Q & A: Sophia O’Donohue

Sophia O’Donohue is currently rehearsing for Willow, on at The Bunker Theatre, London, this September, in which she plays Lottie. Willow takes a look at the fault lines in Lottie and her ex-girlfriend Gabi’s relationship, what caused the break-up and how it was different from the two perspectives. We caught up with Sophia this week to find out more.

Questions by Amie Taylor

AT: Tell us a little about you an actor and how you came to do what you do now?

SO: I’ve always been involved in performing arts, but lost my confidence as I progressed from a teenager into a young adult. However, it’s projects such as ‘Willow’ that have allowed me to grow as an actor since it’s a story I believe I can tell because of its honest and direct insight Into a relationship involving two women.

AT: You’re currently playing Lottie in Willow coming to the Bunker in Sept – what is it about?

SO: ‘Willow’ is essentially a recap of events, going from the start relationship to the breakup, however along the way Gabi and the audience discovers it’s not as one sided as she thinks. As the play progresses we start to see the other sides of a break up which are often left out.

AT: Why is this an important piece for 2019?

SO: I think a 2019 audience will be able to identify with it in many ways as it firstly offers to queer audiences a chance to feel as though their experiences and stories are being told. Also for non queer people, they are still able connect with the ups and downs of a relationship, showing the similarities within all relationships. And I guess in some ways ‘Willow’ brings separate social communities together.

AT: How is it going so far?

SO: We are having a lot of fun with looking at back-stories and the journeys in which these characters have made, that brought them up until the point in the play, which has really helped them feel like full rounded people that I could meet in real life.

AT: What are your favourite things about playing this character?

SO: Lottie has personally allowed me to think through things from someone else’s perspective. As well as this I think this relationship has made up a big part of this character’s life and we see Lottie come a long way, even if it isn’t entirely from her view point. But it has been enjoyable to communicate this moment in time in Lottie’s life to audiences.

AT: Have there been any challenges?

SO: For me, it has to be portraying Lottie’s Dad in the multi-rolling scene, for this character I’ve been watching a lot of Stephen Fry and Richard Hammond to be able to have down ‘dadish’ mannerisms!

AT: Describe the show in 6 words…

SO: Vital, frank, passionate, identifiable, funny and sadly-beautiful.

Willow will be on at The Bunker Theatre, London at 8.30pm on 8th, 9th, 15th and 16th September. Get your tickets here.

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Review: Chambers of Flavour

If you’re going on a hot-date and want to impress with a quirky and unique experience to remember, then Gingerline’s Chamber of Flavours, a multi-dimensional dining adventure, is probably the thing for you.

It’s hard to write a review for something I’m sworn to secrecy on, but if you’re a sucker for immersive experiences and organised fun, then you will likely love this, I had a fabulous time.  Moving through different rooms, spaces and dimensions, you will meet a number of bizarre characters, and sample some breathtaking cuisine. Don’t eat beforehand, you’ll be sufficiently fed en route. Be prepared to engage with a range of actors – there’s plenty of opportunity for chatting, and like it or not – you’re going to get involved (in a fun and memorable way.) And be prepared for anything.  I was relaying my adventure recently to someone a couple of decades older than myself, and they had to stop me halfway through to check if  I was telling them about something that actually happened or a dream I had – even as I write this review, my memory of it is that it was so kaleidoscopic and weird that I’m hoping it wasn’t just a dream, I could lose some serious reviewing cred for that…

At times the experience did feel a little like a mash of too many things: escape room AND immersive theatre AND dining experience all in one.  If anything, it didn’t need the escape room element, it was plenty without.

On a practical note, if you have access requirements you will need to relay these to Gingerline beforehand. This isn’t for the fussy eater, however – they cater for a range of dietary requirements and allergies, including vegans  – fab news for all you plant-based adventurers! I also recommend giving them a heads up if you’re alcohol free, and ask if you can have a tee total equivalent of the welcome cocktail.

Tickets are available at £55-£75, and if you choose to partake in some of their incredible cocktails, you’re looking at £100 per head for the evening – which may seem a lot, but if you compare it to the cost of a West End show, with dinner before and drinks, it probably comes in at about the same cost for the evening and you wouldn’t feel hard done by at the end of it.

