MOOP's next talk is on Action and is back at The Spire on the 1st October. The last one sold out almost instantly, so get in there quick... There are many dynamic local people who have done extraordinary things for Brighton's community, and a few of these will take to the stage and share their uplifting stories. They'll also discuss how big changes start from small actions – and how we can all action our own ideas for social change.
STUDENT NEWSPAPER REVIEW BY ATHINA FRANTZANA, AUGUST 5, 2018
With Sisterhood, acclaimed theatre company Kriya Arts wants us to know how Joan of Arc felt and to make us realise that the world has not moved as far as many think from the time when women were burned for witchcraft. It’s time for women to wake and stand for the Sisterhood!
God chose a woman – Mary – but the church tends to forget about it. Daughters usually look after parents, because parents want their sons to be emotionless. People label women with no children useless, but sometimes it is not even a woman’s choice. Why? Sisterhood calls all women who feel oppressed in any way to stand together, to challenge the patriarchy and to spread the word for respect to each other.
Sisterhood is about three women who tell us their personal stories, their concerns and their dreams. A woman in her early 20s, who wants to escape from getting married to a man picked by her father, a woman in her 40s, who feels incomplete because of not having had a baby, and a woman in her 60s, who has lived her life the way she wanted and keeps the other two strong and united.
Three different stories unfold in the 1600s and reflect the position of women today. Not much has changed. With an inspirational song, the three women welcome the audience to their world. The simple but well-made scenery sends the audience back in time. The unexpected Back to the Futurestyle resets to modern time keep the audience engaged and looking forward to the next one. The transitions in time emphasise the minimal changes of women’s position throughout history and give you plenty of food for thought.
The natural and warm performances by all three actors will make you feel part of the Sisterhood, and identify yourself in some of their stories. The story of the middle-aged woman Alice, played by Jolie Booth (who is also the writer and producer of the play), presents perfectly the confusion of a woman who tries to become pregnant and the unfair way she has been treated in comparison to her husband. The innocence and the expressive eyes of the younger woman (Kitty, played by Coco Maertens) will make you start dreaming and planning of a better life along with her. The strength and wit of the older woman (Marjorie, played by Jules Craig) will keep you hanging on her lips for her next story and piece of advice. Finally, the atmospheric background sounds created by the eccentric musician’s live performance (Sophia Craig-Daffern) blend in perfectly with the scenery and the occasional transitions in time.
Sisterhood is a fun, touching and inspirational play with great performances and interaction with the audience. If you are looking either for a thought provoking play with good jokes and historical references or for a warm place where you want to feel like you are out with your gals chatting and drinking cocktails, Sisterhood is absolutely the show for you. The Sex & the city of the 1600s that you will not want to end!
If you are looking either for a thought provoking play with good jokes and historical references or for a warm place where you want to feel like you are out with your gals chatting and drinking cocktails, Sisterhood is absolutely the show for you.
Sisterhood - Groundbreaking Work
Great Review for Sisterhood from Fringe Review
Festival: Edinburgh Fringe
A beautifully rendered, essential play, exploring the role of male domination, misinformation, sexual abuse, and age discrimination through the lens of the past but contrasted with moments drawn from the modern day.
Three women await a dark fate within the confines of the church, discussing the fragility of their male accusers, the necessity of their male counterparts, and the injustice of their male dominated existences. It is the 1600s and these three women, of three distinctly different ages and statuses share the same path to the flames, having been accused and convicted without judge or jury as witches. Aided by a simple, austere bench contrasted with the indulgent trappings of the church, a stain glass window and an ornate but imposing silver wooden door, augmented by a transcendent soundscape of ethereal music played live on singing bowls and percussion instruments accomplished by a virtual siren whose appearance is so otherworldly as to make it appear she herself is the embodiment of the divine feminine which our wayward women discuss at length, Sisterhood spreads out before us, gently yet relentlessly unfolding, encompassing the female experience of domination and subjugation under male control.
At its core Sisterhood is a superbly written, intelligent, and essential play, masterfully portrayed by its three actresses, exploring the role of male domination, misinformation, sexual abuse, and age discrimination through the lens of the past but contrasted with moments drawn from the modern day. This feat of time travel is accomplished fluidly if not entirely seamlessly with the use of projections, black light paint, and yarn which transforms not only the actors but the entire stage, allowing the audience to see the connection between past and present. Rather than jarring the audience from the action of the play, these moments out of time and space feel natural, representing both the connectedness of women through the womb, the very seat of women’s power, but also shining a light on the very short distance we have traveled between the past and present.
The text of Sisterhood is absolutely gorgeous. With unhurried pacing, and shared moments of levity, grace, and conspiracy, our three women explore the offenses which have brought them together. I would venture to say that this is one of the best play scripts I’ve seen at the Fringe, and I was moved beyond speech by the end with the raw, potent truth of the narrative, revealing moment upon moment offenses so familiar as to feel almost commonplace to a modern viewer, and we realize the curses, prayers, and spells which these women have cast are nothing more than the wishes, wants, and desires of all women, turned against them by the priest whose power rests in his ability to suppress. Exploring the seat of women’s power, one of the women describes her postmenopausal power of invisibility not as the curse we see today but as a freedom to go where she wants and do as she pleases. Themes such as women’s prescribed roles as wife and mother and diminished role after child rearing as “empty nester” or even “spinster” are explored through thoughtful, insightful, and ultimately heartbreaking dialogue and personal anecdotes.
