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Tallulah Brown: 'Songlines takes us back to our roots'

Posted by Theo Bosanquet on 3 Aug, 2018

As the Edinburgh Fringe opens, we talk to the multi-talented writer of Songlines, a new play featuring music by her band Trills

Tallulah Brown, © Theo Bosanquet

The concept of 'gig theatre', or plays with songs, has been rising in popularity in recent years. And the Edinburgh Fringe has seen its fair share of them, most notably 2015's runaway hit Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour.

It's a genre that carried obvious appeal for playwright Tallulah Brown, who is also a member of the band Trills. "I've been in the band for 12 years," she tells me during a break in rehearsals, "and we do a lot of soundtracking for trailers and video games. So this was the first opportunity I had to soundtrack one of my own plays."

Director George Chilcott first encounted Trills when he saw them play a gig at university. "There's something really theatrical about Trills' music; it always felt like it was perfect for storytelling." When he realised Brown was also an accomplished playwright, having seen her work at Edinburgh and HighTide, their collaboration was born.

Brown has set Songlines, which centres on two teenagers finding love, in Suffolk, where she grew up. "At that age in that area, a lot of your life revolves around hanging out at bus stops and beaches. There's also the madness of needing your parents to drop you off at house parties."

Suffolk is also the home of HighTide, who are co-producing Songlines and touring it after the Fringe. Brown has been a regular at the annual festival since discovering it as a teenager. "I'd never seen plays like that in Suffolk; the themes they were dealing with, the utter transformation of a space."

She premiered her play Sea Fret there last year. And she's excited by the potential for Songlines to appeal to younger audiences. "I'm hoping that teenagers in Suffolk will come and engage with it. I hope the fact it's a gig as well as play will help us reach a new audience."

But before that Songlines is premiering at the Edinburgh Fringe, a prospect Brown admits to finding "scary", not least because she's on stage herself this time, playing with Trills. "I'm still getting my head round that idea; normally I'm as far away from the stage as I can be."

Trills have been labelled "Britain's answer to Haim". They were predominantly playing "18th birthday parties", says Brown, until they got spotted at one of said parties by a guy working with film soundtracks. A few months later they'd written a song ("Oh Freedom") for the film Suffragette, and have since written for movies, adverts and video games including Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

As a result they've found a diverse fan base and clocked up thousands of streams. But she's pleased that Songlines will take them back to their gig roots. "It's exciting to be going back to the feeling of porch music, pulled back to guitar, keys and harmonies."

It certainly seems that audiences, whether they align more closely with HighTide or Tomb Raider, are in for a treat.

Songlines is at Pleasance Courtyard Beneath from 1 to 26 August. It then tours to Hornchurch, Lowestoft, Leeds, Walthamstow and Aldeburgh.

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Topics: Interview, Music


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