Our Interview with Nastazja Somers of No Offence Theatre

This week we met up with theatre maker, Nastazja Somers, one half of No Offence Theatre. She and co-artistic director BJ McNeill are taking their debut show ‘Torn Apart (Dissolution)’ to this year’s Brighton Fringe. Having previewed at Theatre N16 last year, what better place to catch up than in the Bedford pub in Balham, home to N16. 

torn apart

Ginger Wig: Hello Nastazja. Thank you so much for talking to us.

Nastazja: Thank you Ginger Wig for talking to me.

GW: So BJ and you founded No Offence Theatre in London?

N: Where else would you expect an Australian and a Pole to start a theatre company together? BJ is into physical theatre, I prefer the classics like Ibsen, but we complement each other nicely, which is important. We take care of different aspects of our theatre company. He is very good with people, which is why he directs.

GW: Why did you start No Offence?

N: I think the reason why we started it is because we have a similar view of theatre. We go to the theatre with exactly the same expectations. Theatre isn’t there to entertain you, its there to make you think something and feel something.

GW: So when did you start ‘Torn Apart (Dissolution)’?

N: It started three years ago when BJ and I were at drama school. We were in a restaurant and I was taking about my life. I told him about my mum who left Poland in the early 80’s and went to Germany and met a Canadian soldier. Back then Poland was a communist country and it was very insular. I guess she wanted to taste the West but eventually she had to leave. So BJ and I had this conversation, what if she didn’t have to leave? Maybe he was the love of her life? Sometimes there are these outside factors that make decisions for us. We think we are in control of our life but we are not. That’s when BJ started writing.

GW: What was your first performance like?

N: I remember having this moment just before going on stage thinking; it’s on us now. There is no drama school or director to blame, we are the company. I think that helps establish how important your art is to you. You have to take responsibility for it no matter what. You need to do that.

GW: So tell us about the play.

N: It is a feminist piece of writing that talks about universal themes. I hope it will start a conversation and make people think about things they have done. The character I am playing is the most unapologetic woman I’ve ever played. She taught me that it’s ok to be loud and outspoken and get your way. She showed me I don’t have to be polite.

GW: So you haven’t picked up any British politeness living here?

N: No I keep fighting it. People keep trying to anglicise me and I’m like NO! I’m not going to start saying sorry for everything (she laughs).

GW: What are you trying to convey in this play?

N: We try to put a mirror up to the audience and make them see love differently. Nothing is black and white. We live in a world that idealises everything. We idealise love, we idealise how our lives should be because of what people tell us.


GW: And does it show all aspects of a relationship?

N: There is some sex in it. But it’s very real. Sex is awkward sometimes, we’ve all been there. I think it’s very important that you take control of your sexuality. When you do that, you say this is who I am, I am not hiding from anyone.

GW: What has the process been like?

N: The beauty of this project is that is has grown with us. When BJ was writing it, we were workshopping it. It’s changed so much, because BJ is a very open minded free director who works in a very collaborative way. If a line didn’t feel right to someone, he would change it. Everything is organic and open to experimentation.

GW: Why do you think there is a lack of strong female characters in the arts?

N: Because there is a lack of good female roles. It’s lucky we have BJ because he writes parts for women so well. We all want to see multi-dimensional characters, like Halvard in ‘Master Builder’. There is so much complexity in that character. What was interesting about the recent Old Vic production was that the female character was played as a strong young woman who knew what she wanted. Critics didn’t like that. We are used to seeing a complex man on stage and a weak, lost female. You can tell that there is a problem with the lack of female roles because we are still talking about it. I have stopped calling myself an actress and started calling myself a theatre maker, because there are so many negative connotations to that word.

GW: Do you think things are changing?

N: I think things are slowly changing. Emma Rice has just started her tenure as artistic director at the Globe. Although recently the Telegraph said she was not suited to the role because she changes Shakespeare too much and sexes it up. Theatre purists who want to see theatre in one way will never allow certain changes to happen.

GW: So tell us about the Brighton Fringe?

N: We are really looking forward to it.

GW: Are there any things you are looking forward to seeing at the Fringe?

N: Yes I am going to see ‘Five Guys Chilling’. It’s a really urgent piece about the chemsex situation right now. Theatre should always be thought provoking and current. I want to make theatre for everyone. We are not rich kids, we went to some random little drama school. I think that message is important. Everything that we do is on our own back.

GW: What is coming up in the future?

N: ‘Torn Apart (Dissolution)’ is transferring back to Theatre N16 from 12 to 29 September and BJ is writing his second play called ‘Cornflake Girl’ about women suffering with mental health issues.

GW: What has been your favourite recent London stage production?

N: ‘A View from the Bridge’ at the Young Vic. I saw it three times in the theatre and three times in the cinema. It’s great because Ivo von Hove as the director doesn’t project his own judgment onto the characters, you see Eddie committing horrible acts but you end up feeling sorry for him.

GW: And what’s going to be the next random story from your life that BJ is going to take inspiration from?

N: (She laughs) My mother’s story was just something that triggered something in him. When he feels passionate about something he writes about it.

GW: Do you have any personal projects of your own at the moment?


N: I am currently writing about abortion. I’ve seen a lot of plays about abortion but none of them seemed real. Gloria Steinem changed our thoughts on abortion. She took control of her life. I feel very passionate about how society perceives women. We live under this pretence that we are equal when we are not. I feel women hit a time in their lives when people expect a lot of things from them like having a family, having a proper job and not just dressing up in blue.

Coming from Poland has strongly influenced me. I am a liberal and a socialist, Poland is a very far right country. The freedom to have an abortion is under threat, they are trying to ban it, even in cases of rape or when pregnancy is a risk to the women or child’s life. Currently under our constitution those are the only circumstances when you can legally have an abortion.

GW: Well, it’s a very catholic country.

N: Yes. Religion! That is another big problem. I would love to write a play about religion some day.

GW: Well we look forward to seeing that one two. As for now, break a leg with ‘Torn Apart (Dissolution)’. Thank you so much for talking to us and all the best at the Brighton Fringe!

N: Thank you Ginger Wig! See you there.

Catch ‘Torn Apart (Dissolution)’ at the Brighton Fringe at 5pm on 28, 29 and 30 May at Distrikt. Or see it back in London at Theatre N16 in Balham between 12-29 September.


Our interview with Balloons Theatre…

We met up with the brilliantly subversive, Balloons Theatre, at Theatre N16 to discuss their show ‘The Rules of Inflation’. A sociopathic clown torments four characters identified only by colour through a series of children’s party games. Audience members are then asked to vote for one of the colour characters. The result was one of the most experimental and daring pieces of theatre the Ginger Wig has seen. Here is our conversation with Bryony Cole (Yellow), BJ McNeill (Pink), Emily Sitch (Green), Nastazja Somers (Blue) and Joshua Webb (the Clown) about political theatre, the show’s unofficial sponsor and the Bedford pub poltergeist…

Ginger Wig: Hello Balloons Theatre! Thank you for speaking to us.

Balloons Theatre: Thank you for having us, Ginger Wig!

GW: What was your process for ‘The Rules of Inflation’?

Emily: It hasn’t been normal. It’s basically been locking ourselves in rooms for eight hours and playing and playing and playing. We generated about ten hours of material!

GW: Does anyone take the lead?

Josh: In rehearsals it is always the same – the clown is in charge!

GW: Does anyone act as director?

Emily: We are terribly communist. But it got to the point where we needed a pair of eyes watching so about a month ago we got a lady called Louise in who is a dramaturge to give us a hand.

BJ: To see if we were successful in conveying our message or not.

