Interview: Teddy Lamb

This year we are championing Since U Been Gone by Teddy Lamb, currently up at The Edinburgh Fringe.   We were incredibly fortunate to grab Teddy a week in to the Fringe, and got to find out more about their latest piece, which encompasses their queer identity, but also their experiences of grief and loss. There are a number of incredible trans artists and theatre-makers up at the Fringe this year, most touch on their trans identities in their work, but also explore life and love and grief and joy and our shared experiences of being human; as is true of all of the LGBT+ community we are so much more than just our queerness.  All of this work feels incredibly important at the moment with the anti-trans rhetoric being peddled by the media and certain groups – some of those within the LGBT+ community. So if you are at the Fringe, do try to catch Teddy’s show –  Since U Been Gone received four stars from The Guardian this week, and comes to the Camden People’s Theatre this November, following its run at the Fringe. You can catch it at the Assembly Roxy until 24th August. 

Interview by Amie Taylor

CW: Death and grief

AT: Tell us a bit about your background as an artist…

TL: I am Teddy Lamb. I am a queer theatre maker and playwright, I’ve been making work for the past few years as part of performance duo Holly&Ted and we’ve been making fantastical fairytales with feminist ideals behind them. I’ve loved doing that and Holly and I are still working together, but I wanted to create something that embraced my queerness as well and had more of a queer structure to it and more queer content and something autobiographical as well. So my new show is the culmination of that.  I’ve been writing it for quite a long time now. 

AT: What inspired Since U Been Gone and why was now the right time to make it?

TL: This show is about two of my best friends who died, and it’s a tribute to them and everything I learnt from them. At the moment we’re going through a very weird place in that we’ve made so many steps forward for queer people and queer culture, but it feels like we’re taking so many steps back within trans rights and the media becoming a much darker place and there being so much hatred being spewed on a daily basis by people who really should know better. I feel that one of the ways around that is to humanise trans people, to show that we are not ‘normal’ people, because ‘normal’ implies heteronormative, and that’s not the case always (sometimes it is), but to show that we all have similar experiences, we all experience grief at some point in our lives – these unifying things that we can use to pinpoint some humanity. And in the show I do talk about my experiences of gender, but also my experiences of growing up and listening to shit pop music and losing my best friends – I think everyone has lost someone, so it’s something everyone can identify with, and humanises the trans experience.

AT: How has it been for your grief process making this piece?

TL: It’s a weird one, because one of the friends has been gone for 9 years now, so that is not as fresh. And Jordan who is the main person in the play, it’s been just over three years now. And I’ve been writing the show for just under three years. So the process of writing the show is how I dealt with my grief, I channeled it in to something productive.  She was a writer, which is why I started writing things down. She wanted to write novels and was always drafting new manuscripts of chick-lit books and vampire novels and things like that. It’s really helped.  Performing the show the first few times was weird, because I hadn’t realised the dark place it could have put me in, but I’ve been working through it with my producers and director, and we’re putting a lot of structures and distancing in place within the performance, so I can perform it safely and take the audience on a journey, without going on that journey myself. Which is useful for my mental health. 

AT: This is really good to hear. There are a lot of artists up at the Fringe that bring work that is deeply personal, would you have any advice for other artists making autobiographical work, in terms of looking after their mental health? Especially when doing so for a month.

TL: The thing that’s been key for me is being honest with my team.  Which I wasn’t for the first few days.  I felt like I had to be strong for them, I felt like they were putting their faith and trust in me, so I had to be this strong person all the time. But if I’m doing that then they can’t help me – if I’m not asking for the help. So over the last few days we have sat down and chatted more, and they said they could see that I wasn’t doing well, but that they couldn’t help me if I kept saying I was doing okay. They’ve been amazing.  I would say surround yourself with good people and do things that aren’t Fringe. Having those escape moments is very useful. 

AT: Talking of people and support, Queerhouse are producing your show –

TL: Yes Queerhouse and Hightide.

AT: Great. What’s it like working with Queerhouse?

TL: It’s wonderful, they are so great. They understand everything. I’m in rep with Mika [Johnson] so we get every other day off, which allows us to get some distance from the show and to process things. They also understand how hard it is flyering for these shows, so they’re out there flyering with us and for us as well as doing all of the admin work, as well as continuing to run the Queerhouse agency, they’re working incredibly hard. I wouldn’t be here without them. Or Soho Theatre Writer’s Lab, or LGBTQ Arts – without all of you this show would not have happened. 

AT: But it has and it’s here, and down to all of your hard work too, which has been brilliant to follow over the past couple of years. So this isn’t your first Fringe –

TL: No, but it does feel a bit like my first Fringe. It’s my first solo show here which brings a whole range of new challenges. It’s my first autobiographical piece and sharing that story without sharing the burden with someone feels very different to the other times I’ve been here. I’m so much more tired than I ever have been at the Fringe. This whole month is a learning curve. 

AT: And are you holding Queer Meet-Up again this year, as a support for Queer Artists?

TL: Yes, we are. They’re every Tuesday from 1-3 in the Assembly Club Bar, it’s a space for queer people at the Fringe, whether they’re artists, audience, techies, critics or anything, to come and network and support each other and lean on each other and swap flyers, swap war stories and establish a bit of a community. 

Since U Been Gone is on at the Assembly Roxy – Downstairs (V139) until 24th Aug at 15:45

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Image © Bronwen Sharp

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