Review: And The Rest of Me Floats

By Outbox Theatre
The Rose Lipman Building (Dalston, London)
4*

It has been a phenomenal year across London for performance platforming trans and non-binary voices and stories.  From Summer in London at Stratford East, to Joan at Ovalhouse, ‘gender fierce’ Chekhov at the Young Vic and Emma Frankland’s solo show at BAC.  Then Thursday night saw simultaneous press nights for both Bullish by Milk Presents and And the Rest of Me Floats, by Outbox Theatre. I attended the latter. All of this work has, across the theatre landscape, created an ongoing celebration of gender, non-conformity and the LGBTQ+ umbrella. Outbox Theatre certainly continue that celebration with rambunctious abandon.

Showing at the Rose Lipman building, an old community centre in between Haggerston and Dalston Junction, it was my first time at this venue, but it was well suited to this effervescent show. A show that takes a frank look at the way in which gender (and sexuality) are still policed by individuals and society as a whole. A piece, to me, that felt like a song, broken in to verses by the chorus. A chorus marked by the performers shouting out different ages, and occasionally something that happened at that age, sometimes pertaining to gender, sometimes not. The verses in turn giving voice to one of the performers and their story. A range of stories, some positive, some not – but a broad spectrum of experience which grips us throughout. Director, Ben Burrata has created arresting images across the piece – a torch shining on naked bodies, lipstick drawn on cellophane, red balloons: single moments that linger in your thoughts and memory,  bringing you back to the show long after it’s ended.

The real highlight for me in this piece were the songs, performed live by the company, I hadn’t anticipated that they were suddenly about to burst in to full song with guitars, piano and drums, so it was delight when they did. Elijah W Harris performs a new rendition of Teenage Dirtbag, at first moving, but soon becomes hugely uplifting when the company join in. And Miiko Toiviainen sings Bird Gerhl – an affecting moment’s pause in the piece, a pause for reflection on all that’s gone so far. It falls at a perfect place in the hour long show.  The musicality of this piece is what makes it a winning night out.  At the end I was pulled up on stage for a dance in what felt like a true celebration, and I was more than ready to be up there with the performers.

Though autobiographical, never self indulgent, the stories have been carefully crafted to resonate with any audience, regardless of gender identity or sexuality, and the messages are clear and eloquently presented, carrying us through laughter, tears all the way to the grand finale.

Book Now – On at The Rose Lipman Building until 23rd Sept 2017, before heading to the Birmingham Rep on 13th / 14th November.

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Interview: Ingo Cando

Ingo Cando is performing at the second of our curated evenings at The Camden People’s Theatre’s, Come As You Are Festival.  For anyone that’s ever attended a Wotever World event, you may be aware that Ingo is the founder of Wotever. We grabbed them last week to find a little more out about them, their work and what they’ll be bringing along on Wednesday 20th September.

AT: Tell us a little about yourself and your work…

IC: I’ve always done stuff, I’ve always created stuff. My mum says I haven’t changed since I was two years old, I’ve always had a streak for curiosity and moving forward with big blue eyes in the sense that anything could happen-anything is possible. And that brought me to London almost 20 years ago. I’ve also been doing a lot of things for LGBT organisations, women’s rights movement and a theatre company in Sweden. So after a while of being in London and having the chance to start up something, I had lots of thoughts and ideas about what I wanted to do. When Wotever started it was about creating a space and a place for people who were like me, we were all sorts of dykes, gay, straight, trans and everyone was in some sort of transition. Transitioning has always been a really big thing for me as in that we always move. We move from young to older, uneducated to educated, from child to being parents, we move countries, move within our bodies – one gender to another gender and/or between sexualities. So doing something in London has always felt really right. Wotever started based on being a place where people could grow and learn, be educated or educate. Skills sharing on the dance floor a little bit, by being yourself and meeting other people that aren’t like yourself, but you learn from them and they learn from you. Over the years we’ve done that with parties, club nights and performance. We work with people who have things to say. That’s my key thing. For me there’s something important about sharing stories. That single story. We all have something to say. We all have importance in this world. At Wotever World we give space and platforms for stories.

AT: And what are you bringing to Come As You Are Festival?