GW: There are so many possible interpretations of your piece and potential messages. Do you as a group share a clear idea of what your message is?

Nastazja: Last week we did’t know what we were doing – hysteria was beginning. So we sat down with this massive piece of wrapping paper – it’s our script now – and we went through everything and wrote down what the messages were behind every scene and what it meant to us. You can make ambiguous theatre, but the message will never be there unless the performers know exactly what they are doing.

Emily: And it wasn’t just scenes, it was specific moments. There are a million and one transitions. We wanted to make sure every single moment in our piece meant something.

GW: What kind of response have you been getting?

BJ: It’s very mixed.

Bryony: Everybody has been so shell-shocked. It’s been really nice to come back to people a few days later and discover that it’s been on their mind for days and they’re still processing it. I just love that.

Emily: Because it’s immersive we feed off the audience. So every show is different. The first night was very serious, there wasn’t a laugh, and we came off thinking what have we done? The second night was a completely different story. And then the third night was crazy, it was packed out and people were laughing at every single moment. It felt a bit manic. Then yesterday we had a matinee with a very small audience and it felt amazing and intimate.

Bryony: It really worked.

BJ: We always knew there were going to be some people who would like what we did and some who wouldn’t. Then beyond like and dislike there would be people who would understand certain motifs and others who wouldn’t. Some would connect with something such as colour or smell or balloons popping. We walk a fine line between theatre and performance art. We want people to receive our work differently.

Josh: We want to start a conversation.

BJ: Totally. If you walk out of the last show and you’ve got ten five star reviews, what does that really say about your show – if everyone is thinking the same thing? I think we prefer the variety of reactions.

Emily: We always said from day one we would like every single person to come out arguing and thinking something different.

Nastazja: You focused on the sensory aspects. Another reviewer noticed the floor wiping with the Union Jack. Someone else pointed out the party game theme. Someone concentrated on what political theatre is. One of our friends didn’t get the politics at all. He said ‘I think you shoot yourself in the foot putting Trump and Cameron on the posters because there’s nothing in there.’ Another friend came who is very political and thought pass the parcel reminded him of voting systems in the west. It’s open.

GW: There is a great speech in your show. Whose speech was it?

Nastazja: I put together a lot of famous speeches including the Thatcher one, ‘the lady’s not for turning’ and obviously ‘Mexico and the wall’ because everyone is talking about it. There are also less known speeches, like the David Cameron one. I’m not sure people even realise it’s Cameron, it could be Tony Blair. ‘I know… how much you hate the extremists who are seeking to divide our communities and how you loathe that damage they do.’ It’s a speech of fear, planting fear in peoples head. Then one going on about a ‘modern…

They all join in: Compassionate. Conservative. Party.’

They all laugh.

Emily: Where everyone is invited!

Nastazja: I tried putting Obama in there and it just didn’t flow. I realised maybe it’s because he means what he says.

GW: Who gets voted for the most?

All: Pink and Yellow!

GW: Why do you think that is?

Bryony: Yellow because I think she is fun. The comic relief.

Emily: The Boris Johnson.

BJ: I think Yellow represents a safe place. Because a lot of the content isn’t so safe people go ‘Oh! That’s happening! – Yellow looks nice’. I think Yellow represents escapism. Then someone said to me Pink represents the person that says ‘fuck you’ to the man. He’s the closest to real life.

Bryony: The voting has been really interesting.

BJ: Maybe people just like pink and yellow.

Emily: Yeah, I mean how basic is it? Why do you vote?

Nastazja: Someone voted clown yesterday.

Josh: Just the one. It’s strange because afterwards people say they wanted to vote for the clown, just to see what would happen. But no one ever does. I think they’re scared of what might happen.

Nastazja: There are rules! Can you break the rules?

GW: Having followed the build up to your show on social media, we realised we had forgotten about the clown. Was it intentional to keep him hidden?

All: Yes!

Emily: Keep him wrapped up!

Nastazja: Two days before the opening we decided to release the clown.

GW: And who made the trailer?

Josh: My brother. He does it for a living. He made it for us in a day. A lot of this piece has been favours, brothers, sisters, friends.

Nastazja: Poundland! This show has been sponsored by Poundland!

Emily: It used to be the 99p store and now its Poundland, what does that say…

BJ: Inflation!

They all laugh.

GW: So outside of the show what are your favourite party games?

BJ: Something to do with dancing for me.

Nastazja: I like charades.

Emily: Musical statues?

Bryony: I was thinking spin the bottle?

Nastazja: Musical statues is never going to be the same to me again.

Emily: Mine would be something to do with cards. I love cards.

GW: Have your characters’ relationships changed over the run?

Bryony: The relationship with the clown is so different for each of us. But every night we all feel the same thing. It’s weird – it’s such an intimate space. We share these moments that feel quite real sometimes. One night we all felt really sad and emotional.

BJ: There’s a lot of us in our characters. We use a lot of our own lives and things from our past as you would in any acting performance. But this is a bit closer to home, it’s a bit sensitive and sentimental for us.

Nastazja: I think we all tell such strong messages in this piece. For me it’s the musical chairs. The clown tells me to dance like a whore and the audience starts laughing. Everyone thinks ‘this is going to be hilarious’ and I take off my top and everyone’s like ‘yea…h’ and then it’s not funny anymore. It’s quite empowering to see that reaction in people. They start seeing the objectification of women as something disgusting. It hits them in some way.

Emily: That’s when the balloons come in handy. That’s what we started out with – a balloon. That was our… what do you call it?

BJ: ‘Original impetus.’

The others laugh at BJ for his accurate terminology.

Emily: Basically, we found a balloon in the street. People have a relationship with balloons. My mum hates balloons – the noises in particular – so straight away we had something rich to play with…

Nastazja: …the things that balloons are not. Making balloons into a penis or a pregnancy, the idea that if a ballon drops someone dies – the imaginary power of it. How a popping balloon becomes a gunshot. It brought the child out in all of us.

GW: BJ and Nastazja you are also part of No Offence Theatre. You’re taking a show to the Brighton Fringe?

BJ: Yes we’re going to the Brighton Fringe with a play I’ve written called ‘Torn Apart (Dissolution)’. It’s quite different to this.

Nastazja: It’s naturalism meets abstract continental theatre. It’s nothing like this experimental piece of bonkers theatre. We did a preview here in November and it was quite well received – five star reviews and…

There is much laughter among the group.

Emily: Drop that in.

BJ: Basically it’s a play about love and relationships and three couples that are together, but for different reasons are being torn apart.

GW: And what’s happening next for Balloons Theatre?

Bryony: We are in talks with Edinburgh. We are hoping to get there.

Emily: It definitely belongs at a festival. Ideally we want a circus tent with thousands of balloons and drunk people.

BJ: Or as an isolated art piece or site specific with small audiences.

Emily: Like at a playground…

BJ: I think we’d be arrested. We are putting out feelers for other spaces. It will live on but we are just not sure in what capacity.

GW: Do you have any funny stories from your time working on ‘The Rules of Inflation’?

Emily: The poltergeist!

Josh: Oh yeah! This building is haunted.

Emily: It is one of the top haunted buildings in London! We were downstairs rehearsing, and the lights just switched on and off and on and off again.

Bryony: We were playing quite a dark game as well.

BJ: Surprise surprise.

Josh: And then it just went silent. And then… Wow…

They all laugh.

Emily: It’s still with him! Then last night, we are at the end of the show, Josh the clown is dead on the floor.

Nastazja: The most dramatic moment in the whole play.