Brilliantly nuanced performances augment what is already a beautifully rendered, artful narrative, exploring the absence of the divine mother in the Christian myth, as these women create their own holy trinity spending their last moments praying to the mother Mary in their own metaphorical Communion.
It is clear that every element of this production was considered, save for one and it is my only complaint. I believe that this production may have mistaken their mission for their marketing and for that I cried a silent scream because this is a piece of theatre and in fact a communal experience that deserves an audience, one which this reviewer freely admits she almost missed. I would dare to call it essential.
Published August 15, 2018 by Tasty Monster Productions
In the run up to Sisterhood hitting the Edinburgh Fringe Festival on the 1st August, I've been interviewing archetype Eve to see what she has to say on our current relationship with her, how things have been going with Adam and what she thinks we need to do from here...
In the archetypal realm, do you feel that there is a mobilisation amongst the feminine archetypes? Is a paradigm shift occurring?
Well, there is a constant paradigm shift occurring. If you think of a kaleidoscope, tiny little shards of reality are constantly shifting. It seems small and inconsequential at first, but a few tiny shifts happen and then suddenly the overall image is completely different and new.
Are you despondent or tired of humanity?
I’m the original mother and no matter how awful humanity has treated me, I still love you and look forward to the day you stop blaming me for everything and return to me.
Will you forgive us?
Of course I will… You’re my child and I love you. I just want to hang out and be part of your life again.
Can we come back from here?
Yes. But the sooner the better because you’re becoming an addict. The further down this road you go the harder it is going to be to come back. You’re not ruined yet, but it’s already not going to be easy. You need to make the choice to change things and then put the work in to make it happen.
What do I need to do?
Look after yourself better. Stop thinking about yourself the whole time and start thinking about how you can be of service to others… What is your contribution? The sound of your unique note. What are you bringing to the table and how can you live that as fully as possible? Take care of your health. Eat well. Keep your home tidy and clean. Don’t spend all day in front of a screen. Go for lots of walks and be outside. Take time to sit and breath and do nothing. Get plenty of exercise. Don’t work all the time. Go on holiday. Follow your passions. Fall in love hopelessly again and again and again. Love your self and everyone around you the way I love you.
He’s tired. I haven’t seen him in a very long time.
Does he feel any love or compassion towards you?
Yes, deep down. I know he misses me, but he had a point to prove that he could do better than me and didn’t need me. And for a long time, he was right. But now he’s forgotten how to express himself without shouting and he’s shouted himself hoarse and is run down and worn out. He’s destroyed everything he loved in the name of power and he’s either going to obliterate himself or he’s going to have a nervous break down or he’s going to have to chill out. Either way he certainly can’t go on like this for much longer.
Would you ever take him back?
Our dance is as old as time and we are one thing experiencing each other subjectively as separate aspects, but we are not separate. We are the same infinity. He’s in me and I’m in him. It’s a tango… And there is no tango without him.
Have you anything else you want to say?
I have all the love in the world for you my child. But you are not my first and you will not be my last. Your time here is short, so make the most of it… What legacy do you want to leave behind? How do you want to be remembered? You’re 21 now, you’re a grown up, so who you going to be in the world?
And take more mushrooms.
Sisterhood is a new play/spell invoking the power of the divine feminine by reclaiming the deep horror of the witch wound & by spinning out our shared web of stories. @ThePleasance 1-26 August, 12.45pm #wakethesisterhood #worldwidewomensweb #Sisterhood #EdFest18
It is just a month to go until the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and I'm taking Sisterhood, my first big production that I've created, up there along with the help of an awesome group of fierce and talented women. It's terrifying and exciting. Sisterhood has been born out of a myriad of conversations with a variety of different wonderful women, both over social media and in person, about subjects like fertility, motherhood, #MeToo and gender identity.
It became clear through these conversations that something was stirring in the world of the divine feminine and that it is time for us, as HER embodiment's on earth, to get our hands dirty and stand up loud and proud for what is important to us and what we believe in. But to do this we need to know that it is safe, because it hasn't been safe for a very long time. Creating Sisterhood has been hard and scary and exposing but it felt like vital, brave and powerful work. I can't wait to take it to Edinburgh. But I do need your help.
I know it's not the first time I've asked for money this year, which makes it harder to ask again now, so I'm only doing it because I really need to. It costs so much money to take a show to the Fringe and I've nearly raised enough to cover these cost, apart from the last few, so any help you can give will be ever so warmly received. There's some super gifts for your pledges too, which means you get something out of it as well, but mainly you'll be helping me to take this show out there into the world and hopefully energise some women out there who have not yet been told that they are a unique and beautiful part of a world wide women's web, one that is waking up and growing every day in power and that we've got their backs. Let's go let them know.
