What is the sky made of? A Q&A with writer Hannah Torrance
BYT what is the sky made of

Hannah Torrance is a director and writer based in the Midlands. Currently part of Graeae Theatre Company's Write To Play cohort, the writer specialises in working with young people through engaging theatre projects.

In 2016 Hannah was part of The Berry Theatre's innaugaural Write Now project and has since penned What is the sky made of? a new piece of writing for The Berry Youth Theatre. We sat down to talk to the writer and director ahead of the production's premiere this November.

What can audiences expect from What is the sky made of?

A mountain of books, a science experiment, a helicopter ride, and questions.  A lot of questions!

Can you tell us a bit about your previous involvement with The Berry Theatre?

I first got involved with The Berry Theatre as part of the Telling Tales project last year. There was a callout for modern fairy tales and my story, The Door To Nowhere, was selected to be developed and shown as part of a showcase of new stories.

What influences did you draw on when writing What is the sky made of?

When Lucy said she was looking for a sci-fi story I knew I didn’t want everyone toddling around in alien suits.  Instead I took inspiration from the book Chocky by John Wyndham, where a boy’s parents are concerned that he has developed an imaginary friend, but the questions this imaginary friend has are not the normal things a child would come up with.  I’d also recently chatted to my Mum about some of the random things my sister and I would say when we were young, so the idea of the story being about the questions we all have, and that aliens might have, felt like the right way to go. 

The overall style and feel then came from a challenge I set myself.  Having worked in youth theatre before, I know what a struggle it can be to give everyone a chance to shine when scripts have a limited number of characters so I thought I’d see what would happen if I didn’t have any.  It was so much fun to write this massive group of children as a collective, throwing in conversations, repeats and snippets of personalities, but then leaving it to Lucy and the group to find the different characters within it.

What are you currently working on at the moment?

I’m currently on Graeae Theatre Company’s Write to Play programme, a mentorship programme supporting emerging disabled playwrights, and have just submitted a draft of my final piece ahead of a rehearsed reading of it in November.  I’m also scribbling away whenever I can on my Telling Tales piece to develop it into a full-length play.

What’s next for you as a writer and director?

One of my plays, She, was performed earlier this year and following great feedback I am working towards putting together my first tour.  I do a lot of work with a youth theatre in Leicester and it is approaching their fifth anniversary so we are working on a showcase to celebrate.

What questions did you ask when you were growing up that adults didn’t seem to understand?

The main one for me was a bizarre child’s understanding of how the year worked.  My Dad’s birthday is in July, my Mum’s in August and then mine is in April so in my head the year started in July and birthdays went in age order.  My sister was then born in March so every time it came to her birthday I would be outraged, “I’m older, it’s my turn not hers” which of course made no sense to my parents!  That and “how do you grow seedless grapes if they don’t have seeds?”  The answer is sadly not as exciting as I’d have liked.

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The Berry Youth Theatre will bring the sci-fi play to life Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th November, to book tickets visit the What's On page.

To find out more about Hannah visit her website.