup for 12th September 2012 is:

My Bloody Laundrette – Ali Kemp & Deborah Klayman
Pink Lady – Tracy Harris
The arrangement – Maggie Drury
Drawing a Blank- Sioned Jones
Who Knows Art? – Karen Bartholomew
Joined at the hip – Sally Whyte
Graf – Sam Hall
Title TBC – Sarah Davies

She Writes presents ‘What is art?’
12 September 2012, 7pm
The Horsebridge Centre bar-cafe,
Whitstable, Kent CT5 1AF (Map)
£5/4 concs