Emily: Silence. Above Joshua’s groin there is a cock shaped balloon that we filled with helium. We didn’t normally do those as helium ones…

Josh: …I said pre-show don’t fill up a willy balloon with helium. It doesn’t look good.

Emily: So Josh dies and this balloon, very slowly, vertically, falls onto Josh’s crotch.

They are all giggling at this stage in the story.

Emily: And it’s there.

Bryony: Literally pointing up to the heavens!

They are all laughing.

Bryony: BJ and I held it together actually.

BJ: Just…

They all crack up.

GW: What’s it been like working as an ensemble?

Nastazja: It’s great. We are all really honest with each other. Brutally honest.

Emily: It’s got to be like that otherwise we would never get anywhere.

Nastazja: There is no time for diplomacy, you just want to create, you don’t want to get stuck with ideas because someone is being precious. But we have a laugh. Otherwise we would kill ourselves.

Emily: Blind man’s bluff with the clown was the worst experience of my life. We contemplated putting that in but it just doesn’t work for an audience to watch it.

Nastazja: It was terrifying.

Josh: We locked everything. The lights went out, all the colours were wearing blindfolds and then I just got weird with it…

Bryony: Got handsy…

They all laugh.

GW: Well, thank you so much for letting us into your mad world. We wish you all best with the future of ‘The Rules of Inflation’!

Balloons Theatre: Thanks Ginger Wig!

Keep up to date with Balloons Theatre on Twitter and Instagram @BalloonsTheatre. ‘Torn Apart (Dissolution)’ will be at the Brighton Fringe from 28-30 May at Distrikt.

Interview with some of the cast of Royal Central School of Speech and Drama’s devised musical, ‘Love Is Not A Science’

On Friday evening we caught up with three current students on the MA Music Theatre programme at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama to ask them about their first public production, ‘Love Is Not A Science’. This devised piece is based on the songs of American composer and lyricist, Joshua Rosenblum, and lyricist Joanne Sydney Lessner, who will be having their works performed in the UK for the first time. We spoke to Daniel Julian, Jessica Tripp and Jake James, to find out more…

Ginger Wig: So tell us about the show?

Daniel: The show is about mathematics and love and the relationship between them both.

Jess: It’s about finding the formula for true love…

Jake: It’s a statement about the magic of literature and books and how love isn’t necessarily a science.

GW: Can you tell us a bit about the devising process?

Jess: We workshopped as an ensemble songs by Joshua Rosenblum and Joanne Sydney Lessner and looked at the idea that love is not a science and what that might mean to us as an ensemble. We explored the lyrics of the songs, how they could be incorporated and after a bit of workshopping of scenes we looked at a structure for the piece and how it can all link together with 23 members of the ensemble.

Jake: We also had contributions from a few members of the course who had experience in choreography. They are responsible for three of the dance numbers in the show, creating these magical worlds where things come to life and the unexpected happens.

Jess: The play is set inside a library and we explore different worlds.

Jess: The worlds come to life when a book is opened so, just like any other form of theatre, we’re storytelling.

Jake: Because we are performing in the traverse (audience on two sides), this opens up opportunities to break the fourth wall and be closer to and more intimate with the audience.

Daniel: It is an immersive piece.

GW: Can you tell us about the music?

Jess: I find it very clever. I’m not someone who is particularly mathematically or scientifically inclined, so I think it is incredibly clever how the lyrics really explore the theory of mathematics and physics and science that directly relate to love and emotion.

Daniel: It showcases the creative versatility of Joshua and Joanne because they are able to do any sort of musical form, classical to jazzy or bluesy, to something typically Broadway like ‘Welcome to Hollywood’ and the [Greta] Garbo section.

Jake: The intricacies of the composition for the majority of the numbers also lend themselves to the world in which Helen [Watts] our directer has tried to create this magical and perplexing library where things come to life. The intricacies of these compositions really lend themselves to the complex structure of our show and the complexity of science and mathematics.

GW: What has been your favourite part of creating the show?

Jess: Working as a member of the ensemble, I think we’ve got a really good group and I think all our voices and personalities really complement each other. So getting the opportunity to work with this music that really showcases all of our abilities and working together has been the best thing for me.

Jake: Yes we are such a diverse group of people, no two people look the same, sound the same, nor are the same, so to have an opportunity to perform with such a diverse cast is something I will relish for the rest of my performing career. We have all had an opportunity with this devising process to create characters and to have an input into the direction of the show, so having the responsibility and a free rein to create this world which has been very rewarding.

GW: What can we expect if we come along to the show next week?

Daniel: You can expect to be surprised because of the range of the themes and their integration. You won’t really be able to tell which way the show is going.

Jake: It’s not your typical musical theatre show that you might expect to see in London’s West End. It’s a kind of concept musical or a…

The two students start to overlap.

Daniel: It’s like a song cycle….

Jake: It’s like a song cycle… a concept musical… a book musical…

Daniel: With a sort of frame… a concept musical, yes…

Jake: One not to be missed.


Jess: Not your average day at the library.

All three laugh along with the Ginger Wig.

GW: And are you all enjoying your time at Central?

Jess: Absolutely!

Daniel: It’s been amazing to see how far we’ve come and it’s so clear how much has changed since we started the course.

Jake: The fact that we’ve still got another major musical project coming up is very exciting because I can feel already, just from the development we have all made in 12 weeks with our skills modules that we are only going to improve further. It’s just amazing.

Jess: This has been a really good opportunity for us to take the training from the last 12 weeks and actually put it into practice.

Daniel: The teaching team is fantastic and that’s been very beneficial.

Jess: We’ve been really lucky with the guest lecturers as each brings very different experiences.

Daniel: They are all very professional.

Jess: And it’s just a fun and sunny place to come to every day.

GW: Well thank you very much for talking to us.

Daniel, Jess and Jake: Thank you, Ginger Wig.

GW: All the best with your show.

‘Love is Not A Science’ will be showing in the Webber Douglas Studio at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama 9th to 11th of February, with performances at 2 and 7pm.


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…)

Interview with Rob Peacock and Lindsey Huebner of Home Free

After watching Theatrum Veritatus’s version of Lanford Wilson’s ‘Home Free’, we caught up with actors Rob Peacock and Lindsey Huebner to talk to them about the work.

Ginger Wig: Hello Rob and Lindsey thanks for joining us.

Rob & Lindsey: Thanks for having us Ginger Wig!

GW: How did you get involved in this project Rob?

Rob: The director went to the same drama school as me, so she saw a lot of the work I’d done at East 15. She was on the directing course and I was on the acting course…

GW: Hold on a minute you’re not American are you?

Rob: No, no, I’m Welsh.

GW: Bloody hell! (Rob did a fantastic American accent throughout)

Rob: Ye I’m from South Wales. So part of the year we crossed over courses and they directed us so she got to see my work. Apparently she’s wanted to do this script for quite a while. It’s an American play, that first came out in the 60′s, surprisingly enough with the tone. It came out exactly the same time as Tennessee Williams, but this one was performed in Cafés.

GW: So do you two have siblings?

Lindsey: I have a brother and numerous step siblings now.

Rob: I’ve got a younger brother and a younger sister.

GW: How does it feel playing these characters?

Rob: It was fun. First we had a lot of talks about the play, we talked about how old they are, so we made them 24 and 25, around that age, so then we thought, where are their mental states, what age are they really and that was really fun to try and experiment with and see how old mentally they are and it came out like that in the end. They are on two different wavelengths, games are used for different things, a lot of games are just there to block out the actual world, the grown-up world and then some are to get around arguments – I don’t want to talk about horrible things! – let’s play and block it out.

