Our Interview with Pussy Patrons…

This week we had a chat with the newest feminist performance group, PUSSY PATRONS, to discuss making a freshly menstruated performance, their debut show ‘CABARET OF C#NT$’ and feminist performance making as a whole. Speaking to the Ginger Wig were Lily, Alex and Meg, students at Queen Mary University where they met along with Catherine, the fourth member of the group, to form PUSSY PATRONS.

Ginger Wig: Very nice to meet you, girls. Thank you for talking to the GingerWig.

PUSSY PATRONS: Thank you for talking to us, GingerWig!

GW: So where did this show come from?

Alex: It’s a performance that we developed in a scratch kind of way through a module we did at university and now we are taking it outside making it bigger making it better and making it more interactive. That’s the idea.

GW: And where did your name came from?

Alex: It came from throwing words around, pussy is something that is used as a derogatory term. We wanted to knock that on its head and present a different stance on the word.

Lily: In its explicitness, we quite like the shock factor of it.

Meg: And we are patrons – for females.

GW: What can we expect from your show? Is it cabaret or is it performance art?

Meg: It’s a combination of the two. There’s a lot of different elements that come together to form our show – image making, painting, we do some images on our bodies, live art, a lot of pop culture references, dance routines, singing, comedy. It is very much a cabaret performance in that it has a lot of stuff going on, it all comes together to create a sort of arc.

Lily: And a lot of glitter and a lot of fun.

GW: Is there anything you don’t do?

Meg: Breakdancing, we haven’t quite nailed that one yet…

Alex: Although never say never, there is still time…

GW: There are a lot of new women-only and feminist theatre groups forming at the moment, but what does it actually mean to be a feminist theatre group? And how do you differ to other groups?

Lily: We are trying to approach it from a different point of view. Some feminist groups are, not necessarily born out of hate, but there is a lot of anger involved due to the taboos and the restrictions. I think we take a more fun approach to it, which gives people more of an opportunity to participate in the fun of being involved in being feminist and the liberation of being a female.

Alex: It is a fantastic time to be emerging because we are surrounded by inspiration and by women doing the same kind of thing. There is this massive community forming and that’s exactly why we want to perform. We can learn from one another because we are all feminists, and are all passionate about similar things but have different approaches. We can grow as a company whilst being surrounded by these companies doing exactly the same thing. It’s such an exciting time.

Meg: I think it’s an interesting time to be a feminist. I think that’s the reason there are so many emerging feminist and women’s theatre groups at the minute. New media and new connections happen so fast now and there is so much discourse on feminism. I think with the images that we are shown every day and the way things are marketed and commercialised nowadays, to even stand up and say I am a woman, I am a feminist, and I am going to perform for you as myself is almost an act of rebellion in itself and I think that is at the centre of our ethos. We are patrons and we want to represent what real women are doing right now.

GW: Are you working with other feminist theatre performers?

Alex: Yes, we have a couple of artists performing alongside us who have inspired us with their work. We’ve got a spoken word artist called Leanne Moden who has won awards. She writes and performs poetry on feminist issues and then we’ve got another company who are similar to us in a lot of ways called Tight Theatre. They are based in Bristol and recently did a performance called ‘Pussy’. They are almost like our performance sisters. We are in touch with a lot of artists with whom we hope to perform.

Lily: We’ve also invited a lot of feminist theatre groups to our performance because as much as we would like them to support us, we would like to support them as well, so we have that connection for the future.

Meg: I think being at a place like QM we come from a place with such a legacy. Our drama course is half-theoretical and half-practical.

Alex: It focuses on performance art and live art as opposed to acting.

GW: It’s a very mysterious line between theatre and performance art?

Meg: It’s definitely a wavy one.

Lily: Before starting I never thought I would learn the things I learnt on my course. It takes you away from the face value of pure acting and it really delves deep into every element that you would never even consider – everything from cleaning your teeth to how you look at a shop window front. It teaches you that life and art are synonymous. Our lens is feminist and that’s the way we look at things our entire life. You embody what you are doing.

Meg: I think that’s what we find so useful in our performance. It’s less about acting and more about doing things, so a lot of our performance is task based, because it is important for us to represent labour on stage – that is something we are really interested in, actually making something tangible on stage, because being a woman is an act, it’s as much a social act as being anything else is, but being a woman is also very physical and messy and I think that’s what we are really interested in portraying through our performance.

