Emily Writes / Photo by Chris Tse
It was a rant that did it. I am grateful, now fuck off, wrote Emily Writes in 2015, catapulting herself into parenting-superstardom. In the time between then and now she’s become Parents Editor at The Spinoff, published two books, and excessively lusted after Jason Momoa.
Her first book, Rants in the Dark, opens in Auckland this evening as a play. I caught up with Emily as she prepared for the Auckland premiere.
So, the play. I’m consistently in awe of the folks who turn books into theatre. How recognisable will it be to people who’ve read the book? What’s different?
I feel the same! I think they're wizards! The play is very true to the book. All the dialogue is from the book or from unpublished pieces that expand on pieces from the book. [The creators] were just incredible in the way they put it all together, they really got what the book was about and turned it into what I think is a really special and important piece of theatre.
Rants in the Dark is quite specifically about the parenting experience – though, even as a childfree person, I relate to a lot of your work. What do you say to the kid-free folks considering seeing the piece?
Whether you have your own children or not, most people have children in their lives. They have siblings, nieces and nephews, godchildren, their friends’ children – and we all have parents in our lives, or people who stepped up to be our parents. So, in that way, parenting is something we all share.
Most of my closest friends don't have children themselves but they parent as well, they are crucial to my village, and they all resonated with the play. So, I hope everyone will see the play. It's certainly made for everyone!
Am I right in assuming the protagonist is playing a version of yourself? What’s that like?
It is me! And it's very strange! But to be honest, the ‘Emily’ in Rants is every mum who has ever felt like she wasn't coping, every mum who has wanted to run off into the night with a handsome bloke or saucy babe and leave her kids far, far away – if only for a minute.
Some parts of the play are very specific to my whānau, like the experiences we went through with our son's health – but the feelings are the same. You have the same feeling in the dead of night in the children's ward that you do in your dark bedroom when your child has a temperature. That out of body moment wondering is my child OK? We have all had that to varying degrees. So I hope, even when it's specific to me, it resonates with everyone.
I really enjoy the idea that a play ‘about parenting’ is described as ‘unsuitable for children’. Many of the topics you write about (parenting, feminism) are often approached in this mawkish, sentimental voice. Your work is something of an antidote to all that. Was it important to keep that tone in the play?
I love that too! I am fascinated by the Madonna-Whore complex and the idea that mothers are these soft and gentle creatures who transform as soon as they become pregnant into these budding flowers to be protected at all cost. I am still the same horny dirtbag who swears that I always was. And I like challenging that.
Mothers are very desexualised by society. They're hidden or put on display and it’s jarring to have to navigate being everyone's property. That starts right from conception - whether you continue your pregnancy or not. Then, once you have a child, you're idolised but also attacked for your actions. The patriarchy's treatment of women would almost be laughable if it wasn't so tragic.
Parenting fundamentally changed my spirit, but I'm still the fuck up I always was and I think that's something that a lot of mothers hold to be true. We are the Madonna and the Whore, thank you very much.
Anything else you’d like Auckland audiences to know before they enter?
I just hope they enjoy a night off. I love that we sold out of rosé and pinot gris [in Wellington] - such mum clichés. But there's nothing more wonderful than seeing a mum losing it with laughter when you know she might have been stuck in the house alone with a screaming baby for the last week. That's my favourite thing about watching others watch the show - it feels like a release.
As I said, I don’t have any kids – but could I offer you some advice? Only kidding.
Haha! Chances are you probably know what you're doing more than I do. I was a great parent before I had kids!Support Villainesse