Lindsey: As far as that compares to having your own siblings, I think its just so far from our experiences of having siblings and growing up that it doesn’t even feel like the same thing, because as you said, we did a lot of talking at the beginning to be like what could make someone like this.

GW: What were your thoughts then on your character’s backstories? And also the story going forward. Because the first thing we said when it ended was what happened next?

Lindsey: That’s really cool. A couple of people have said that to us.

Rob: Ye what does happen? Is she dead, does a doctor come? I think we didn’t really talk about that. If you start planning what happened further on, it could affect whats happening now.

Lindsey: I think he just stays there with the rotting body of his sister.

Rob: Until he eventually dies as well.

Lindsey: They have some really dark allusions in the play. Like you should have brought that dead cat here. They have a really weird treatment of these things, like dead bodies and corpses. It isn’t actually one of fear, which you would assume of people with childlike brains. They seem to be ok with some really messed up things, and not others.

Rob: We put a history together, like where they grew up and where their parents are now. There are only one sentence clues in the play. One about the mother being in Hoboken, they say she can’t hear you. So there’s a cemetery in Hoboken…

Lindsey: It’s a really big cemetery.

Rob: Ye it’s a massive cemetery, so people would have got that reference. So mothers dead, let’s just say fathers in prison hinting at why we are having the sort of relationship we are having, I think he was a..

Lindsey: …Destructive force in their lives.

Rob: Ye forcing them to do things that they didn’t necessarily understand from quite a young age.

GW: What drew you to this project Lindsey?

Lindsey: Courtney was the initial impetus behind it and handed over the script. I just like it because I think its such an interesting challenge and just reading it on paper you have no idea whats going on, you can’t even detect the games that they are playing with these lines that repeat themselves. You’re just looking at it thinking what is this? But she had this excitement about this project that really drew me in – there’s something here, there’s something worth exploring – I wanted to find out what it was.

Rob: I saw the opening monologue and was like this is a challenge, a nice chunk of something to play with, the stages that he goes through, that was something I really wanted to do.

GW: It must be tough when you have co-actors who don’t exist? What was his name, Copam?

Rob: Oh, Claypone, ye, which isn’t a word in any language!

GW: It must be tough trying to track an imaginary character?

Rob: We did that in rehearsals, we just talked to them. Let’s have them there, but we also discussed that with kids you wouldn’t necessarily know where they had walked to unless that’s part of the game, you can follow them walking, so we had some versions where they would just disappear there and then reappear there, because its better for that character to have them next to them. The ‘poof’ is what we called it.

We all laugh.

GW: It’s weird to think that two people can share an imaginary friend. I guess that’s a testament to the relationship that this brother and sister have which is very… messed up?

Lindsey: There’s one line at the begging where Joanna gets offended, about something that Edna has said over there. The game is usually something that can catch the other person out, without really making to much of a thing out of it. So then there will be some exposition like – you really can’t say those things – and Lawrence will be like – ye, you really can’t say those things – but we bring the other person in on it. As soon as you’re playing by yourself it’s no fun anymore right?

Rob: It’s all games. What’s really nice about the play is its dark topic, with the incest but then its all covered in games and playing.

Lindsey: So it’s not like being down in the dumps doing Hamlet every night because we just get to run around the stage and be kids for a while and the effect is a dark one but not necessarily what we’re doing.

GW: Ye don’t go method with it!

Lindsey: (Through laughter) Oooooo, (suddenly serious but in jest) hopefully not!

More laughter.

GW: So finally, have you guys got any upcoming projects?

Lindsey: Well I am working with Courtney again for the Voila Festival, which is a French works festival in London at the Cockpit Theatre. We are doing it on November 5th and November 12th. It’s a brand new Canadian piece and its just been translated from its original French version to an English version. Our connection is we went to school together and university together back in Montreal, so this is all Montreal community coming over to London, because as you may have seen, the mantra for this company is having a cultural exchange between North America, specifically Canada, and the UK, so its kind of the epitome of that.

GW: Awesome we haven’t seen nearly enough Canadian work!

Lindsey: They are all somewhat dark it seems.

We laugh.

Rob: Myself, I’ve got a few ideas up in the air. There’s a few films I’ve done earlier in the year that are waiting to be finished and come out later this year. There’s one called ‘Peacock Feathers’.

Lindsey: That’s so apropos your last name.

Rob: I know, Rob Peacock in ‘Peacock Feathers’. It’s about a set of twins, of which I play both of them, so there’s some Tom Hardy stuff.

Lindsey: He got the idea from you!

We all laugh.

Rob: Ye exactly! So that’s what I’m waiting to come out and then still auditioning and trying to get some more stuff for the end of the year.

GW: Wicked. Well thank you both for your time and well done again with tonights performance.

Rob: Thank you Ginger Wig!

Lindsey: Thank you so much for coming out to see it.

GW: All the best to both of you with your careers!

Catch Lindsey and Courtney at the Voila Festival with ‘I’m Not Here’ at the Cockpit Theatre at 7:30pm on the 5th November or 9pm on Thursday 12th November.

Interview with Dead Lads

We caught up with Manchester based poetry group ‘Dead Lads’ about their first dramatic piece ‘Nuclear Roomates’. We posed questions to Lenni, Jasmine and their Director for this piece, Jack. Here are their responses.

GW: Can you tell me about ‘Dead Lads’?

Jasmine: We started Dead Lads for this play. Me and Lenni have collaborated quite a bit before on poetry fests and performance poetry things like that, so we thought we wanted to create a full hour show. We weren’t really sure what form it would take at that point. So we created ‘Dead Lads’ and we’re going to keep doing stuff under that title – its just collaborative work between the two of us.

GW: When did you two start writing poetry?

Lenni: We’ve both been writing poetry for quite a few years, but we’ve been writing together since we met at uni in 2011/12.

Jasmine: Then we met Jack about a year ago. When we realised the project was going in the theatre direction, we brought him on board to help us hone the details.

GW: Can you tell me a bit about the show itself ?

Jack: Ye. So bluntly, ‘Nuclear Roomates’ centres on two women ‘Salter & Riggs’ who are holed up in a small tattered house in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, trying desperately to survive. We never really see them leave the house and there’s a malevolent presence outside that keeps tapping on the window. It’s them trying to hold together a semblance of normalacy and talk about what bothers them. It’s entirely focused on their character dynamic and their fear of getting ripped apart by this foreboding presence outside.

GW: Is the whole thing performed as poetry or as prose?

Jasmine: We started off by writing a lot of full poems, but as the narrative emerged from it, a lot of it became dialogue. There’s dialogue, there’s poetic dialogue and then there’s poetry. The play goes between all three. We use poetry at the more intense moments. Then we also have some more naturalistic dialogue in there. It’s quite fluid.

Jack: Coming from the perspective of not being in the show or being part of the writing process, it’s not distinguished by, this is dialogue, this is poem, it all just blends together into this very heightened very beautiful language, that carries you through.

GW: What was the inspiration for this piece?

Lenni: Someone offered us a guest slot to do poetry together and we thought lets write something brand new especially for it, maybe with a narrative. It was a 15 minute guest slot, so we thought we would write something that was 15 minutes long. Then we decided we wanted it to be about the apocalypse. It’s just fun to write about. Jasmine is well up on nuclear apocalypses. That was your dissertation wasn’t it?

Jasmine: Ye, I wrote my dissertation on nuclear apocalypses, so I know a lot of the grisly details of what could happen. Another part of it, was we wanted to write female characters that were really interesting and weird, not necessarily strong characters, but also not necessarily two-dimensional characters. We wanted to write good female characters for stage. I think thats quite difficult to do, historically they are under-represented.

GW: There is a line in your play about ‘womb-eating’ ???

