It was a tremendous year of theatre for the Ginger Wig in 2016…
We have witnessed some breathtaking productions and performances this year in some of the best theatres in the country, as well as in pubs, hotels, on the side of a cliff, in rundown flats and in the open air. So many shows stand out, but sadly we can only award one Ginger Wig Award.
Now let it be said that it is no easy feat to get on this list as we see a ridiculous amount of theatre each year, as well as comedy, performance art, opera, ballet, musicals, mime, and more, so even to get close to our top ten is an incredible achievement. So without further ado…
Lucky Stiff is a riot of a musical, pulling together a most outrageous story and hilarious song and dance numbers. Put together by MKEC Production it was performed by a tremendous cast of singer actors.
9. BUG, Tracey Letts, Found111
The susceptibility of these lives is apparent in the first encounter between Agnes and Peter whose non-threatening, non-macho and superficially gentle demeanour immediately finds an emotional, if wary, response, from Agnes. However, unidentified phone calls have already made Agnes anxious about the re-appearance of her aggressive ex-husband who does indeed return to try and assert his possession of Agnes but after a stand-off with Peter takes money off Agnes and leaves.
8. Apocalypse Cruise Ship Love Affair, Beach Comet, Above The Arts Theatre
A trip to Apocalypse Cruise Ship Love Affair is a trip to musical comedy heaven. This show is jam-packed with outstanding jokes, devised by writer/director Theo McCabe, and it keeps the energy flowing from one cleverly directed moment to the next.
7. The Rules of Inflation, Balloons Theatre, Theatre N16
We loved so much about this show particularly the space in between the chairs, ostensibly creating personal space, but in fact creating isolation and distance between audience members. There was nowhere to hide. Children’s games being subverted by an unstable sociopathic clown – what’s not to love about that? The smell of fabric softener from Blue’s balloon miscarriage, surreptitiously seeped into our nostrils, affecting the one sense so overlooked in theatre.
6. The Queen of Spades, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Opera Holland Park
An outstanding production of this tragic opera with the main roles taken by Peter Wedd and Natalya Romaniw. Wedd’s Herman had extraordinary presence with both poignancy and obsession combined with great effect in this hero who moves relentlessly towards a terrible end.
5. Ross, Terence Rattigan, Chichester Festival Theatre
An excellent work that deftly weaves the historical events of the 1916-1918 Arab conflict with the role T E Lawrence played in it. Joseph Fiennes was excellent in the role of Lawrence portraying someone who is profoundly altered by the history he has lived. Paul Freeman as General Allenby was also extremely good and Rattigan presents the two characters as a match for each other in their strategic and incisive capabilities. The unspeakable dreariness of the Air Force base with its rigid discipline is a world away from that in which Lawrence lived and which gave him his appellation, Lawrence of Arabia. It’s a brilliant dramatic juxtaposition.
4. Operation Black Antler, Blast Theory/Hydrocracker, Brighton Festival
This was a truly remarkable piece of immersive theatre. There was a feeling of tension and excitement throughout this piece, generated from the first moment. Every element of this piece was meticulously planned, form the people briefing us, to the world in the Rose Hill Tavern to the performance of the characters we met within. Without doubt this was the best ‘theatre game’ in which we have participated.
3. Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, Lee Hall, The National
A phenomenal piece of theatre that combines stunning musical talent, heartbreakingly human portrayals and almost incomprehensibly thick Scottish accents. Our Ladies was full of impressive harmonies, no holds-barred characterisation and was a night that socked the audience in the mouth and left them wanting more.
2. The Encounter, Complicite, The Barbican
It is very rare in theatre that a really important story is told in such a fantastic way. This is the true essence of great theatre and is exactly what Complicite have created here with The Encounter. A momentous production, questioning all the values that we hold dear, possession, communication, consciousness and time.
And so the Ginger Wig of The Year Award 2016 goes to…
1. A Midsummers Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare, The Globe
What a real treat this was at the Globe Theatre. If the Bard could come back from the dead, time travel to the present day, have a week to pick up a bit of the cultural context and listen to some of our music, and then come and see Emma Rice’s production then he would be extremely proud. This was a real joy to watch and experience. This will go down long in the Ginger Wig’s memory.