As my plus-one pointed out, in 2019 there’s rarely immediate danger to be found in London – we’re talking lions, tiger and bears (oh my) so sometimes the need to experience a bit of faux-danger is entirely necessary – there is something quite hilarious about watching a group of grown adults buy in to the story that they are plummeting in to the centre of the earth to discover new flavours – ah humans. Nonetheless, if you’re looking for a blast of an evening out and a good story to tell, Gingerline’s Chamber of Flavours will be right up your street.

Image © Emma Nathan

Find out when the next tickets for this experience are released and book here.

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Review: Oddball

Starring: Francesca Forristal
Written by: Francesca Forristal
Director: Micha Mirto
Upstairs at The Gatehouse, London until 24th Aug 2019

CW: Eating Disorders

“All Oddball has to do is behave like a normal person on a date. Easy. It’s in a restaurant though. Restaurants have food. And other people. Food and people. She might pull her skin off with pliers. That’s normal… right?”

Upon entering the theatre at The Gatehouse to see Oddball, I was met with the jubilant, energetic star of this one-woman show dressed in shorts and a tank top, a plaster on her leg and her hair in two long pigtails. She was already guiding her audience enthusiastically towards their seats, smiling and delivering quick, sunny quips to them. It was a good indication of what was to come – for this show, the fourth wall has been removed, deconstructed and tossed in a metaphorical scrapheap.

From before the first word of the script is uttered, Francesca Forristal invites us in to tell her story and she subsequently does this through a myriad of characters and musical numbers. A particular stand out is her impression of the man with a hero-complex that fetishizes her problems, offering to be the one to ‘fix’ her ‘broken’ parts. We watch her dip in and out of an assortment of entertaining numbers from Wicked, The Book of Mormon, Les Mis and Chicago – the Mentally Unwell Block Tango is a particularly poli-incorrect nugget.

Despite a lack of props and stage settings, Forristal bounces, jumps and moves around the stage as if it were a gymnasium. Though the script can tend to lag at times, Forristal’s kooky and charming performance keeps us engaged and zoned in on her from start to finish. With minimal lighting and a gargantuan soundscape, the comedic, personable script leads up to a sucker punch of a final fifteen minutes that is all the starker in contrast.

Although I feel Forristal’s style of writing would have brilliantly served a further exploration of queerness, I would note that what impressed me most was that Forristal knows her audience – her playful script is ready-made for the millennial generation. Chock-full of pop culture references and dating scenarios we’ve all suffered through; it relishes in self-deprecation and exaggerated characterizations. She allows us to better understand mental illness and have a giggle at the same time, in a totally frank and no-holds-barred autobiography.

This show is a part of an ongoing public conversation, and you have to admit, it’s a good way to keep the (odd)ball rolling.

Book now

Review © Killian Glynn 2019

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Review: Sex Education

4*
Ed Fringe, Summerhall, 19:10 until 25th Aug

Sex Education is, as the name would suggest, an educational experience that focuses on expressions of sexuality and the vulnerability that comes with subverting the traditional expectations of relationships. Beginning in a charity-shop-bought wedding dress at the back of the audience, Harry Clayton-Wright successfully combines video (a varied array of gay porn), audio (interviews with his mother and friends) while making some (very delicious) cucumber sandwiches on stage.

Harry is a captivating performer and successfully balances the entire performance: the porn doesn’t feel gratuitous, the interviews feel genuine and warm and are testament to Harry’s personality, the lip-syncing is absolutely on-point. To create a piece of theatre that’s autobiographical and genuine is a difficult balance, and Harry’s balances in a way that feels as though you’re witnessing a kind and loving soul.

It’s the interview with Harry’s mother that proves for the most poignant throughline of this piece, exploring a clear juxtaposition between his life and his mother’s – and similarly, his life and his father’s. His mother grew up Christian, married to support a homeless charity and is the antithesis of his father who is noticeably chaotic, and once built a pyramid in his garden. To an extent, the play felt as though it was exploring how parents can form us and the differences in sex education between the Christianity of Harry’s mother and the gay-porn-stash sharing of Harry’s father. The references to religion in the play are subtle, like a subtle nod to those who have grown up in similar situations, and it was enjoyable feeling that security in the story Harry was telling.