They all laugh.

Jasmine: That’s true! Jack you tweeted that spoiler!

Jack: I did. It comes towards the end. This is what’s exciting about the dialogue. All of this wasn’t in there originally. The dialogue is maybe some of the most exciting stuff. At the end, there’s a big argument between the two of them. In directing it, I got the sense that they probably have this exact same argument every day. But one of the common threats they throw at each other is about eating each other, obviosuly because they are in the apocalypse. There’s lots of grisly details. So there’s “I would eat your eyes first”…

Lenni: I scream that. Jasmine puts her hands on my belly in a really creepy way and says “I would kill you without a moments thought and be boiling you up within the hour!” and I just scream “I WOULD EAT YOUR EYES FIRST!”

Jack: And then Jasmine threatens womb-eating.

Jasmine: With the womb, there is actually a reason for that. The focus is on women in the condition of the apocolypse. While we were writing it, we were thinking about a lot of women’s choices. Here, the choice to have children is lost. They can’t really. It’s certanly not any kind of condition that you would want to have children in. The point of the argument is they are trying to rile each other up and dig really deep – so the womb eating line – it’s particularly poignant. It’s quite grisly and horrible.

Jack: “Useless womb” you say don’t you.

Jasmine: Ye I call it her useless womb. That gets a good audience reaction.

GW: Hypothetically, confronted with a nuclear fallout and a descent into a post-apocolyptic world, of the three of you, who would survive the longest?

Jasmine: Oh boy!

Lenni: I’ve been thinking about this for a while becuase I have a friend who I’ve had arguments about this before. And she always says “Wouldn’t you even try and survive Lenni?” and I say “NO, I’d just give up.”

Jasmine: I would survive becuase these guys would just lay down and die.

GW: Well, having written a dissertation on this you should probably have the edge.

Jasmine: I feel like I would probably be pretty useless. I would try gallantly to fight people off with a spade. Ultimately I would just be eaten by someone or they’d steal my possessions.

Jack: I think me and Lenni would be eaten by you!

Jasmine: Ye, (she laughs) maybe.

GW: What’s your favourite thing about being at the Fringe?

Jack: Oh gosh! It would have to be sleeping on a floor.

They all laugh.

Jack: I don’t know. At the moment I have been seeing lots of weird things that cross over between comedy and theatre. I definitely wouldn’t be getting the chance to do that anywhere else. Stuff thats pushing at the genre, that’s what I’m interested in artistically at the moment. Just the breadth of stuff I’m able to see.

Jasmine: Seeing new exciting stuff is really good and converging with lots of other creative people, it’s really exciting.

GW: Of the things you have seen so far, what has stood out?

Lenni: Me and Jack saw two really great, quite absurd comedy acts, that drew on a lot of things and were amazing.

Jack: We saw ‘Cosmonaut’ by Ryan Good. He’s a storyteller and that was really great. It had such a nice vibe.

Lenni: Really really lovely. Really amazing audience interaction. He brings someone up onto the stage at the start and you think it might just be for a little while, but then over the course of the whole show, they build up this lovely bond.

Jack: The show becomes about their friendship which is lovely. We saw Zoe Coombs Marr’s show ‘Dave’. She’s a standup comic peforming for an hour as a horrible misogynistic man. Which is really funny, but it goes deeper than just a one note critique. It becomes this horrific dream sequence.

Jasmine: We saw Dominic Berry’s show. It’s called ‘Up Your Game: The Downfall of a Noob’. It’s a spoken word show, themed around his relationship with gaming and the things that come into play with that like masculinity and isolation. That was a really powerful spoken word hour.

Jack: He is really good poet.

GW: Cool. Ok final question, what does the future hold for ‘Dead Lads’?

Lenni: Well, for part of this show we have made some chose-your-own adventure books, set in the same world as the play.

Jasmine: It’s a little stapled pamphlet type thing. We wrote that with Jack actually. We brought him in on it. Otherwise, we are hoping to keep developing the play, because it’s really new. We want to take it around some festivals and look into how we can push it further.

GW: Well good luck with that and the rest of your performances and thank you for talking to the Ginger Wig and Strolling Man.

Jasmine: Great talking to you Ginger Wig.

If you want to see Dead Lads production Nuclear Roomates, they are on until the 30th of August at the Laughing Horse @ Moriarty (Venue 332) at 12:30pm. And its free !!!

Interview with Zach and Viggo

Another Gaulier trained clown act ‘Zach and Viggo: Thunderflop’ spent some time with the Ginger Wig this week. Here is our interview with Zach and Viggo and their responses to our questions.

GW: Hi Zach and Viggo. Nice to have you speaking to the Ginger Wig.

Zach: Thank you ‘The Ginger Wig’ for speaking with Zach and Viggo.

GW: That’s alright. How has your show been going?

Zach: It’s been going pretty good lately.

Viggo: Ye the last days have been good. The start though was a disaster.

Zach: The first week was a real battle getting people in, but then we started doing these cabarets and it went from fivish people a show to now like 15/20 people.

Viggo: Today we had 30!

GW: Great. Right now, first big question of the night, the biggest. Why do you two make comedy?

Zach: Oh man!

Viggo chortles deeply.

Zach: My heart just dropped.

Viggo: Wow. Why do we make comedy? I think because it’s fun.

Zach: Ye. I think it makes everything that is already so serious, much less serious.

Viggo: So if I give a serious answer here its pretty boring. I think it’s because there is so much wanky stuff in the world, we just wanted to do some non-wanky stuff. But just saying that is quite wanky. (He laughs)

Zach: I think we’re dipping into wank mode right now.

Viggo: My parents?

Zach: Ye (laughs.) People often say comedy comes from pain, but for me it’s just fun to do, it’s a break from everything else.

Viggo: I’m a happy person.

Zach: We’re happy we promise, we’re not crying right now.

GW: How does it feel performing at the Edinburgh Fringe?

Zach: It’s surreal.

Viggo: (Laughs) It’s cool!

Zach: It’s the best. It feel’s like we actually have a real job. Like our real job is to be comedians but instead is like oh ye we’re doing a free show. Barely staying alive.

Viggo: Last night I slept three hours. I woke up and a theatre director from Norway was there (in the show) and I just felt so good, adrenaline was just pumping out of my ears. It’s like a dream.

Zach: It’s crazy. When you have somebody there who suprises you it gives you that extra WOOOHOOO and wakes us up from death.

Viggo: We have to tell you about this guy who came to our show. Four days ago. This guy was just sitting in the back. We didn’t see who it was.

Zach: He was hiding in the back the whole show, taking pictures. We couldn’t really see because the lights are so bright and you can’t see that far.

Viggo: At the end of the show, while the show was still going on, he just walks on stage.

Their excitement is building.

Zach: We do this bit where I marry Viggo to somebody in the audience, and in the scene Viggo just says “father, father” and this guy from the back just starts shouting. We couldn’t really hear what he was saying. My first thought was, ah man, its 1:15 in the afternoon, there’s no way there is a drunken heckler here right now.

Viggo: Then he just walks on stage and says “No I am the father!”

Their excitement has continued to grow.

VIggo: And…

Zach: And its…

Viggo: It was my dad!

Zach: It was Viggo’s dad! He flew in from Oslo and suprised us.

Viggo: I didn’t know he was coming he just showed up in the show.

Zach: Then walked Viggo down the aisle to his own fake wedding.

GW: Awesome. Ok well considering we are on the topic of your show, how would you sum up ‘Zach and Viggo: Thunderflop’?

Viggo: It’s a silly and beautiful comedy done by two stupid guys.

