I knew I wanted to write a servant character who worked for the Boultons at Soho House, for our upcoming new show Power of Invention (July 30th & 31st, August 7th 2021). But where my Fire Girl came from, I don’t know. Was it having my chimney swept last autumn; or setting up a makeshift fire pit on some bricks in the garden, for ‘covid secure’ gatherings? Maybe it was my son’s Woodcraft Folk fuelled obsession with flame, that inspired her.
My partner’s links to the southwest probably led me to her charcoal burner father. I’d also heard from a friend (wistfully dreaming about mortgage-free home ownership) that charcoal burners could still legally roam free and set up a temporary home, anywhere in the forest. The idea of my Fire Girl having grown up in a family with a measure of freedom and self-determination, appealed to me.
There was definitely something about the Soho House project, and its main players – Boulton, Watt and friends, toying with electricity and fire-driven engines, that prompted me to seek a character who ‘played with fire’ in its raw form.
So Tabitha was born. My wild dancer; my sly, canny, strong teenager – with powers of invisibility. She’s a good servant. She knows how to go unseen. She knows how to set a fire… Helen Kelly
Book tickets for Power of Invention at Soho House below.