Playwright Tove Appelgren: “If the character has no bad sides, the positive development can’t be seen”

Playwright Tove Appelgren: “If the character has no bad sides, the positive development can’t be seen”

Tove Appelgren is a theatre director, playwright and author who is currently working as a playwright at Åbo Svenska Teater in Turku, Finland. She has written the play Honey that is shown at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe until 25th of August. In the interview she tells about the play.

How did you come up with the idea for Honey?

The idea came from my own experiences but it took me 10 years to process these things. The play is not biographical because my personal trauma has been dramatised. I wanted to make a comedy about a difficult experience and process the subject in a way where I will come out on top. 

How is Honey different from your previous productions?

This was my first production for adults in a long time. Before I started working in Åbo Svenska Teater many of my productions have been for young adults and children. Sometimes I feel like I’m lacking in imagination, my book series Vesta-Linnéa, is also based on my own experiences.

You are dealing with family dynamics in your work. What is it like in Honey?

Honey’s family is not a typical family, if we regard the nuclear family as the norm. Honey is a single mom with four children by four different fathers. The mother-daughter relationship in the British television sitcom Absolutely Fabulous, where the daughter is way smarter and more mature than her mom, is a role model for the play. When I first started writing Honey, her character was very likeable. This was probably because I was writing it from my own viewpoint and wanted to shine a positive light on myself. It turned out to be really boring. There must be a conflict inside the character and between characters even if just one actress plays all the roles. If the character has no bad, weird or dark sides, the positive development can’t be seen. Especially in this Scottish version Honey’s personal growth is enormous. 

The play’s work group is very international. Has it brought any challenges to the production?

The only thing that I had a hard time with was that the play couldn’t be full-length. The play is written as a whole evening play with an interval and the text is so intense that it’s good to have an interval. The play had to be dramatised in a way that fits into the slot at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which is less than an hour. Julian Garner translated the play into English and made an adaptation of it. Although the play is significantly shorter in this version, it feels longer because the viewer doesn’t have time to breath and reflect in between.

I’m very interested in what Julian, actress Sarah McCardie and the whole group manage to do with the play. I have already gone through the whole production and know my thoughts about the play. But through them I see my own text in a different way. It’s interesting to follow how the first version is clearly a comedy and the Scottish version has features of a comedy but is more dramatic and deeper. I wanted to keep the play light because the subject is serious and touching. The play has a different effect when it’s a drama. It’s been great to see them do the play this way because I couldn’t have done it myself.

What kinds of reactions has the play received from the audience?

The reactions have been lovely. The ideal audience consists of mothers and daughters. Sometimes I’ve seen moms and daughters watching the play together and that’s when the play gets a lot of grateful feedback. A theatre play changes according to how the audience responds to it. In a way the audience decides how much of a comedy the play actually is. The thematic moves some people deeply and they even become tearful afterwards. Others look at it differently and laugh from the start of the play, which makes others join in the laughter. It’s simple, if the audience doesn’t laugh in a comedy, it’s not funny.

The show continues at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe until 25 August. What’s happening then?

Hopefully it goes on a tour. We have had inquiries about it. There are multiple factors that determine the success of a play. The play, actress and circumstances all have to be favourable.

Text: Kaisa Paavola Photo: Pette Rissanen

Honey, ZOO Playground 1, High School Yards, Edinburgh EH1 1LU, UKL,, daily until 25th August at 4:30pm, prices: £8–10.

What’s On