Here at Ginger Wig, we have a keen eye for talented performers. Héloïse Werner is indeed one of those performers, pushing herself to incredible lengths vocally and emotionally through the piece, Scenes from the End. With her opening sequence, a beautiful soprano voice floats through the air. It seemed otherworldly, as her face and stature were devoid of the effort needed to produce that full-bodied sound. She had a very candid look about her: a messy ponytail, slightly off-centre, piercing blue eyes staring out from a face that seemed to be young and weary simultaneously. Her first notes became a repeated sequence that she finally completed, turning the “oo” of her notes into an unexpected and rushed word: “oblivion”.
The sequence garnered chuckles from the audience, but unfortunately that’s where the humour ended. The next forty minutes were torturous, and no amount of talent from the performer could stop us from becoming restless in our seats. She performed the piece in chapters, with a series of projections that accompanied each new take. A few interesting quotes about the end of humanity projected up onto the screen, and it was wholly engaging to note the breadth of writers who’d contemplated the end of our existence. From Shakespeare to C.S. Lewis, ranging from the 16th to 20th centuries, we saw thought-provoking quotes that were ill paired with unnerving performance. With the use of an alarm clock, a piano stool, prerecorded voice and a tuning fork, Werner created a sense of unease throughout the piece, singing difficult scales in addition to the unbearable ping of the fork, the drumming of the stool. She did reach a blues-inspired section, where we had repose from the upsetting sounds and were able to appreciate the flexibility of her timbre as she created a relaxed feel. This section, however beautiful, was still confusing to the audience who were perplexed by the absurdity of her other chapters.
If the goal was to create a discord reflecting the end of our existence, the goal was reached. Was their success enjoyable to watch? No, it was not. I wish I could say this was a thought-provoking piece, but in order to achieve that, Scenes from the End needed to establish a topic that the audience could interpret and question. The only thing we could think as the performance developed: when will this end?
BAZ Productions have reinvented August Strindberg’s ‘The Dream Play’ at the Vaults. Taking the audience in through the back and around the space, they have created different dream-like scenes to varying effect.
Based on the story of the daughter of a god who descends to earth to witness the plight of humankind, we are first confronted with her as she appears from within the waiting audience, speaking an unintelligible language. We are led through various scenarios involving firstly a woman locked in bathroom calling for her mother, then a strange dinner scene that evolves into a wedding proposal between two couples, followed by the breakdown of the marriages. These were followed by a school scene with teachers who humiliated us, the pupils, and this led to a finale in which life and death were questioned.
Moments of this production flashed with brilliance and real feeling but often it seemed to focus too narrowly on a certain kind of human pain rather than the broader spectrum of human suffering. Too often we felt disconnected from the formless scenes which unfolded before us. The final scene became a simplistic discussion of life and death with references to Jesus, Buddha and resurrection. It was completely without poetic insight or gravitas.
Real moments of humour came out of the scene involving the couple whose marriage has broken down, which although formulaic, was engaging. However when a chained man (as in ball and chain) in his undies suddenly and unaccountably breaks into the scene there was a real moment of hilarity. The school scene was the first time we truly felt like we were in a dream, but sadly this experience did not recur.
Laura Moody was a constant shining light in this production. The alternative cellist and vocalist, brought her ethereal sounds to the whole piece, adding significantly to the mood of the piece. She has a phenomenal vocal range that goes well beyond conventional sounds. It is a shame the rest of the piece did not match up to her performance. This piece needed more attention in its development. Flashes of brilliance and hilarity were encumbered by a lack of direction and purpose.
Highlight of the piece – the lights snapping out in the school room and what followed – truly dreamlike.
Torn Apart (Dissolution) puts women centre stage and deals with issues such as feminism, immigration, male repression, fate, homosexuality, but above all it explores the most painful aspects of human conditioning. Read our review of Torn Apart at the Brighton Fringe.