Zach: Ye just two stupid people showing everyone: “Hey this is my fantasy of what I find funny”. We like to play, we play fun games with the audience. Its a healthy mixture of playing with them. But also us perfoming and not letting it get out of control, but its a two-way street, its not just “Look at us, we’re so amazing!” We all play together and make something really cool.

Viggo: My dad liked it.

Zach: His dad actually liked it. His dad saw our preview in Oslo and hated it and then came to this one and loved it..

Viggo: We changed a lot from Oslo

Zach: (Laughing) Ye.

GW: Who are your comedy heroes?

Zach: Dr. Brown. He’s taught both of us and he went to our school – L’ecole Philippe Gaulier.

Viggo: Also, Philippe Gaulier, becuase he is like the funniest man ever.

Zach: He is the funniest man in the history of the world.

Viggo: He is an evil wizard.

Zach: He is an evil evil man, but the most loving evil man that ever eviled. Trygve Wakenshaw he’s another lovely good one. Johnny Wooly.

Viggo: He’s our director.

Zach: He’s also actually sitting behind us right now.

They both laugh.

GW: Whats your favourite thing about being at the Fringe?

Viggo: I have been here three years, just watching stuff, I just love being part of it and the atmosphere. There are so many cool artists that you can hang with.

Zach: I think this is the Mecca of the weirdest, coolest, most beautiful people and they all come here to do their thing for three weeks. Everywhere you look, you see someone and you’re like, ye, “I don’t know you but I feel like I get you.” We are all here for the same reason.

Viggo: Today I cried. I saw Chinese dance, and I got to hang out with Zach, who I think is the funniest guy in the world (He laughs) I was really happy!

Zach: The best thing going off what he was saying is, Viggo makes me laugh super duper hard all the time.

Viggo: Ahhh.

Zach: And so just backstage knowing that, ye, that guy is the guy I get to make a show with, it never gets stale, its always different.

Viggo: I actually cried today. ‘Every Brilliant Thing’ It’s a very good show.

GW: What are your personal picks from the Fringe?

Viggo: I want to say ‘Every Brilliant Thing’ that I saw today, beautiful.

Zach: I saw a show yesterday, a beautiful clown show by this guy called Spencer Jones called ‘The Herbert in Proper Job’. Beautiful, beautiful show.

Viggo: I liked ‘Plague of Idiots”. They are so stupid and so funny.

Zach: They are so good. They are Gaulier people.

Viggo: They are just so stupid. I love it.

Zach: One of our friends Georgia directed for them over the summer and I guess some people were saying “Oh this is just another one of those clown shows, whatever” and then they saw them and saw how stupid they were and someone turned to her and was like “Do they have an education? Are they genuinely this stupid?”

Viggo chortles.

Zach: But that is the best compliment you could ever get. Trygve Wakenshow – Kraken and Nautilus are obviously huge inspirational and fun shows for us . ‘Sam Simmons: Spaghetti for Breakfast’.

Viggo: That was cool.

Zach: That was really cool.

GW: Ok nice. Right, final question. Can you pitch me a brand new Fringe show?

Viggo: Ah, OK. So imagine you’re in a little car…

Zach: And you’re driving this car down the road. You don’t know where you’re going. You got the music on, you’re feeling good.

Viggo: Obviously this car is onstage. Literally there is a car on stage. The show is inside the car so you have to roll down the window and do the whole show from the car.

Zach: So the audience are the drive through people, you can be paying the toll or having a chat with the toll man. You could be getting arrested by somebody.

Viggo: And all the music comes from inside the car. And we have to start packing the show down 30 minutes in because the car is so heavy.

Zach: But that’s also part of the show. So at the end you’re packing everything up and it’s like you’re going on a road trip. Or you’re going off to college. Who knows where you’re going.

Viggo: And you end the show by saying in Norwegian “Turen er målet” which in English is – the trip is the goal itself.

Zach: The trip is the goal itself! And then we hand out bumper stickers and then I think we’re done.

They both laugh.

Viggo: And we can have traffic lights at the entrance.

Zach: Oh ye, so you can stop people from coming in. Then if its yellow they don’t know if they can come in or not.

Viggo: Yes!

They both laugh.

GW: (Laughing) Cool very nice guys.Well thank you very much for your time.

Zach: Thank you. This feels so fun.

GW: Thank you very much Zach and Viggo!

If you want to see Zach and Viggo: Thunderflop! They are on at CC Blooms until Sunday at 12:30

Interview with Phoebe Rose of ‘China Doll’ by Bad Habit Theatre

We caught up with Phoebe Rose who plays ‘Ana’ in Bad Habit Theatre’s – ‘China Doll – A Neuropera in Four Seasons’. We posed several questions to her about her work in this operetta and her time at the Fringe. Here are her responses.

Ginger Wig: Hello Phoebe, thank you for joining us.

Phoebe: Thank you Ginger Wig!

GW: Acting at the Fringe is one thing, but singing ever single day is completely is completely different! How have you managed with thats?

Phoebe: Exactly. So many of my friends are doing straight plays and they go out every night, get drunk all the time, stay out till 4 in the morning and here I am going to bed at 11 (she laughs).

GW: Tell us about China Doll.

Phoebe: It’s set in an Eastern European village and it’s about a prostitute who can’t have children. It follows her life and the people who are in it, like her landlady who I play, Ana, and her boyfriend. There is also the boy that she is trying to trick into staying with her, by convincing him that she is pregnant. Then there are the people in the village, their pregnancies mirror her fake pregnancy and my inability to have a solid relationship, let alone a baby. It’s all about love and relationships and loneliness.

GW: And its linked to the seasons musically and dramatically?

Phoebe: Yes exactly, it goes through four seasons. So Ana and Alexi are a lot happier at the beginning in winter, but over the seasons they become further and further apart as Vincent comes into the picture. The seasons are also mirrored throughout the piece in the costumes and sets.

GW: Can you tell us about the creative team?

Phoebe: Jakob Robertson wrote the piece. He is 22 years old. He is absolutely incredible. He is a composer/writer and he was an actor as well. He is a drag performer and he is part of a company called ‘The House of Grand Parade’ who do drag acts around Brighton and London. This is his second opera, his first one was Lolita. The Director, Bryony Maguire I think is 21. She is a director and actor. They grew up together actually, they were next-door neighbours. Bryony did National Youth Theatre, which is where I met her two years ago and that’s how I got involved in the project. Since then, she’s been acting and she directed Lolita. Everyone else in the company know each other through other jobs or through friends. Some of them grew up together. It’s a lovely mix of people.

GW: Well we definitely could see you were all good friends. This was your professional debut. How did it feel stepping out on to the stage for the first time?

Phoebe: It was amazing. This show started last year. I first got the part of Ana in December last year. This was the first version of the show. The Scratch Night previews were done at the Bike Shed Theatre in Exeter, so that’s the first time this opera was shown to the public and the first time that Jake had had a cast doing it. After we did that we then did some more shows in Plymouth. They were doing their Fringe festival. We wanted to do the (Edinburgh) Fringe but we weren’t sure how it would work out. So then we applied for the Les Enfants Terribles Award which was going to get us to the Fringe festival. We did that and we were runners-up, which was amazing. A lot of people didn’t even get on stage.

GW: Can you tell us about the Les Enfants Terribles award?

Phoebe: They are a physical theatre company, kind of quirky, just a really cool new company and they are doing a show at the fringe right now – a children’s show and another one – so their award was to give an emerging theatre company a run at the Edinburgh Fringe with financial support and that kind of thing. You should check them out because they are really cool. They were doing ‘Alice’s Adventures Underground’ in London, like a really cool piece, it had these cards everywhere, in an underground space. So they were just trying to give a new company support and a platform to show their new work. The company that won were called ‘Fine Mess Theatre’ and they are doing ‘Diva’ in the same space as us. They are in the Ten Dome as well!