Alex: In our course we have been encouraged to make performances about ourselves and through self exploration, which I think makes us different from actors. We are not portraying a character we are portraying ourself, or versions of ourselves. It’s so therapeutic and cathartic to be able to put our real life into something that is such fun.

GW: Does it ever feel a bit scary?

Meg: Weirdly when we started the performance I think everyone just sort of went blurrghh, sort of verbal vomit, like “Oh my God, so many experiences!” because a lot of the time we aren’t given the permission to talk about the sort of stuff that we want to talk about. So I think it just came from us quite naturally.

Alex: I think we are lucky that we are such a tight-knit group who can discuss taboo subjects. We are quite confident women so these topics come naturally to us. We love to shock and we love to be explicit and explore things that haven’t been explored and talk about things that make people cringe and evoke different reactions from our audiences, because that’s exciting.

GW: So what skills do you each bring to the Pussy Patrons?

Meg: I am really good at making diagrams, like tech diagrams.

Alex: Meg’s our practical thinker. She’s got this critical way of seeing everything and that’s exactly what we need. She is very good about thinking about things we don’t consider important until Meg mentions it, like tech and where we are going to source microphones…

Lily: Or if that’s even possible.

Alex: She has all these theories. She is a very methodical thinker, which is really valuable.

Lily: Alex Legge is on it. We wouldn’t have an organised schedule without Alex.

Meg: I think we all share something else as well. We came together quite naturally, without realising it. We love this horrible tacky glittery disgusting performance that just came together.

Alex: It’s definitely not all plain sailing but that’s what we love about it, we don’t always agree, we don’t always have the same ideas. There is a constant debate, that keeps it exciting, and keeps us asking why are we doing this?

Lily: There is often a heated debate in every meeting.

Alex: But I have never know a working relationship like it. Working with these girls, there is nothing like it, its so…

Lily: It’s constant laughs, all the time.

GW: What more needs to be done for women?

Meg: For me, in particular, it’s important to include, different classes of women, women with different experiences and women from different countries, in making feminist performance. I think that’s an incredibly important element of feminism that might be missing at the minute, I think it’s important to create platforms so those women can speak out.

Alex: I’d like to see more discussion among women, it sounds so basic, but sharing feminism, sharing experiences and stories, there shouldn’t be women our age who don’t know what a feminist is. There needs to be a ongoing discussion. My mum and my mum’s mum need to know about feminism.

Lily: Another issue we suffer from, especially in our generation, is girl on girl shaming. There is no need for it, yet there is a lot of it. Just because it seems OK for one girl to do one thing doesn’t mean other girls should act that way.

Alex: Women should be sticking by women and encouraging women, and so should men. It’s such a hard question but so much more needs to be done, we could talk for hours, we have made such progress, but we are no way near equality.

GW: Well, on a lighter note, If you could go and see a cabaret of your dreams, who would you see?

Lily: Lauren Barri Holstein because I love her. She is very cool. She is hilarious, and shocking and scary.

Alex: She does a lot of similar things to what we do. Well no, we do a lot of similar things she does. She uses food and popular culture and celebrity stories and fairytales.

Lily: She’s not afraid.

Alex: She takes the well known and she creates something different with it. It’s all surrounding women and feminism and quite often the vagina.

Lily: She is not afraid of anything, she is just ready.

Alex: Mine would be Split Britches. They use cabaret as a form and I like their work on the theme of desire. They’re massively influential in the feminist world but I like their performance method. I like to watch them perform because they clearly enjoy performing.

Meg: I would say Figs in Wigs, they are a personal favourite of mine. They are such a fun party group. They have the same sort of sense of fun as we do. They have hilarious dance routines dressing up as boyband members and they interrogate issues in the similar way with a lot of fun and parody which I really enjoy.

GW: So you marketed your show as a freshly menstruated performance?

Alex: Yep, fearless! That’s exactly what we want to break down, the fear around that word and it’s working.

GW: Good work. Well, thank you for talking to the Ginger Wig. Good luck with your show.

Pussy Patrons: Thank you very much for speaking to us, it was really lovely to talk to you.

PUSSY PATRONS will be performing their debut show ‘CABARET OF C#NT$’ on Saturday 23rd January at 8pm at Limehouse Town Hall E14 7HA. Expect plenty of Pussy Patron madness as well as their own unique afterparty!

(Lily: We’re having a partyyy!

Meg: We’ll be there till like 4 am… Maybe not quite that late…

Alex: Maybe 2 am…)

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