IC: My next big project is about to start and it’s been in the pipeline for well over a year, and I’m going to talk a little bit about that at The Come As You Are Performance, and it’s based on strategies for survival. It’s a take on my own struggles, (and some from those around me). We’re living in times where things are not only tough for people but it’s also a whole spectrum of information and fragility. Sometimes we have so many things we have to live up to, it really is overwhelming, and by not feeling okay with yourself and not finding those moments that make us go out there and think ‘Fuck I’m amazing, I’m ok, I’m beautiful, I’m totally aligned to who I am and what I’m doing and it’s brilliant. There’s so many things and issues that put us down, that sometimes it’s hard to get up in the morning. So what is it that makes us survive? What is it that makes us get up and start the day? What makes us motivated and move forward?

It’s a story inspired by my experiences as an events organiser, and having been overwhelmed what it takes for some people to come and when they do what they’re sharing and what happens. Because for me not one person is not valid, everyone is needed. So it’s going to be my thoughts about what makes this survive and what makes this continue.

And where do you see your work going from the performance at CPT?

The big project that this will become in the coming months is one where I’m talking to a variety of people, that not necessarily by age, but by wisdom, by information and insight have come to the place where they- ‘we’re living, we’re doing things’ and I suppose to look at what it is that makes us keep living and keep doing things. And I will talk to people that are creating stuff of value for other people around us. People that are putting themselves out there and saying ‘yes I believe in this!’.

Book now to see their piece as part of Raising Our Voices at Come As You Are Festival.

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Interview: Jezza Donovan

Jezza is a performer, producer and writer, and will be bringing ‘The View from Queer’ to Camden People’s Theatre (CPT) as part of LGBTQ Arts’ curated evenings at the Come As You Are festival.  We grabbed them for a quick chat this afternoon to find out about their work, growing up queer and what they’ll be bringing to the CPT on the 13th and 20th September.

AT:  Tell us a little about you and how you came to work in theatre…

JD: I was always singing and dancing and performing as a child, I think it was in my blood in someway.  I was quite a nervous child, but when I was performing I was okay.  I always remember my mum telling me that I had to change nurseries because I didn’t like my first one, her friend recommended that I went to her friend Sheila’s, so I did and I got on very well with everyone.  But I was still very nervous, so Auntie Sheila would stand at the door in the morning holding my art bib (which was bright red), and she used to say ‘Morning Jeremy you can wear this and you can be Superman’, so I did, for the first half hour, and then I’d chill out a bit and just be me. I think some of it was my queerness, I was very different to other children, and of course at that age you don’t have a filter – you just be you. I think a lot of people rejected me, thinking I was a strange child.

Years later, I had a moment when I was doing a school play, I hadn’t been called for rehearsal so was told I could watch or go to the library.  I was on my way to the library when I suddenly turned to go to the rehearsal, there was this invisible draw back to the place where theatre was being made.  And I always had a connection with it. Being cast in things at school was an uphill struggle, but I persevered, and I found myself studying theatre and drama at university. I always wanted to create and tell stories.

After university I toured doing children’s musicals, panto and comedy and I found I had a bit of a knack for it.  And I loved making people laugh. I then worked in theatre and education, and ten years ago that was a really good way of supporting yourself.  I loved that work, being creative and sharing it with people, ensuring as many people benefitted from it as possible.  Following that I went back and trained at the Actors Company where I did a year of formal training; we were a company aged between 22 and 70 years old, which was an amazing group of people.

AT: And you produce sometimes too – how did you come to do that?

JD: In 2012 I came to producing, kind of by accident, when some friends of mine in a theatre company were putting a show on at The Bridewell Theatre, and a lady called Liz, who was an actor in the show, said I was good at organising and asked if I could help her out.  Then she set up her own theatre company and asked me to help, when got married two years ago and moved away, she said to me ‘you can do this’ – so I took on producing for that company by myself.

AT: And what do you enjoy most about theatre?

JD: I enjoy comedy, I enjoy making people laugh and giving them a really good experience.  And treating people fairly – it’s a rough industry for anyone. I work profit share a lot of the time, but ensuring that the work we do is as egalitarian as it can be.

In recent years I’ve worked a lot in the LGBTQ+ realm, doing a lot of stuff with Diversity Role Models and Gendered Intelligence in schools and with businesses, but I realise how this work has influenced my creativity; I need to put more of my energy in to telling queer stories in theatre.  And then this opportunity came along to work with LGBTQ Arts at CAYA, as well as having just been accepted on to the Soho Theatre Writers Lab – so it feels as though things are starting to happen, and I’m being more involved with queer people in the arts. And to also keep throwing ladders where I can, to make sure other people get those opportunities as well.

AT: And what are you bringing to The Come As You Are Festival?

