Interview: Emma Frankland

Emma’s Show ‘Hearty’ is on at The Yard (Hackney Wick) this week as part of Now Festival.

“Inspired by conversations with women around the world, Hearty celebrates growth, ageing, transformation.”

We caught up on the phone with her earlier this week about this latest piece – what inspired it and what to expect.  Read on to find out more.

AT: Tell us a bit about Hearty?

EF: It’s the culmination of the None of us Yet a Robot Project, which has taken place over the past 6 years, which started in response to my transition and the politics around it. This is the 5th performance that I’ve made with various collaborators. I feel that as though None of Us is Yet a Robot is going from strength to strength; we’re now managing to support other people, we held the gender roadshow in Leeds, but in terms of making solo performance around my transition this feels like a rounding off.

Hearty comes following my last show Rituals for Change, and something that surprised me during that show was that cisgender women who had experienced menopause, or were experiencing menopause really resonated with the work. And at the time that was interesting because, sadly, cis women of that age and trans women, can meet friction in certain feminist circles.

So at first I thought Hearty was going to be an exploration in to HRT and the fact that we’re connected by this bio-technology. That was three years ago and sadly I think the political situation in England has really changed since then, there’s been quite a lot of pushback from TERF groups and so on. What’s also happened over the past couple of years is that I’ve been working in Brazil and Indonesia, and have met trans women over there and that’s really exploded my perceptions of where we are globally; we’re not very far away from another reality in time, and we’re not very far away from another reality in geography.

In Brazil the situation is very difficult, particularly for some trans women; those in the Travesti community. A woman I met from this community said to me there’s a genocide and all that they can do is bury our knowledge and hope that in the future people can uncover it. And it made me wonder whether we’re at a time where we have to bury our knowledge for the future.  Or whether we’re at a point where we can dig up what’s been left for us in the past, I actually suspect both of those things are true and are always true. The situation here is so shifting, it feels that one month to the next we’re approved of, or we’re not approved of again. I feel like there’s a lot of complacency within white, heteronormative trans people, particularly in the media, and it feels as though there’s become an acceptable way to be trans and I feel like that’s quite dangerous for anyone who’s trans and gay or trans and queer, or if you’re not English speaking; it’s not so easy. And that’s what this show is about.

In my own transition I feel in a place of power; women experiencing menopause have come to me and said they feel like their stepping in to a different age; and I feel the same about my transition – I’ve stepped in to a different age.  I’m not asking for approval anymore. It’s also about that.

AT: Obviously this show is made up of your own experience, and the wider experiences of the trans community.  How have you looked after yourself in making this work?

EF: It’s been amazing, I’m so thankful that I’m an artist and that I work in a form that allows me to explore these things and to feel in someway that I can make some kind of contribution.  I worked a lot in the early days with Rachel Mars and made a lot of content, but a couple of times when we came to do a showing it didn’t feel right to share the work, it felt too raw. Personally I don’t like seeing work where you don’t feel like the performer is okay in the stuff they’re sharing and Abby Butcher, who I co-run the project with now, and I have always been really careful about that; asking who is this for?  Is this something for me or something that can be shared? In terms of my own personal growth, I’ve always asked if I’m ahead of the project and the things I cover in Hearty were pretty flooring for me a year ago.  I remember saying to Abby around that time that this project really has teeth that I didn’t think it had.  So I took a break from it and came back to it. Now it’s still very live, but I’m okay.

AT: And who is your audience for this?

So a couple of years ago when we performed in London, our core audience weren’t trans  – it was a more mainstream audience, but we’ve been working hard to attracting a trans (including non-binary) audience, and communicating our values and that the work is made by a trans led company. Hopefully that will reflect in the audiences attending Hearty, because I’d love to see more trans (including non binary) people feeling represented in theatre.

Hearty is playing as part of a double bill with The Army, by Anton Mirto.  Both run until Sat 17th Feb 2018. BOOK NOW.


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