Interview: Emma Frankland

Theatre maker and performer, Emma Frankland is super busy at the moment, she’s currently performing her show Rituals For Change at Battersea Arts Centre, whilst simultaneously rehearsing for Summer In London at Stratford East with Rikki Beadle Blair. We managed to grab her (literally on a train between rehearsals / performances) to find out more about Rituals for Change; a semi-autobiographical show about change and transgender identity.

AT: Tell us a bit about you and how you came to work in the arts…

EF: That’s an interesting question for me, because I’m never sure where to begin that story.  Historically I would start by saying I went to Hull University to study drama, and then on to Central School of Speech and Drama to do my MA classical acting and then I’d gloss over other bits, but I’m trying to recognise that, because I think that’s how I talk about transition as well, you start from the bit where it got easy – that’s inverted commas “easy”.

I started my career growing up doing amateur theatre, and then following my drama degree I did jobs doing classical acting stuff.  I didn’t think I’d get on to the course at Central, but I did and suddenly found myself in that in-depth drama school environment, which can be toxic, but actually it was a particular course at a particular time run by a couple of individuals that were pretty tenacious, so it wasn’t like standard drama school. Then I left, started making work with a couple of mates from uni and never returned to classical acting, I got in to the world of devising instead, we took a show to Edinburgh and won a fringe first.  So gradually over the past 8 years I’ve done a lot of devising work, which has slowly moved towards a more live art aesthetic and Rituals For Change really marks the first time I’ve fully embraced that.  And with the classical acting bit included.  We don’t usually tend to get very big in contemporary theatre, it’s often very informal, but I really wanted to take up space, have big speeches and striking visuals.

AT: Where did the idea for Rituals For Change come from, what inspired you to make it?

EF: For the past five years I’ve been working on an on-going project, making work in response to my gender transition, how I feel, the politics surrounding it. And the company I’ve been making it under, ‘None of us is yet a Robot’ has evolved, and now as well as that being the home for some of that work, we’re also beginning to do other things, for instance we recently did the Gender Roadshow, we’re supporting other trans and non-binary artists and holding space for activism. So Rituals came to be because I’d found myself in that space where I was still making pieces explaining what trans is and what the problems are, for a cisgender audience, and I was tired of explaining.  Instead I wanted to make something that firstly celebrates how amazing trans bodies are and that is open for a cisgender audience, but it is particularly exciting for a trans-audience.

AT:  So were you targeting a specific audience when you made this?

EF: It’s generally for a mixed audience.  I don’t feel comfortable when there aren’t trans or non-binary people in the audience.  The response I get from other trans people is very, very positive – they’ve previously said that it’s a representation that they haven’t seen before, particularly other trans women have found it very empowering and very true. Which is really flattering to hear.  But I also recognise with a cisgender audience it speaks to them on lots of levels too.  Last week at the Gender Roadshow we did a performance for an audience that was only trans and non-binary people, and I asked them after what it is they want to see on stage – the response was generally that they want to see less violence towards trans people on stage, stories where there are trans characters, but that’s not what it’s about, we want to see romances, we want to see happy stories. Which is what’s great about Summer in London, it’s a cheesy rom-com!

AT: What do you hope audiences will take away from watching Rituals for Change?

EF: I would like them to join in the revolution and affect change immediately in terms of how they view, treat anybody who is, for whatever reason, outside of the cis-male, white etc default.  That’s what I want.  Revolution. Now!

Thank you so much to Emma for chatting to us!

If you would like to see Rituals for change you can use the booking code Rituals5 for discounted £5 tickets. Book here.

17 & 22 Jun – BSL interpretation provided by Jeni Draper
22 – 24 Jun – Audio Description available

Summer in London comes to TRSE in July.  More info.


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