Sarah Cameron-West on KAREN

Photo: Phil Sharp

Written and performed by Sarah Cameron-West, KAREN arrives to The Other Palace Theatre following a run at last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The play, directed by Evie Ayres-Townshend, sees the protagonist navigating broken relationships, office politics, and just keeping sane – she journeys through repressed rage and unchecked silence before reaching boiling point.

Ahead of opening we caught up with Cameron-West to get her take on the production.

Q&A with Sarah Cameron-West

What can you tell us about your show KAREN?

KAREN is a fast paced one woman show that follows our Protagonist as she gets dumped on her 30th birthday by her long-term boyfriend Joe at Alton Towers. Mid-way through a calippo. Things go from bad to worse when it transpires that Joe has been having an affair with her arch-nemesis: Karen. And the cherry on top? They all work in the same office together. We watch our Protagonist navigate a powder keg of heartbreak, office politics and identity crisis which explodes not the ultimate office showdown and highlights the power in expressing your feelings.  

What was it that originally inspired the show?

I originally wrote KAREN as a 10-minute monologue for a competition hosted by Velvet Smoke Productions for their show Project Passion in 2021. It started as a little sketch that I wrote on my notes app. I was thrilled that it was selected for their final showcase and it meant that I got to perform my piece for a limited run at the White Bear Theatre in Kennington. After a lovely reception there, I knew I wanted to turn the monologue into a full show and start building on the themes that I had hinted at in the sketch. I think my biggest inspiration for finishing KAREN was I just wanted to get my work out there and see how it went. Also, as a performer, it meant that I could act in my own work on my own timeline and not have to keep waiting for a phone call that would give me opportunities, instead I could get out there and make my own. 

How does it feel to be taking the show to The Other Palace following your run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

I could not be more excited to be making my London debut with a run at The Other Palace which I have loved since I was a child. It feels utterly surreal. During my initial meeting with the brilliant programmer Kiki Stevenson, I got to see the space and I got goosebumps. It is the perfect location to take KAREN to the next level and I am counting down until March.  I feel extraordinarily lucky to get to perform at such a wonderful venue and be supported by The Other Palace’s fabulous team.


Photo: Dylan Woodley

Have you been tempted to tweak the show after Edinburgh?

Absolutely! Edinburgh was such a learning curve and a great way to test the waters with a live audience for what works and what we could do better. We are really levelling up the show in terms of lighting, sound and set design thanks to our new additions to the creative team: Oliver McNally (lighting designer), Sarah Spenser (sound designer) and Roisin Jenner (set designer). It is a real privileged to be around such talented people willing to work on KAREN to make it the best it can be. I feel very lucky and am very excited to see what we create in the next few months to create something really special for The Other Palace.

What has it been like working with Evie?

An utter delight. I am so blessed to have Evie as my director and we met thanks to Project Passion in 2021 where she pitched to Velvet Smoke to direct my piece. We were then paired together and have not looked back. When I decided to make KAREN a full show in 2023, Evie was my first call. She is so much more than a director, she is also a creative facilitator and a visionary. We are completely on the same wave length and I have never had to explain what I am trying to do – Evie just gets it. It is definitely a tough job being the director of a show when the actor is also the writer because when you are working just as an actor and director on a text, you can take things for your own interpretation but as the writer, I knew what I wanted the intention to be. It is important to keep open minded but I feel so lucky that that I never had to explain what I meant to Evie, she always understood and we spoke the same language and through asking questions and bringing designs to the table I was in awe of her inspiring ideas. She shaped KAREN into something way more powerful than I could have ever imagined and for that I am eternally grateful. 

What has it been like involving the audience so directly by making them part of your character’s world?

It has been so much fun. It means that every performance is different as you are reacting in real time to that specific audience’s humour and energy. It means you have to change gears every night and that stops it from going stale. This is especially great for a one woman show because rather than playing off your fellow actors on stage to keep the piece dynamic and full of energy, the audience becomes the other characters thus allowing them to get more involved in the story. In the previews however, the lights were so bright, I couldn’t really see anyone so I was just listening out for reactions, whereas in Edinburgh it was an intimate venue and I could see the audience’s faces VERY clearly so I had to galvanise myself against reactions so I didn’t get throw off. The script is essentially a one-sided conversation but you hear the other characters due to the Protagonist’s reactions. It is always fun staring at someone deep into their eyes and accusing them of saying something as the character despite them being silent! However, we have had a few close shaves with audience members chatting back and heckling in Edinburgh but that is all part of the fun – it means I just have to speak quicker before they can get a word in! 

KAREN is at The Other Palace Theatre from 19 to 24 March