Lucky Seven is part of the plot that keeps Alexis sane
Hampstead Theatre s writer in residence Alexis Zegerman talks to Katie Masters about her latest play Lucky Seven, a comedy with an edge Alexis Zegerman says – laughing – that it was the desire to stay sane that got her writing. The 31-year-old Camden re
Hampstead Theatre's writer in residence Alexis Zegerman talks to Katie Masters about her latest play Lucky Seven, a comedy with an edge
Alexis Zegerman says - laughing - that it was the desire to stay sane that got her writing. The 31-year-old Camden resident is currently Pearson Writer-in-Residence at Hampstead Theatre in Swiss Cottage, where her comedy Lucky Seven opens on October 31, directed by Anthony Clark.
Born in St John's Wood, Zegerman had trained as an actress at Central. But..."I couldn't get auditions. I was struggling for a good four years, looking for acting work and doing lots of part-time jobs. Things like working in an estate agents in Hampstead - before the credit crunch there were a lot of them - and doing credit control in Belsize Park. I started writing because it was the only thing keeping me sane," she says.
The result was a play, which she sent off to various theatres. Some rejected it, others wrote back saying they thought it was good - and the Royal Court contacted her and asked her to join their Young Writers programme.
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It was a turning point. After the Royal Court Zegerman was commissioned to write a radio play. That was nominated for an award and led to a clutch of other radio plays. And then all Zegerman's buses rolled up at once. Not only was she approached by Hampstead Theatre, asking her to write them a full-length play, her agent also called, saying Mike Leigh wanted to see her for a part in "Two Thousand Years" at the National.
She got the role at the National, quickly followed by a meaty part in Leigh's recent film Happy-Go-Lucky. And she also wrote the play, which was inspired by the Up series of documentaries.
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Even if you haven't seen these, you'll have heard of them. Back in 1964, fourteen seven-year-olds from a range of different backgrounds were filmed talking about their lives.
The first of the series, Seven Up, was originally conceived as a stand-alone programme. But someone had the bright idea of returning to those fourteen children after another seven years had elapsed, and seeing how they had changed in the interim. And after seven years the cameras were back again...and again. In 2005, 49 Up was aired, with twelve of the original fourteen interviewees agreeing to take part.
The series has always thrown up questions about how far the act of participating has shaped the men and women featured. Those questions fascinated Zegerman.
Lucky Seven is about three characters (all fictional), who have been taking part in an ongoing documentary, filming updates about their lives every seven years.
The play opens when the characters are 49, but as it progresses the actors also have the challenge of playing their characters' younger selves - all the way down to the age of seven.
"I wanted to look at how different we are as we age. How much we change from the way we are aged seven, or twenty-one, to how we are in our forties. Do we mean the things we said when we were younger? Do we even remember those things?"
The set is an old-fashioned TV studio, but Zegerman's keen to emphasis that this play isn't a commentary on TV. The focus of the story is the connections that glue the three characters together and how they affect each other's lives.
"It's a comedy," she says. "But it's got an edge to it, because it's about hopes and dreams and whether you can fulfil those".
With a comedy series commissioned for radio and a role in a new film, Storm, due out next year, there's no doubt Zegerman is fulfilling hers.
Lucky Seven opens at the Hampstead Theatre on October 31 and runs until November 22. For tickets call the Box office on 020-7722 9301 or book online at www.hampsteadtheatre.com