STELLA FEE­HILY

Stella Fee­hily (45), play­wright and ac­tor, was born in Lon­don to Ir­ish par­ents, and brought up in Bun­do­ran, Co Done­gal. She lives in north Lon­don with her hus­band, theatre di­rec­tor Max Stafford-Clark (74)

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - WAKING HOURS -

Iwake up be­tween 7.30 and 8am, and the first thing I do is put on my glasses, which I need to wear now, and look at the Guardian head­lines and fig­ure out, still half asleep, what I’m go­ing to read over cof­fee. We live in North Lon­don, just off the Hol­loway Road, and close to the Out Of Joint of­fices, where my hus­band Max has his re­hearsal stu­dio, and runs his tour­ing com­pany.

Max had quite a ma­jor stroke in 2006. He’s back to work, and his brain is still just as amaz­ing as it al­ways was — pos­si­bly even bet­ter, af­ter all the things he had to do to get him­self back to work — but it has left him with an amount of dis­abil­ity. He has blind­ness of the pe­riph­eral vi­sion on the left side, his left arm doesn’t work, and he walks with dif­fi­culty, al­though he does walk. He needs a bit of as­sis­tance in the morn­ing get­ting out to work, so that’s the next thing I do.

First we have some green tea, then I make the first of a cou­ple of cups of cof­fee. A cou­ple of years ago, I found I had a rac­ing heart and I went to the doc­tor, and she said, ‘Be­fore I re­fer you on, how many cof­fees are you hav­ing a day?’ It was about seven. I cut out some of those — end of rac­ing heart.

Max has some fruit for break­fast; at the mo­ment, it’s green­gages, be­cause they are in sea­son, then a slice of toast. I don’t re­ally like to eat in the morn­ing, I find it makes me re­ally tired, so I try to leave it to 12 or 1 o’clock be­fore eat­ing. But I take this dis­gust­ing stuff, bee pollen. It’s meant to have all th­ese amaz­ing prop­er­ties. I’m vegetarian, and ap­par­ently it has lots of amino acids and pro­tein. I take it with a cou­ple of spoon­fuls of Greek yo­ghurt, so I sup­pose I am eat­ing, but it’s not a tra­di­tional break­fast.

Then I get Max into work. It’s a 15-minute walk for him, so we either walk, or I drive him in, or he’s got a scooter — which is quite cute — and he goes in on that. Af­ter I drop Max, I come home and, if I can bear it, I go straight to my desk. But I’m my mother’s daugh­ter, and every­thing has to be tidy first. I was a re­ally messy child and my mother is in­cred­i­bly tidy, which I found so an­noy­ing, but now I’m like her.

I do most of my writ­ing work at night, when Max has gone to bed, be­tween 10.30pm and 2.30am. That’s con­cen­trated time. It’s quiet; I’m not re­spon­si­ble for any­thing or any­body, and it’s close to dream­time. So mostly I re­search dur­ing the day, along with the other things I have to do — such as script meet­ings at the Royal Court, re­hearsals, or work­shops for schools or drama stu­dents. I’m also teach­ing a course at the Royal Court for young writ­ers, so I’m read­ing ex­tracts from their work.

The day can be made up of any­thing like that. What I do also de­pends on what stage I am at with the writ­ing process. With Cop­pelia, for ex­am­ple, be­fore the writ­ing, I would have been re­search­ing the sto­ries, the an­gles. At the mo­ment, I have a com­mis­sion from the Royal Court to write a play about counter-ter­ror­ism and com­mand struc­tures.

There’s a huge amount of re­search, read­ing and in­ter­views in­volved in that. I’m also watch­ing doc­u­men­taries about the po­lice force; about spies. It’s a huge sub­ject. Its like pan­ning for gold — you’re look­ing at every­thing, root­ing around, won­der­ing.

At some point I have to fig­ure out what I’m go­ing to cook for the day, be­cause Max is a meat eater and I’m not, so I have to think, ‘What can we do so that I’m not just eat­ing sweet pota­toes while Max is eat­ing sweet pota­toes and meat?’ I try to find ways to be in­ven­tive with my cook­ing so I can get him to eat a vegetarian diet. As the years have gone on, I’ve made much more of an ef­fort to eat healthily. The de­sire is al­ways for tea and white toast — that’s my idea of heaven — but I now have sal­ads, boiled eggs, av­o­cado; I’ve never been al­lergy tested, but I have had to rule out a num­ber of foods that make me tired.

I try and eat foods that give me en­ergy, light things, with a heav­ier meal in the evening. I used to ex­er­cise a lot — I used to do BodyPump, which is ba­si­cally lift­ing weights to mu­sic, which I loved; what it does to your body is ex­tra­or­di­nary, but I got too many in­juries. So I moved to yoga and then started get­ting pains in my hips — ap­par­ently I’m hy­per-flex­i­ble — so now I’m a walker. Hamp­stead Heath isn’t far from where we live, and I love that feel­ing of be­ing out. I don’t care if it’s rain­ing, I just want to be out. Lon­don is such a fas­ci­nat­ing city. You’re con­stantly learn­ing some­thing new about it. The other big side of my life, that I try not to spend all my money on but in­vari­ably do, is fash­ion, par­tic­u­larly vin­tage — I have lots of 1930s and 1940s el­e­gant dresses.

I col­lect Max at around 6pm, and we tend to stay at home dur­ing the week. We try to have a quiet home life, so we leave go­ing out for din­ner to the week­end, al­though it can get re­ally busy, with var­i­ous plays to see, which friends have writ­ten or di­rected. Once we’ve eaten, we don’t re­ally watch TV. I might do more read­ing, or do up notes. Max is a modelrail en­thu­si­ast, and one of the rooms in our flat has his train set; a very beau­ti­ful Amer­i­can train set, with steam trains from the 1940s and 1950s, so I might help him with that. Max goes to bed around 10pm, and af­ter that, it’s my time, to put down ideas and write scenes.

I drink a very mild blend of green tea for hours and hours. Years ago, I used to love to have a glass of wine with din­ner, but now it just makes me tired, so I avoid that. I try not to fall asleep, I try and fit as much in as I can. When I do go to bed, around 2.30am, I find it re­ally easy to fall asleep. I read to the point where my eyes can no longer stay open, and I have no prob­lem sleep­ing at all. Ac­tu­ally, I could sleep on the floor.

I do most of my writ­ing work at night, when Max has gone to bed, be­tween 10.30pm and 2.30am. That’s con­cen­trated time

Bal­let Ire­land’s na­tional tour of ‘Cop­pelia’, with chore­og­ra­phy by Mor­gann Ru­nacre-Tem­ple and li­bretto by Stella Fee­hily, runs from Oc­to­ber 29 to De­cem­ber 20, see bal­le­tire­land.ie

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