In 2020, after COVID-19 had commenced, and with Britain’s theatres shut, Liane Grant, like others in the media and theatre industry, turned to online technological solutions to showcase and channel their creativity.
“I threw myself into the things I could control– my writing and my voice work,” said Grant, whose 2019 writing debut, “Half me, Half you,” was described as “spectacular” by Outerstage in New York. “I joined a writer’s group and we meet on Zoom and stick some music on and write– it helps to keep each other accountable and the creative energy of working with others, even online, is so important.”
In June 2020 the Women’s Writes Festival founded by Alex Chritoph asked Grant to be part of a curated collection of nine extracts from previous plays and new writing from female writers to be featured on the London Theater Podcast, a British podcast focused on the theatre industry of London including its West End, Off-West end and Fringe offerings.
“I’d done voiceover work before, once for a stage production and I’d worked on radio plays, but this was a little different because it was just me, performing a monologue, and having to figure out how to record it in my tiny flat with no proper equipment,” said Grant, who is based in London, but was born in Gibraltar and has worked extensively in New York. “I was bored and frustrated in lockdown and up for the challenge!”
For the podcast, Grant wrote and performed a monologue titled “Disney Pyjamas & Mini Eggs,” which is about a young woman who goes on a date with a man. During the date, the man becomes increasingly nervous about how smart the woman is, which then spurs the woman to not only think about the reasons she hates dating but also how male perceptions of women have not progressed as much as society thinks.
“‘Disney Pyjamas & Mini Eggs’ was inspired by some frustrating online dating experiences, which seemed to be all the more relevant in the pandemic when online dating was all people had left!” said Grant, who studied at world-class Cambridge University. “It is, at its core, what I like to write about: women who challenge the stereotypical female mould, but this piece gives my view of what the male perspective of that stereotype-defying woman is.”
Grant, who had worked with Chritoph on the play “Taken in Marriage” in 2014 also found enjoyable challenges in both doing the podcast and performing her own writing.
“I was intrigued to see what it would be like to be directed for a monologue that was only about my vocal performance, and how that would work,” said Grant. “When you have no body language to rely on, you start to wonder if your voice is really enough.”
As for performing her own writing, which Grant has done before to much acclaim, the specific instance of doing “Disney Pyjamas and Mini-Egg” was different.
“Performing your own writing is always terrifying but thrilling, and this piece was particularly daunting because it was drawing more from my own experiences than anything else I’ve written: It felt like showing people a page of my diary,” said Grant. “Consequently, it was a new challenge, and I also discovered how much I enjoy voice work.”
Grant praises “The London Theater Podcast” for being a vehicle to showcase Off-West End and Fringe theatre activity, as “there is so much brilliant work out there that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves.”
More than a year later after her podcast performance, as the restrictions of the pandemic were increasingly being removed and London theatres reopened, Grant returned to the stage she loves so much in August 2021– this time, not only with a newly written political drama “Chance of Rain,” but with two performing roles as well.
In August Grant teamed up with fellow producer-writer-actress Olja Mladjenovic to showcase “Spectra” at the Etcetera Theater. Featured at the Camden Fringe Festival, “Spectra” is a collection of the plays “Wines from Santorini” written by Mladjenovic and “Chance of Rain” written by Grant, with each story depicting the intricacies of female relationships in opposing contexts.
The contrasts between the two plays are mirror-like– whilst “Wines from Santorini,” which stars Mladjenovic and Grant in the two main leads, is an intimate exploration of the complexities of childhood bonds that struggle to survive the journey into adulthood, “Chance of Rain” is a political drama, which examines the professional interactions of women in the workplace. “Chance of Rain” also stars Mladjenovic and Grant in the two main leads, but also features actresses Emily Panes, Julie Ross and Oyinka Yusuff.
“Though the storylines of the two plays are totally divergent, and the women depicted in them seem like polar opposites, the central characters in both plays have one big thing in common– they’re flawed in complex ways,” said Grant.
“Both stories also lead you to believe that one character is more honorable, more likeable, more ‘right’ than the other, before flipping this right at the end; and ultimately, that’s what we were trying to say about women– we are so many things all at once, collectively and individually”
From the co-production of “Spectra” and co-performing in both plays, to the sole producing and writing of “Chance of Rain,” there’s no question that Grant brilliantly embodies a myriad of talents, and it’s in the theatre where she fuses them all together.
“I was desperate to get back on stage again after the brutal pandemic… Olja’s script for ‘Wines from Santorini’ presented me with an opportunity to play a different character from anything I’d done before,” said Grant.
“I was also really eager to see how ‘Chance of Rain’ played in front of an audience… not just to see if it was any good in action, but to confirm or deny my suspicion that there was a full-length play in there that I just hadn’t yet drawn out.”
Mladjenovic gives credit to Grant for her return to the theatre, which not only benefits the audience, but the theatre industry itself.
“Liane is not only a force on the stage, but is the breath of fresh air that theatre and screen needs,” said Mladjenovic about her esteemed co-producer and co-actress. “She brings a history to the stage, a fullness to each role that shows her commitment, intelligence as a performer and attention to detail.”
After a near challenging two-years since the transatlantic acclaim of “Half me, Half you,” the future is looking bright for Grant, with both a feature film with a big production company on the horizon in the near future, as well as writing the pilot episode for the TV adaptation of her writing debut. But it is in acting where Grant’s real passion, talent and drive exist. With her career aspirations to work as an actress on Broadway and to continue being a part of projects that have something real to contribute to the world, there’s no doubt that we’ll be seeing Grant on stages across continents for years to come.
“There is nothing that has ever made me feel like I do when I’m performing, acting is so skilled and complex, and uses so much brain power, as well as heart and soul power, more so than I think many people realise,” said Grant.
“Actors can do so much to make people feel and think and sometimes if we’re lucky, change their lives, and I know this to be true from some of the responses I’ve had from audience members–that definitely drives me.”