GW: What do you think about opera?

Phoebe: I love opera, but I’ve never done any opera before. Obviously this is an operetta so its sung in a musical theatre style. I’ve trained in musical theatre my whole life so this is kind of second nature. But because it is an operetta we wanted it to be a play with song. We have really worked everything like a script. Especially for my role, apart from her flamboyancy at the beginning, she is a real person with real feelings, she puts on a show, but she is incredibly vulnerable.

GW: Can you tell us a bit about the rehearsal process?

Phoebe: Sure, so when we first got the script, we learnt most of the melodies with Jake. Then we would go through it line by line with Bryony looking at the intentions, really looking at it, as a script, really thinking about the thought processes, what are they saying to each other. Then we would put it up on stage and explore it. We did lots of things that you would do in normal plays, we did thought tracking, hot seating and we also did improvisations. When the chorus do their ‘We’re having a baby’ thing, they are caricature’s. The idea of the chorus is that they are these ridiculous people which is ridiculous compared to Nina who is incredibly truthful. We put them on stage and then Bryony would say “Ok, so you need to tell Otto that you are having a baby. How are you going to say that?” Then we watched them play it out and how they would say it truthfully. Then we would work it in with the music. We all learnt together and it has changed since it started in January. It’s a long time ago. We did it at the Bike Shed and then we had to do it in Plymouth which is a much bigger space. Then we did it at Egg London which is a club as part of the Tête à Tête Opera Festival, but it was a very different space. It had poles and columns and that was more in the round than this, which is head on. We had feathers at one point around the edges, which was so beautiful, but that wouldn’t work for a fringe venue because you have to get out in ten minutes. We really worked on things with Ana and Alexi pretending we were a couple and the things that you say to each other, things you don’t say. Also, before we did the Fringe, we did half a day in our character’s lives. We’d lie on the floor and then Bryony would say “Ok, so its 7am. It’s winter” and then we would all have to literally play out the whole day, just as characters, talking, being with each other. Things like that were really useful because from doing the piece you know how you feel, but having your own voice to kind of work on things, explore and just improvise, that was really good.

GW: What is your favourite thing about being at the fringe?

Phoebe: I think it’s all the incredible theatre, the people you meet, the things you get to see that you wouldn’t see. Most of the stuff at the fringe is new writing, which I think is just unbelievable, like the direction from the scripts that people come up with. It’s just being constantly surrounded by so much inspiration!

GW: Have you got any personal favourites of things you have seen at the fringe?

Phoebe: I would say ‘Trainspotting’ by ‘In‘Your Face Theatre’ which is at Assembly which is amazing. I would say, ‘The Solid Life of Sugar Water’ which is at the Pleasance, done by a company that work with deaf and disabled actors which is incredible. And ‘Molly’ which is at the Pleasance and that is absolutely incredible and kind of physical with a really good script. I’ve seen a lot of amazing things.

GW: What are you future plans?

Phoebe: I have a couple of things in the works, but nothing is a definite at the moment, which is classic acting. So a couple of potential projects. This is not the last you will see of me!

GW: We hope not! Thank you very much for speaking to us Phoebe. Good luck with the rest of your run.

Phoebe: Thank you, nice to speak to you. And thank you for saying you loved the whiskey sandwich!

If you want to see China Doll it is on at the Pleasance Dome at midday until the end of the fringe!

Interview with Paris Communal Shower

On Thursday, we caught up with three quarters of Paris Communal Shower, a group of current and former students from Philippe Gaulier’s renowned clown school in France. We posed several questions to Maddy, Sami and Neil outside the Gilded Ballon, to find out more about them and there off-the-wall free show-in-a-yurt at the Free Sisters. Here are their answers.

Ginger Wig: Thank you very much for joining us here.

PCS: Thank you Ginger Wig.

GW: Ok first question. Where did your name come from?

Maddy: Oh! (laughs) First question…

Neil: Oh, its how we all met. We all met, in a communal shower. In Paris.

GW: You met in a communal shower in paris?!

Neil: No, I’m joking.

Maddy: We basically came up with our name before we had come up with our show. Our whole entire show was never scripted, it was invented through playing games.

Neil: We have a whatsapp conversation with about 50 or 60 alternative names or more…

Sami: Every single one was shot down by someone…

Maddy: But you just kept putting colours. We had, ‘Fried Chips’, ‘Sniff and Scratch’ and then suddenly Sami would come in with, “Guys – Purple”.

Neil: Ye ye.

Maddy: ‘Grey’? ‘Red’? ‘Green’ perhaps?

Sami: That was arduous finding a name actually.

Maddy: And then we realised we all lived in Paris. Where communal shower came from is beyond me. Our show has nothing to do with paris, or communal showers, but it’s still good (laughs).

GW: Can you explain to us a bit about your creative process?

Neil: Firstly we got two directors. One would direct the first bit and then the other would direct the second bit, but they’ve got two very different ways of working.

GW: Does that not make things tricky?

Sami: No it was fine actually in the end, because it was a nice mixture of the two. We had a basic structure, basic theme down, suggested by a friend actually and then once we decided to do that, one director Sean, he likes the physical stuff, so he made us do physical things to try and devise things and then Sam, he does more game based things, so he’ll say “play a game, do this” again that was physical too, but more in a game way.

Maddy: Sam makes you find an image through an improvisation game, like swinging your ponytail round in a circle “What are you? – I’m a helicopter!” So he turns an image into a scene. Our show is very image based, so it looks nice. There’s a lot of nice things to look at.

Niel: Sean is a director that likes to take things far to far…

Sami: I’ve been naked running against James (the fourth member of PCS) on the floor, he made me sing out of my naked bottom, some opera! He made me do a lot of things, none of its in the show, it was all for his own pleasure.

Niel: (Laughing) It was all for his own pleasure. But we got some things that you would never really think of, because it would be too extreme, some of which we managed to actually keep in the show.

Maddy: I think the funniest part of that asshole singing, was that Sean tried to cover up the fact that it was an asshole, by saying “Look its fine, if we just hold up two coconuts next to Sami no one will know which one it is.

Sami: Basically we started out with something that was fun and then worked backwards into making sense out of it, rather than sitting down and having ideas. I think you can really kill things quite quickly if you try and have interesting ideas. You need to have fun first.

Maddy: We learnt that at school, never have an idea. Just go! Go! Go! Go!

GW: That leads us on nicely to my next question. What has going to clown school taught you?

Neil: That I’m worthless. That’s what it taught everyone. That you’re not funny, you’re not a good actor.

Maddy: It’s genius. For me, its really listening to the audience. If the sketch isn’t particularly funny, its not the audiences fault, YOU have to change. Find something to get out of the flop.

Neil: Save the flop!

Sami: He’s very brutal (Gaulier) He tells you what you are. You find out what you are. Whether you can change it or not…? Often you cant. You are what you are – which is liberating in a way because it gives you a direction. This is what I am, this is what I have to work with.

Maddy: It gives you a certain amount of freedom when you are on stage.

Neil: Also he stops you from acting. He stops you from being ‘the actor studio of his balls’ as he says. Stop acting! That is very liberating on stage not having to act.

GW: What’s your favourite thing about being at the Fringe?

Sami: I can eat quite cheaply here, which is good. I’ve been buying organic eggs, so I’ve been eating really good eggs. I have been eating well for a reasonable price.

