Interview: Jenifer Toksvig

Jenifer Toksvig is a writer and theatre-maker, and will be ‘live-making’ a section of her new piece ‘Question 13: What is the Substance of Bisexuality?’ at The Camden People’s Theatre (CPT) on 13th September, as part of their ‘Come As You Are Festival’.  She is developing innovative ways of working with audiences, which are currently rarely experienced in theatre. Read on to find out more about her work, her show and ‘live-making’.

AT: Tell us a bit about you, what you do and what your passions are…

JT: My passions include knitting, and currently eating banana cake because I’ve just found some in a great cafe.  In addition to that I like to make theatre with words and people, not necessarily in that order. The kind of thing I like to make involves audience, usually directly, sometimes en masse, often individually. I don’t like forced engagement, I personally find it really emotionally troubling, so I don’t ever want to inflict it on anyone. A lot of my work is about involving audience or an audience member, without making them feel awkward and making sure they can accept an invitation.

AT: And how will this reflect in the work you bring to Come As You Are Festival?

JT: I’ve been thinking about this work at The CPT, and how to involve the audience in ways that are an invitation. The piece of work is called ‘Question 13: What is the Substance of Bisexuality?’ I don’t think there is any, so it’ll probably be a really short show [they laugh].  But my explorations of what it might be currently are that it might be a show that exists in three stages and the first one that I’m going to explore goes up to and includes questions about gender. It will be me, on stage on my own.  And within that process I will be discovering how it’s a musical – because that’s what I do, I write musicals. However, I have no way to play an instrument, and no musicians, and I haven’t written any songs – and also I’m going to be exploring how the audience get involved. So if if it’s a conversation, where that takes us in terms of narrative destiny – maybe that comes from them, or maybe not. Or perhaps the only involvement will be me saying ‘Can you hold this?’ – because I’ll probably need to stick some stuff up somewhere, and there may not be an appropriate wall – so I may have to ask someone to hold something.

AT: So would you call this way of making work ‘live making’?

JT: Yes, definitely.  I’ve put some thoughts down, just because I don’t want to stand up in front of a bunch of people and say ‘I don’t know what I’m doing’, though I’m not afraid of doing that, but it’s good to have some questions.  And the show is about a question; it’s structured within a question. But it’s definitely live making, because I have no other plans other than to ask some questions, and I might draw some pictures and I might sing.

AT: So if an audience member happened to have an instrument on them, would you possibly invite them in to play?

JT: I’m interested in what happens when I’m in a space and song comes out of me.  Because I do sing, I sing everywhere I go.  In my head. So whether that translates to be just singing out loud in front of an audience and how that involves them, I don’t know.

If you want to find out come and find out how the audience become involved in Jen Toksvig’s piece, book now for Raising Our Voices, at Come As You Are Festival on the 13th September, 9pm.


Answers © Jenifer Toksvig 2017


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