A brilliant scientist strives to protect his creation in the face of universal revulsion and hostility. Set in Switzerland during the stormy summer of 1816, ‘The Resurrectionist’ reveals for the first time, the extraordinary ‘true’ events which inspired Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
Secrets surface, friendships are tested and a dark secret threatens to bring the House of Usher crashing down. Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s gothic masterpiece “The Fall of The House of Usher” with a brand new score and a small cast of exceptional actor-musicians this gothic musical thriller promises to be the Halloween show not to miss.
1989. Manchester. A frenzy of drugs, beats and bucket hats. Illegal raves. Acid parties. Just jumping up and down in a field and throwing two fingers to Thatcher… Remember it? Winners of the Brighton Fringe award for excellence.
So, the Ginger Wig & Strolling Man are heading to Brighton, to experience their first taste of this festival by the sea. As England’s biggest theatre and performing arts festival and fringe festival, it is certainly not something we could miss. However, like any arts festival, trying to pick out what to see tends to be a bit of nightmare with programmes as thick as yellow pages and acts as diverse as ‘Future of Food: Burgers… Or Bugs?’, ‘The Bald Prima Donna’ and ‘Burt Lancaster Pierced my Hymen (When I Was 11)’. Therefore we have done some of the hard work for you and picked out the things we most recommend and would most like to see at this year’s Brighton Festival and Fringe.
“Beautifully combining the classical Indian dance form kathak with contemporary dance, Until the Lions tells the tale of Amba, a princess abducted on her wedding day and stripped of her honour, who invokes the gods to seek revenge.”
“Amidst a barren landscape, a neon light stands bleak and stark. Welcome to The Last Resort. For those brave enough to return to this long deserted resort, beauty, science fiction and history merge to create a unique outdoor experience.”
“Enter the Masquerade Ball, a world of anonymity and duplicity that spins a web of lies and truth around its guests. Carry out tasks, hide your secrets, do whatever it takes to win. You will need to form bonds, break relationships and be ruthless in your pursuit of glory but remember… trust no one.”
“Torn Apart (Dissolution) is about talking to your lover, drinking beer, ultimate rejection, the white picket fence fantasy, sexuality, the rules of being on a visa, The Berlin Wall, but mostly it’s about love.”
“Three sisters meet to enact Macbeth’s fate. Their twisted prophecies transform him from a war hero into a paranoid tyrant in this brutal Shakespearean Tragedy. A man with bloody hands, his murdered friend’s ghost, a queen who sleepwalks – the witches bring them to life to the beat of Hecate’s drums.”
We we were told to wait under a bridge. A bridge in Hackney Wick. We were anticipating the latest immersive zombie experience to hit London – Virtually Dead. Produced by Bearded Kitten this was a zombie experience with an added dimension… We were also to be testing out HTC Vive’s brand new virtual reality headset!
A military jeep pulled up under the bridge and two soldiers stepped out and lined us up against the wall. Asking if we had done any specific training prior to this, we decided not to mention our recent trip down memory lane playing ‘House of the Dead’ late one night in Shepherds Bush. Someone said, ‘Time Crisis’ and was immediately shot down by the Sarge. These games would be no help to us when faced with the real thing. The reality, however, was these recent arcade trips were actually going to come in very handy…
Once transported to base, we went through basic training and encountered a series of soldiers who gradually revealed bits of the story. We came face to face with the ‘Phoenix’ virus in a very unnerving fashion, and then were eventually led into the main part of the event – testing the HTC Vive.
This was our first true taste of headset virtual reality and it was mind bending. Full 360 degree immersion with the ability to move, look around, crouch and duck and most importantly, blow zombies’ heads off with Desert Eagles, sawn-offs and Uzis. This was really cool gaming and very easy to pick up. We completed the game in record time, although we almost got noshed in the mines.
The small boy inside us was having a whale of a time and could have stayed in that room for another two hours. However, as the test ended we were suddenly aware of a panic in the real world and were rushed into a more thrilling section of the story, to face more undead and eventually discover the reason why we were needed…
Basically this was a glorified video game testing experience. On its own as an immersive zombie experience it probably wouldn’t warrant the price of the ticket, such was the slightly rough and ready nature of the storytelling, the slightly longwinded various intros and the basic arc of our story in the Cultek base. However for immersive theatre fans and zombie aficionados such as the Ginger Wig, put together any of the basic ingredients of scares, blood and guts, gunshots and, of course, audience participation and we will be very happy. Had it not have been for the Ginger Wig barricading several doors we would probably have finished the experience with fewer recruits than we started.
