Interview: Lisa Kron

We meet the writer of a play about people who choose to be ill

By Alex Kasriel, December 11, 2008

Have you ever suspected that the relatives you know who suffer from chronic illnesses like allergies, back pain, or ME, actually have a choice about whether or not they get better?

This conundrum is what comic playwright Lisa Kron examines in her play, Well, opening at The Apollo Theatre later this month after a successful European tour. Kron based the award-winning play on her own family history. “It’s drawn from things that happened to me,” says the New York playwright, 47, who comes from a small town in Michigan. “I grew up in this racially integrated community which was partially created by my mother. Many people in my family had this vaguely defined chronic illness or strange allergy. I went to college and recovered but my mother didn’t.”

Kron herself originally starred in the show when it opened in off-Broadway venue Public Theater, in 2004. But this production sees Natalie Casey from the BBC3 comedy Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps play the role of Lisa.“In the play, the character with my name comes out on stage and says she’s put together a show about why some people are sick and some people are well - and some people are apparently sick. Her mother is then introduced sleeping in the recliner at the side of the stage”, explains Kron.

“Things don’t go as Lisa expected they would. Her mother doesn’t turn out to be in as controlled an experiment as she thought she would be. She has extremely different ideas.” Kron says Well is also about “the universal element of the parent/child relationship. From the first moment it feels very familiar”.

In real life, Kron’s mother, Ann — who she describes as simultaneously “salt-of-the-earth”, an “original thinker” and “non-conventional” — converted to Judaism when she married her father, a Shoah refugee who left Germany when he was 15.

In Kron’s previous play, 2.5 Minute Ride, her father’s background is set against her brother’s marriage to a character he meets in an internet chatroom. Although Well has serious undertones, it is not at all depressing. Kron, who is a member of theatrical group the Five Lesbian Brothers, insists the show is funny: “The humour is in the physical human shortcomings and the reaction to them by Lisa – the character based on me.”

Well is at The Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, from December 29 until January 24. Tickets on 0844 412 4658

Last updated: 2:59pm, August 28 2014