Neil: There is a really good fruit a veg shop across the street from us. Its run by volunteers and its all local produce, so ye, I love that.

Sami: The shows and everything are good as well.

They all laugh.

Maddy: Just the eggs! Edinburgh just makes me happy, there’s so much going on, there’s performers everywhere and its a time for people to just come and try stuff out and just give it a go. Even first time performers can just get on stage and say “Here I am!”. Its the perfect place to do that becuase everyone is really accepting.

GW: Does stand up comedy make you happy as well?

Maddy: Not particularly since being at clown school, my mind has changed a bit about stand up. Neil was actually a really famous stand up comic (through her laughter).

Neil: Well, er, (shyly) I was in Australia and I won a couple of competitions. Stand up comedy is still great when it’s done well, but you get to realise, how few people do it well, how boring and self-obsessed it can be.

Maddy: Me, me, me, here I am! I think the reason I don’t like stand up comedy anymore is because of clown school and Philippe and what he teaches us. The best way to describe this is with an example. We saw this stand up night in Paris and the MC of the night told some really, really, really bad jokes. Like REALLY bad jokes. But there was one moment when he told a joke, that he thought was literally the greatest thing he’d ever come up with, and it flopped. Nobody laughed because nobody even knew it was the end of the joke. It was that bad. But there was a moment straight after this when his face went from so proud of what he’d done into total human vulnerability. It just dropped. It was so natural. “I’m acting” just went. And the room erupted with laughter. He was really unsure why, but we could see it was because it was him being himself and reacting in a really funny way to how badly he had just flopped. But the reason it then annoyed me was because he should have kept going, living in the flop, swimming around in it. Instead, he threw it away – “And now on to my next joke la la la” – and went straight back to stand up comedy – here’s a joke, here’s a laugh, here’s a joke, here’s a laugh. It was so interesting for that split second. It was so funny. Thats why I believe in listening to the audience more.

Neil: Stay in your failure for longer, thats where people laugh, that’s where you are vulnerable

GW: Who would be in your dream comedy group?

PCS: Thats a good question…

Neil: Tony Hancock would be in there. I like Tony Hancock. He’s a 60′s comedian – “Hancock’s Half Hour” – brilliant! Birth of the sit-com really.

Sami: I’d put Nosferatu in. I think he has very good stage presence and he’s very funny. He doesn’t have to do much, he just needs to look confused… as he does.

Maddy: If I could be in comedy-sketch group with Rik Mayall I’d probably be the happiest person alive. He had something, f***ing good. Sorry for swearing.

GW: No problem. Now have you got any personal picks from the fringe?

Sami: I’ve seen Sam Simmons, which was excellent. I haven’t seen this, but I think I’m really going to enjoy ‘Calypso Nights: Juan, 2?’. I really really want to see that. I think he may be my favourite at the fringe once I see him.

Neil: Nautilus!

Maddy: Nautilus!

Neil: Oh my God – just an hour and a half of effortlessly hilarious mime.

Maddy: Best thing I’ve seen so far.

Neil: The drumming show…

Maddy: ‘Fills Monkeys: Incredible Drum Show’, its just these two guys on drums and they’re pretty funny, they’re from France. It was a pretty epic hour of just amazing synchronised drumming.

Neil: Just funny drumming.

Sami: Very difficult to explain.

Maddy: We have some friends from our school performing in the Underbelly “Plague of Idiots”. Their show has been going amazingly, I haven’t seen it yet, but they have been getting some incredible feedback, selling out left right and centre, and they’re just four clowns from our school. Who else do we love? We love everyone! ‘John-Luke Roberts: Stdad-Up’, seen it in the vaults but haven’t seen it here yet, again amazing feedback. My dad went! Thats a big deal.

They all laugh.

Maddy: Zack and Viggo!

Neil: That’s a beautiful little show. First timers, midday, just in a bar underground, just out of town, its crazy but its nice, really good show.

Maddy: Its called ‘Thunderflop’. Spencer Jones is apparently incredible as well. ‘Rhinoceros’ by Harry Carr. It’s very fun, It’s basically a game show on saving Rhinos! And its very playful and very silly. Thats quite a lot, we could go on…

GW: Final question, although its not a question at all. Pitch me a new fringe show!

Neil: AHH…


Niel: “Awkward Sex Stories from Behind a Fern” – where members of the audience come out and go hide behind a fern with a microphone and tell their awkward sex stories.

Maddy: We did it last night in our cabaret and it went so well. It lightened the mood a lot. But I think to make it a show we would need half comedians and half audience members…

Neil: We need to develop it a bit… Also, “The One Man Tattoo”! I just want to do the Tattoo as a one man show, I think that would be quite funny.

GW: Sami pitch me a show!

Sami: Um, er, pitch you a show, er, the… a show where I have to think on my feet… and its generally made up of silence, um, and maybe theres a microphone involved maybe recording it, um, and then somebody writes it down and puts it on the internet. (He laughs)

Maddy: Can we absolutely add in a mention that we forgot. Our fourth cast member is in another show called “The Dream Sequentialists” we have to put that in, otherwise HE’LL KILL US! And he won’t be in our show anymore! And Paris Communal Shower! (laughs)

GW: Cool. Thank you all very much for your time. Good luck with the rest of your fringe

PCS: Awesome. Thank you Ginger WIG!

If you want to catch Paris Communal Shower they are on at the Yurt Locker at the Free Sisters, every night except tuesday at 9:30pm !

Interview with Eleanor Tiernan

“Once you do one stand-up gig you’re in stand-up because you’re emotionally compelled to figure out how to do it well.”

Q: How did you first get into comedy?

A: I got into comedy because I was doing acting and then there was a little bit of crossover with improv, a lot of actors improvise and a lot of comedians do improv as well.  Then I started going out with a guy that was starting to do stand-up and I went along to a night of his, and I think I thought, I can do that, and then I did, and I did it. Once you do one stand-up gig you’re in stand-up because you’re emotionally compelled to figure out how to do it well.

Q: How do you know what comedy to do on stage?

A: I don’t know what to do really, I suppose it just arises naturally. To get the most out of an idea or a joke, you set it up, or you say it.  Then you act it out to find where the funny moment is.  Sometimes I like to do character sketches, sometimes it feels like comedy by numbers, when it feels right you do it, other times you don’t, it’s not an exact science with me.

Q: How long were you a civil engineer for?

A: I was a civil engineer for 6 years.

Q: And stand up?

A: I have been a stand-up comedienne for 8 years, so longer.

Q: What was the worst thing about being a civil engineer?

A: The pressure to get it right all the time…

Q: And you don’t feel that with comedy?

A: No because nobody’s going to die.  The worst thing that could happen is people would think I’m a bad comedienne, and I can live with that.  I can’t live with children being left fatherless.  That’s worse.

Q: Have you mainly been touring?

A: Yes, around Ireland really and any other work I can get, little comedy clubs, different writing jobs and a bit of radio and television, just to keep myself going, so far so good anyway.

Q: And is this your first Edinburgh?

A: This is my fourth Edinburgh. First time I came here I did a play that I wrote with my cousins, we did it, and then second year and third year I did stand-up and then this year I did stand-up again.  I took a couple of years off though, I haven’t done four in a row.

Q: What have you enjoyed seeing the most this Fringe?

A: I really loved Gavin Webster’s show here, he’s a comedian from Newcastle and he’s excellent and has a really good show.  I saw Will Franken, the American, his show was also excellent.  I also saw a musical that I wouldn’t normally go to, but this was absolutely brilliant, The Trap is the name of it, definitely recommend that.

Q: Thank you Eleanor for you time.

by Looby Loo and Goubba