JD: I am bringing a point of view, a story.  And I’ve wrestled with it, thinking ‘Am I interesting enough to tell my own story?’ But I thought, if someone else said that to me, I’d say of course you are! So I’m trying to give myself that encouragement, to tell a story that people will be entertained by and learn from. And the art of performing on your own, because I enjoy doing it: monologues, stand-up – staring with myself really.  But I want to bring an honesty, a frankness and humour to being queer, non-binary, that will be useful as much as it is entertaining.

BOOK NOW to see Jezza perform ‘The View From Queer’ as part of Camden People’s Theatre’s ‘Come As You Are’ Festival on the 13th and 20th September at 9pm.

Follow: @jeremydonovan82 on Twitter and @LGBTQArts for more updates.

JEZZA

 

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Raising Our Voices from LGBTQ Arts is an Arts Council England Funded Scheme.

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.

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Answers © Jenifer Toksvig 2017

 

Interview: Ashley Winter

Ashley Winter is the co-founder of Attila Theatre, who are currently performing Skin Deep at the Camden Fringe. We caught up with her to find out about  her work, Attila Theatre and their latest show. 
AT: Hi Ashley, tell us a little about you and how you came to work in the arts…
AW: I completed a degree in Film & Theatre at the University of Reading back in 2011 and after that, went on to train with Fourth Monkey. I have never been the type to just want to be an actor though, I knew I wanted to make my own work so I teamed up with fellow Reading grad Christopher Montague and started a theatre company!
AT: And how did Attila theatre start?
AW: After finishing uni, Chris and I wanted to make some work so we applied to perform at the Reading Fringe Festival in 2013. We cast other Reading graduates and rehearsed in living rooms and borrowed rehearsal space and made our first show Shoot. Get Treasure. Repeat. By Mark Ravenhill. It was very student-y and on-the-nose but I’m proud of it nonetheless! We started with very little idea about our mission as a company- choosing to see what naturally interested us as theatre-makers and we’ve come to the conclusion that we’re very invested in telling stories about women in ‘traditionally male realms’. A male impersonator in a cabaret, a female video gamer, a female serial killer.

AT: Your latest piece, Skin Deep is currently performing at Camden Fringe, what inspired this piece?
AW: My obsession with Erzsébet Báthory! She’s endlessly fascinating and contradictory but is still a relatively unknown historical figure in popular culture. I also wanted to create a female-led piece that prominently features a lesbian relationship, but isn’t defined by that relationship- it’s incidental.
 
AT: Why is it an important piece for 2017?

AW: The play explores gender inequality, social inequality and what happens to affection and love when the difference between upper and lower class is so extreme. It’s a new take on a history play about a powerful woman who nevertheless is constrained by the context in which she lives. The issues that faced this Hungarian noble in the 16th Century are surprisingly (& depressingly) contemporary.

AT: What do you hope audiences will take away from watching?
AW:I hope they are entertained primarily, and maybe that they might take a look at this interesting historical figure in a different way. 
 
AT: What’s next for you? 

AW: For Attila, we’re developing a new show called Another Castle which is about mental health & video games, working with animation, projection & physical theatre which is super exciting.

For myself, I’m keen to work with more theatre-makers in the LGBTQIA+ community. I’m dismayed at the lack of representation of the community at large and in particular the lack of queer female stories and I would love to establish a collective (or link up with existing groups) of queer female artists and start to make work that reflects our experiences.

Skin Deep is on at The Camden Fringe until this Sunday, 6th August.  Book now. 

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Guest Blog: Chris Woodley

The truth hurts. This summer I will be taking my solo show The Soft Subject (A Love Story) to The Edinburgh Fringe Festival. My company Hyphen Theatre is making their Fringe debut with is a pop fueled autobiographical love-story looking at drama teaching and mental health.

It took me about six months during the writing process to admit my true feelings about where my mental health was at after my first long term relationship ended. The Soft Subject was originally meant to be about drama teaching and the value of arts education. I have been a drama teacher in secondary schools for a decade. I love it, but sometimes I find it so incredibly formulaic. The show tries to playfully explore this in a one hour five-part drama lesson.

