Weaving a theatrical tapestry out of life’s rich abundance of emotional material

    Fabric starts its run at the EM Forster theatre in Tonbridge this Wednesday. Eileen Leahy spoke to its writer Abi Zakarian and director Tom O’Brien about what audiences can expect from this new piece of contemporary theatre which examines some very personal issues

    Photos: Pamela Raith

    “Fabric came out of a desire to write a one woman play that examined the myriad of roles and expectations women have to fulfil in today’s society,” says its author Abi Zakarian as she chats to the Times all about her latest work.

    The play, which is being previewed at the EM Forster theatre from Wednesday until Saturday before it tours a further seven venues in the South East prior to heading to the Edinburgh Festival, looks on a wider scale at the ‘endemic inequality’ that still exists for women.

    “It tells the story of Leah as she is packing up boxes in her flat with a view to moving,” continues the play’s director Tom O’Brien. “She reflects on experiences in her life and how she has become isolated and alone with her past drifting away.”

    Tom and Abi, along with actress Nancy Sullivan who plays Leah, have been working on this production for the past year and a half.

    The initial idea for doing something along these lines came from Tom and Nancy who had collaborated together before in plays such as Jonathan Neill’s Judy, The Righteous and The Fastest Clock in the Universe by Philip Ridley.

    “We’d done a couple of projects and knowing how we push each other artistically we were keen to challenge ourselves,” says Tom.

    Once they had brought on board Abi, who has written plays for the RSC, the trio decided to specifically focus on gender equality. “We looked at the structures that are in place to hold back true equality and over the course of a year and a half we developed the play into the script we have now,” adds Tom.

    Nancy Sullivan & Tom O'Brien Fabric Rehearsals Pamela Raith Photography
    Photos: Pamela Raith

    Abi says the primary reason she wrote the one woman piece was due to anger. “I am so tired of reading about case after case of women who have suffered appalling assaults only to be scrutinised as to how they are apparently somehow partly responsible for what’s happened to them.”

    The writer, who cites Samuel Beckett as one of her literary inspirations, admits that audiences will not find the play an ‘easy watch’ but hopes they will come away questioning things in their own lives a little more. “It’s alright to feel uncomfortable about things we have always accepted as the norm,” says Abi.

    Tom affirms this: “Audiences can expect to be taken on a journey with a character that we can all identify with.

    Hopefully they will take away from the theatre a real sense of what Leah experiences and question their own understanding of gender inequality.”

    Although technically Fabric is a one woman show there are numerous other characters within the story
    of the play but you won’t see them appearing on stage as their stories are told through Leah’s eyes and experiences.

    “We get to hear the voices of many different people and their perspectives,” reveals Tom. “So we really get to ‘meet’ them. Nancy is doing such a brilliant job as Leah.”

    The TREMers production company responsible for touring Fabric was founded in 2011 by former Skinners’ student Robin Rayner so there is a nice link to one of his works being performed at the theatre he used to tread the boards on as a boy.

    “I am very excited about that link” adds Tom “and that the play is going out to many different audiences from various demographics. Leah is very relatable so my hope is that Fabric will be seen by everyone.”


    Fabric will preview at the EM Forster Theatre Studio 22 – 25 June prior to a tour which includes The Marlowe Theatre Canterbury, New Wimbledon Studio London, Hawth Crawley, Theatre Royal Margate, Mercury Colchester, Old Fire Station Oxford and Hawth Crawley prior to showing at the Edinburgh Festival at Underbelly.

    For tickets, priced at £12, to the performance at the EM Forster theatre visit: www.tonbridgearts.com or call 01732 304241. To find out more about Fabric visit: www.fabrictheplay.com