Ultimately, Sex Education looks at how we express our sexuality, what we are taught and not taught – and importantly it explicitly considers the lives that are put in danger due to a lack of proper LGBTQ+ sex education in the UK. It’s funny, it’s cheeky and it’s tender. It’s also vitally important that we consider the message it leaves us with considering the current climate for sex education.

© M. Holland 2019

Book Now to see Sex Education at The Edinburgh Fringe.

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Q and A with Bibi June

Bibi June is a member of In To The Works, a Glasgow based spoken word theatre company, who are currently performing The 900 Club up at the Edinburgh Fringe. LGBTQ Arts’ Amie Taylor sent a few questions over to Bibi to find out more about this piece.

Amie: Tell us a little about you and an artist and how you came to do what you do…

Bibi: My background is in performance poetry: I started performing in dingy basement bars in Glasgow, at open mics and any event that would have me. It was a hobby at first, a fun creative thing to do with my time while I was studying. In my final year, I got a residency for artists of colour in Scotland with the Workers Theatre which allowed me to work on longer work, and it gave me the confidence to pursue poetry as a career. I started working with three other Scottish poets, and we’ve been collaborating since, eventually starting our own spoken word theatre company ‘In The Works’. I now work as a spoken word producer and artist, which is not something I ever expected to be able to do or say, so I feel incredibly lucky to get to do it. 

Amie: Tell us about your show, what is it about…

Bibi: ‘The 900 Club’ is about a young group of friends who went through a major loss together, but couldn’t actually go through it together. Five years later, they meet up on the 900 bus between Glasgow and Edinburgh to reprise their old camping trip in memory of their deceased friend, which is where the show begins. They laugh and fight, share memories and open up about long buried secrets. At its core, it’s a story about found family, and the things that tear us apart if we don’t take care of ourselves and each other. We’re poets, so it’s a theatre piece written as performance poetry. Kind of like Shakespeare, if there’d been busses back then!

Amie: What inspired it?

Bibi: After the first show we did together finished up, we had a meeting about what we’d do next. We all wrote down what we were interested in writing about. Because we write our shows collaboratively, it’s important we find something we all care about, and can bring some nuance to from our own experiences. Grief was the major overlapping theme, and because of who we are that quickly became a story about queer grief and friendship.

Amie: What do you hope people will take away from watching?

Bibi: It was really important to us to bring nuance to the conversation around grief and suicide. Mental illness can make people behave in incredibly cruel and mean ways- it’s a reason, but not an excuse. The complexity of our relationship with a person doesn’t just disappear when they die. We wanted to renegotiate how we are allowed to remember the dead- the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. If we are only going to remember people as saints, we might as well be remembering someone else entirely. We hope people come away from the show feeling okay to find their own path through grief.

Amie: Describe the show in 6 words…

Bibi: Breakfast club meets the 900 Megabus

Amie: What is your experience of the fringe so far?

Bibi: Because we’re local, the Fringe just kind of… happens, on our doorstep. I live in Glasgow, so whenever it becomes a bit overwhelming, I escape home to sleep in my own bed. We’re also only doing a 5 day run, to not tire ourselves out too much. So for us, it’s mostly been a month where our English friends (finally) come up to Scotland and we get to see their cool art and hang out! 

The 900 Club runs at The Edinburgh Fringe until 24th Aug 2019, (V203) 18:15, Book Now.

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Q&A Plaster Cast Theatre

Plaster Cast Theatre are currently at the Ed Fringe with their show, Sound Cistem, which they describe as an ‘exuberant verbatim show about the cisgender gaze on the transgender body’. We ran a Q&A with them to find out more.

