‘How does it feel to have your book made into a play by someone else?’
‘It’s a bit like giving up a baby for adoption,’ I say. ‘You want the new parents to be really good!’
Burn My Heart is set in Kenya over fifty years ago. Mathew is a settler boy and Mugo is his family’s ‘kitchen toto’. This is when the Land and Freedom Army – or Mau Mau – rebelled against the white settlers who had taken their land. Thousands of British soldiers were sent to crush the rebellion. Mathew and Mugo’s friendship is put to the fiercest test.
Just as the book was being published, an email from a theatre director in Plymouth popped into my inbox. Oliver Jones said that he hoped to create a company called Blindeye – to make theatre about human rights – and he wanted to read Burn My Heart.
This was more than three years ago. Since then Olly joined Trestle Theatre which has a fantastic reputation for ‘physical theatre’. I love this style. Few props, lots of imagination and actors who can change who they are in a second. So a cast of five can play twenty characters. When Olly got back in touch last year, we arranged to meet and talked by email.
I still had to decide: Could I trust him with my story? After saying ‘Yes’, and agreeing that Rina Vergano would adapt the novel, I knew that I must step back. Olly had to be free as the director. He invited me to an early rehearsal so the cast could quiz me about their characters, and then I had to let this ‘baby’ go.
Of course I was nervous until I saw the preview. Huge relief! My characters were so alive, their drama so intense and the sounds of their world so real, including the elephant! You can catch a glimpse here and to see if the play is coming to a venue near you click here. I hope it is – and, if you watch it, let me know what you think!