If you’ve ever taught drama in school you will know the highs and lows of writing reviews on theatre in less than a thousand words on Blood Brothers, The Women In Black, Coram Boy, Warhorse, The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time the list goes on and on. It can be so incredibly dry. I’m not afraid to say that I find students reducing a piece of art into marks out of 40 in a drama review desperately dull. Is this really how theatre should be assessed in an exam? My show also looks at the power of theatre with young people engaging in performances that have changed their lives. As an openly gay teacher I’ve always directed shows on sexuality like The Laramie Project and pushed to have a dialogue about LGBTQ rights in my lessons. I invited my partner at the time, who was a theatre producer, to school plays and Christmas shows. If you’ve ever had to teach Performing Arts Business, it’s super useful just to get your boyfriend to teach it. Done. Tick.

During my first year of teacher training I took my students to a DV8 show about sexuality and on the train home quite unexpectedly my A level student came out to the whole class. Having LGBTQ visibility in schools allowed other students to come out and discuss their sexuality in a safe space. I love it when theatre has made a difference to the student’s lives. But the most important part of making this show for me has been to present a truthful snap shot of my teaching experience as honestly as I can. Teachers are not machines. When my relationship ended after six years I really wasn’t very well. I didn’t return to school for weeks, and I went into a depression. I won’t spoil the ending, but working on the show has been exceptionally liberating. I’ve learnt that often the things you are afraid to say, or embarrassed to say are usually the most interesting things. Sometimes the truth isn’t for everyone, but in this show I’ve signed up for it, so I need to get on with teaching my drama lesson.

The Soft Subject (A Love Story) by Chris Woodley 3rd- 28th August Assembly Hall. @ImChrisWoodley #TheSoftSubject @HyphenTC @AssemblyFest

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Interview: Ash Palmisciano

Summer in London is now in full flow at Stratford East, we caught up with a couple of the cast members to find out how it’s been going for them.  First up we chatted to actor Ash Palmisciano about his experiences of working on the show.

AT: Tell us a little about you and your journey in to the arts:

AP: Ever since I can remember I’ve always wanted to entertain people. From being the class clown to providing my grandparents with front room shows. Life got in the way and I completely lost my confidence as a performer. A few years ago I attended a fantastic course at Central school of Speech and Drama organised especially for trans actors by the amazing charity Gendered Intelligence which completely restored my confidence and gave me a real boost to pursue my dream of acting. From there I went on to have some great auditions and even got a small role in BBC’s Boy Meets Girl.

AT: How did you get involved with Summer in London?

AP: So I noticed an advert which was shared on Facebook looking for actors that happen to be transgender. I’m not keen on falling into the trap of just playing trans roles but it sounded like an exciting and new project. I met with Rikki Beadle-Blair at the BAFTA building one afternoon and had a nice chat. He meets his cast first and then writes the script which was a really new and exciting process for me. I wasn’t sure how it went at the time but I’m guessing it went ok as he offered me a part. 🙂

AT: What’s it about?

AP: It’s a romcom following themes of friendship, love, loyalty, homelessness and gender. The central story is four boys living on their luck in London. They all fall for the same girl ‘Summer’ and each take their turn to try and win her heart. This running alongside a romance between one of the boys’ exes Justine and Summer’s life coach Joan. On the surface it’s a fun universal narrative but really it explores all human emotions from heart break and love to friendship and loyalty. All the cast and characters happen to be transgender but it’s not an education on what it means to be trans. It’s about making the audience forget about the trans label and just see the human.

AT: Why’s it an important show for 2017?

AP: It’s so incredibly important to keep working towards seeing trans characters and actors on stage. It’s about educating and normalising what it means to be transgender. The audience should come away from this realising there’s no difference between themselves and a trans person. It’s also massively important for other trans people to start seeing characters they recognise and can relate to. This play also challenges gender which I think is extremely relevant right now.

AT: What do you hope for audiences to take from the show?

AP: I really hope audiences have a fun and fantastic night out and leave having forgotten that the cast were transgender and just remembering seeing good actors perform. This will help normalise what it means to be trans and I hope that every person can relate to each of the characters.

AT: Are you working on anything else at the mo, or what are you working on next?

AP: I’m in the really early stages of developing a new piece of work with my friend Jon Brittain the writer of Rotterdam. We’re working on a one man show exploring themes of masculinity. The show is going to be part autobiographical documenting my life entering the ”male world” as a trans man. It’s going to be a comedy touching on some serious issues around masculinity. I’m so excited to get working on it and we’ll be showing it as a work in progress later this year at the Birmingham Rep.

Thank you so much Ash for your time today.

You only have a couple of days left to catch this show, which closes on Saturday 29th July 2017 – so be sure to see it while you can! Booking.

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