AT: Tell us a little about you and a company and how you came to do what you do…
PC: We are Plaster Cast Theatre, a collective of young creatives based in Manchester. We are passionate about making politically engaging theatre, and aim to represent a diverse range of perspectives.
AT: Tell us about your show, what is it about…
PC: Our show is Sound Cistem, a joyous verbatim show about the cisgender gaze on the transgender body. Featuring recorded interviews with trans and non-binary people, a self-love manifesto is made through a riotous, glittering disco. This duo keep moving to reject conformity and shame, despite the current ‘transgender debate’. Through groundbreaking physical theatre, Sound Cistem asks you to see the beauty in these bodies, and your own too.
AT: What inspired it?
Sound Cistem is inspired by the experiences of Lizzie and Ayden, the two performers, and the experiences of other trans/non-binary people they interviewed.
AT: What do you hope people will take away from watching?
PC: We hope that trans and queer audiences will find recognition and solidarity in Sound Cistem, and cisgender audiences will find it educational and humanising, enabling them to empathise with an experience they might not necessarily relate to. We think everyone, regardless of their gender identity and sexuality, can enjoy the queer dance party and original, innovative soundtrack!
AT: Describe the show in 6 words…
PC: Queer, celebratory, verbatim, humanising, radical, fun!
AT: What is your experience of the fringe so far?
PC: We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive experience at the Fringe so far- the love audiences of all descriptions have shown for Sound Cistem has been incredible. We are so excited to continue sharing this brilliant, fun and important show. 
Sound Cistem runs at The Edinburgh Fringe until 26th Aug at Zoo Fringe (V186) at 21:20. Book now.
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Q & A: Cerys Bradley

Cerys Bradley and Rachel Wheeley are currently at the Ed Fringe performing The Unfortunate Bisexual. We caught up with Cerys to find out more about this show and how the Fringe has been so far…

Amie: Tell us a little about you and an artist and how you came to do what you do…

Cerys: I’m a researcher by day – I’ve just finished my PhD and now I’m working with an LGBTQ+ anti-violence charity on a research project about transphobia. I’ve been writing and performing stand up comedy, on and off, for about ten years mostly as a creative outlet. More recently, my comedy has taken on science themes, so I write parody science lectures or draw silly graphs for punchlines, that sort of thing. Rach used to work in radio and now runs the podcast Level Up Human. She was shortlisted for the BBC New Comedy Award in 2018 and performs stand up comedy about her life and what it was like to grow up at Eton College as a girl.

Amie: Tell us about your show, what is it about…

Cerys: The Unfortunate Bisexual is about bisexuality. It’s a stand up comedy show in two halves – Rachel does 25 minutes then I do 25 minutes. We both talk about our lives, coming out, and that times that we have struggled to call ourselves bisexual but also the reasons why we like being bisexual.

Amie: What inspired it?

Cerys:  I run a podcast, called the Coming Out Tapes, and interviewed Rachel on it. The show was conceived in the outtakes when we were chatting about Section 28 and how we have both, at times, been reluctant to call ourselves bisexual. We found that we had a lot of common experiences but also very different ways of being bisexual/expressing our bisexuality and we thought it would be fun to do a show together that showed that.

Amie: What do you hope people will take away from watching?

Cerys: Well, hopefully, everyone will take away the feeling that it was a funny show that they want to recommend to all their friends. Hopefully, the bisexuals in the audience will like the show and think that it’s nice to see comedy about things they can maybe relate to. We both have some material about misconceptions of bisexuality and how to push back against them so it would be nice to think that some audience members feel empowered by that. For our non bisexual audience members, maybe some will find it educational (as well as funny) – we would love it people who don’t know much walk away being a bit more aware that bisexuality exists is more than the stereotypes imply.

Amie: Describe the show in 6 words…

Cerys: Bisexuality explored in jokes, puns and graphs

Amie: What is your experience of the fringe so far?

Cerys: The fringe so far has been pretty intense. Thankfully, we’ve had each other so we can flyer together, celebrate when the show goes well and strategies when it doesn’t. Most importantly, we’ve seen a lot of amazing and brilliant theatre and comedy at the fringe so it’s been really nice to share that. We’ve both improved a lot from performing every day and also giving each other notes about our performances so, as a learning experience, this fringe has been great.

You have a couple of days left to catch this brilliant show at The Edinburgh Fringe, it runs until the 24th Aug 2019, PBH’s Free Fringe at The Street (V239) 21:00.  Book Now. 

Images © Ian Bowkett