The real credit however, must go to HTC Vive for this impressive new technology. Being born in the 90s and experiencing much of the recent technological developments, it was clear that this was the first step towards a whole new world of technological possibilities. We knew it was coming but we didn’t know how cool and how much fun it would be. At £650 a pop though, you might want to wait for the price reductions.
Highlight of the show – testing the HTC Vive and coming face to face with a test subject in the lab. Our companion said, ‘it was the only time I thought of doing the emergency ‘hands on head get me out of here’ sign. Sadly in the darkness it wouldn’t have made much difference.
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?
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…
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.
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.
Every so often a show comes around that really knocks you for six. It goes beyond trying to explain anything to you and instead leaves you with a hundred questions. ‘The Rules of Inflation’ was performed at the brilliantly diverse Bedford pub (we witnessed dance classes, live music and of course the theatre under this one roof), and it was something completely different, arresting and fresh.
Meeting ‘Pink’ we were led into what could have been a children’s party, aside from the odd condom ballon camouflaged among all the other regular and beautiful balloons. ‘Green’ then took our phone number from us and we were then taken to our seat by cheerful ‘Yellow’. ‘Blue’ was elsewhere. Then the clown appeared, a dark and erratic figure, who proceeded to engage the others in a series of party games, games that he subverted and twisted at every opportunity. Children’s games were sexualised, people were tied to chairs, the rules were not followed. The clown was smearing lipstick onto the faces of the ‘colours’ marking them and sitting them out of the games. He was either having a great time or a horrid one. Nothing made sense, nothing seemed certain. The mood in the audience was palpable; uncertainty, fear and amusement? Whatever it was no one could avert their eyes…
We loved so much about this show particularly the space in between the chairs, ostensibly creating personal space, but in fact creating isolation and distance between audience members. There was no where to hide. Children’s games being subverted by an unstable sociopathic clown – what’s not to love about that? The use of fabric softener from ‘Blue’s’ balloon miscarriage, surreptitiously seeped into our nostrils, affecting the one sense so overlooked in theatre.
Devised organically this was performance art that asked many questions, and created many disparate moods. Clear from the start was that we would be voting for either ‘Pink’, ‘Green’, ‘Yellow’ or ‘Blue’. But how would we choose? Was it just a personality contest? Why did you vote for ‘Yellow’? How do we choose our actual leaders? Is it even worth voting at all? Do our leaders even care about us? Is politics just a circus for manipulators, megalomaniacs and psychopaths?
This is theatre that stays with you long after the event itself and compels you to talk about it. Brilliant work from everyone involved in The Rules of Inflation. Get down to Theatre N16 (actually in SW12) tonight or tomorrow to catch this rare piece of art!
Highlight of the piece – the balloon rubbing scene, the fabric softener, watching the other audience members and or course – cake!
The Rules of Inflation at Theatre N16 is on at 3:00pm and 8:30pm today (23rd) and 8:30pm tomorrow (24th) £12/10.
Continuing our regular feature, we have picked out some more great theatre from the upcoming London schedule that you can see for under £15!
Night Flyer – Lion and Unicorn (10, 11, 12 March) – £11
“About teenagers on the cusp of real adulthood facing the reality of life and all its problems; their abuse of drugs, alcohol and each other.”
The Delights of Dogs and the Problems of People – Courtyard Theatre (15 March – 23 April) £14 (£11 Concession)
“This is a play for anyone who has been in love or experienced heartbreak or has had to get out of bed on a chilly night to let the bloody dog out for a pee.”
RUN – New Diorama Theatre (15 March – 9 April) – £15 (£12.50 Concessions)
“Four ambitious twenty somethings enter the job market. What better way to start than a summer internship at a high end City bank? Motivated and hungry, they are ready to commit themselves, whatever it takes. The stakes are high.”
The Rules of Inflation – Theatre N16 (20-24 March) – £12 (£10 Concessions)
“Join our party and find the connection between a right wing political leader and a sadistic drag queen clown. For there is plenty.”
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…