Q&A with writer Maureen Lennon

An interview with Maureen Lennon, the writer of Helen, which runs at Hull Truck Theatre from 15-16 June.

How did you start writing? 

I’ve always been obsessed with stories. I was the sort of kid who would try to read walking upstairs, on the loo, on the bus, under the table in lessons, anywhere. When I first went to the theatre I couldn’t get over the magic of it, I was desperate to be involved. 

Like a lot of people, I think at first I thought I would have to be an actor, but while I was at university I slowly noticed what I really wanted to do was write. It sort of hadn’t occurred to me that that was possible before. I went to Bristol University and they ran this really great scheme called Studio Scripts where you got to work with the Literary Manager at Bristol Old Vic, it really gave me the bug. So, after university I formed a company called Bellow Theatre with a brilliant writer called Tabitha Mortiboy and we started to write things and put them on. Then in 2018 I was lucky enough that an incredible Hull company called Middle Child commissioned me to write my first full length play. 

What inspired you to write Helen?

I wrote Helen in the aftermath of a close personal loss, while I was thinking about the complications and reality of grief and how that is different to a lot of depictions of it. To me there is so much life and love in grief. It is not just a period of sadness that passes. It’s something you carry with you as you grow and change. It has its darkness but also an intensity which speaks to how much we fight for those we love. I wanted to write about the people left behind and the closeness that can be forged between those united in loss. 

I also wanted to write something about mothers and daughters but not pitted against one another as so often portrayals force them to be. I wanted it to be about the true depth of that bond, the wealth of love and complication found in that relationship. I wanted it to be about the way women care for each other, the way they show up, the way they can be depended on.

I hope it’s a bit of a love letter to my mum and mums everywhere. 

Can you tell us a bit more about the story? 

Helen is a story about two women, a mother and a daughter, dealing with the aftermath of extreme grief. Helen loses her husband, Becca loses her father, this loss reverberates across their whole lives. The story takes us from Becca being a fifteen-year-old to over fifty, and charts lots of the big life events you would expect in that time, university, marriage, kids, alongside some other less universal experiences. Both Becca and Helen struggle with their loss in different ways and at different times, but ultimately they always show up for each other as best they can. 

What do you hope audiences will take from the play?

I hope audiences will feel like they’ve been on a journey with these two women, one which feels truthful and difficult but also has sparks of real joy. I hope people will recognise something of their own feelings about love and loss and feel seen and understood. I hope mums will go outside and hug their daughters and daughters will hug their mums.  

Can you describe the play in three words? 

Knotty, joyful, catharsis. 

You can catch Helen at Hull Truck Theatre from 15-16 June. Call the box office on 01482 323638 to book your tickets or book online.