This is super hard as obviously there are so many. I’d rather do a top ten if I could and I’m totally cheating here as some of these choices are double acts. I’ve gone with women I don’t know personally, other than perhaps in a vague professional way. Of course, I’ve worked closely with incredible female performers who I do know personally, women such as Jess Thom AKA Touretteshero, who is an unstoppable force for good in the world and Jess Mabel Jones who is so talented and gorgeous it makes me moist, but I think it would be best to stick with women I know less intimately to avoid any conflict of interests…
So in no particular order:
Part of the inspiration for Sisterhood has been a vision I had of a World-Wide Women’s web that feels like it is beginning to glow because Mumma Earth is waking up (and you know you’re in BIG trouble if you’ve woken up Mumma)… This web is covered in dew drops and some of the drops are lighting up gold. This golden light is then spreading along the web and lighting up other women in its wake. Betty Grumble is a BIG old beautiful globule of light on this web and she nourishes the hell out of me. Betty is a sex clown, a shaman, a huge heart and beacon of love. I adore her. Follow her on Instagram. You will not be disappointed.
I’ve only seen Olivia perform once in The Furies with Kiln theatre company. A gig inspired by Clytemnestra’s Greek revenge myth, casting her ‘FURIES’ of vengeance as front women of a rock band. Olivia was this androgynous, Noel Fielding type character who I couldn’t take my eyes off. All the Kiln ladies are awesome performers, but basically, I have a massive girl crush on Olivia and when I saw her afterwards out of costume I couldn’t believe how different she looked. So then of course I had to internet stalk her and I discovered all her work is brilliant. She’s a proper talent, a huge inspiration and I want to know her.
This is cheating as there are two to three women in this company, but I don’t care. Two Man Show is a big inspiration for Sisterhood. I loved their opening Priestess introduction to history of how patriarchy came to be and Abbi Greenland’s monologue at the end about being a ‘Man woman’ is, in my opinion, the best female monologue ever written. They can dance, they can sing, they can play a variety of instruments and their lighting, costume and set designs rock. Smashing.
Mary Higgins and Ell Potter, HOTTER
Also cheating, but still don't care... This was my favourite ‘wild card’ Edinburgh show ever. We just went because of a flyer that had been thrust into our hands and the show was a proper little treat. We laughed, we cried, we danced on the stage. It was simple and full of compassion and the two women were both authentic human beings that weren’t all ego and pomp, but big shocking pink hearts. I think the show is in Edinburgh again this year, it’s certainly touring, so if you can go see Hotter then do it.
Another woman I want to be my friend (I want them all to be my friend)... I first saw her in Islands and she was this twisted, grotesque and hilarious evil bitch. I loved the show and was shocked to discover afterwards that it had been slammed by the critiques. I mean seriously, WTF? I then discovered how big a deal she was and that she also had a one woman show on during Edinburgh Fringe that year; You’re Not Like the Other Girls Chrissy. I went to watch it the next day and what a shocking contrast. It was utterly charming, whereas Islands had been more like an episode of Bottom. I love it when performers can surprise and stretch in opposing directions like this. She’s another hero to me. And such a sweet soul.
Latest Magazine gives Sisterhood five stars for it's first outing as a work in progress scratch performance at the Marlborough Theatre as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival. Next up... Edinburgh!
We won the The Brighton Fringe Visual Arts Award in Association with HOUSE and AOH, for the Museum of Ordinary People at The Spire as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival 2018. This was an incredible surprise and a huge thanks for all the hard work that went into making this extraordinary event come together.
It's actually happening and it is so very exciting. Thanks to funding by Arts Council England the creation of Jolie Booth's new show Sisterhood is going ahead in 2018. Jolie will be working with an incredible team of women to explore the paradigm shift of moving from an analogue world to a digital one, exploring the current state of feminism during this transition and celebrates the power of female friendships and mentorships, through the eyes of three generations of women. The team are going to squirrel themselves away for a residential weekend in April to create the main body of the show ready for an initial scratch performance at the Marlborough Theatre on Sunday 22nd April at 3pm and a full preview performance in the Brighton Fringe Festival at the Marlborough Theatre on Sunday 3rd June 7.30pm. Do come along if you can.
Now let's meet the team...
Andrea Brooks (performance creator) - Director extraordinaire. Teaches MA acting at E15. Jolie met Andrea through the New Deal (a benefit scheme created by New Labour that was actually brilliant) where she was given to Jolie as a career mentor. The piece of paper she wrote out for Jolie at their first meeting went on to become her life and they've been friends and on many adventures ever since.
Caragh Kelson-Bailey (performance creator) - Creative, witty and utterly gorgeous. Jolie met Caragh for the first time when she was thirteen and Jolie found her massaging her husband under a cart with a gaggle of other thirteen year olds, who she chased away with a large noisy bell. Caragh stuck around regardless though and they've been friends and on many adventures ever since.
Alberta Jones (production designer) - Has created many stunning sets for theatre shows over the years including TESTOSTERONE's fabulous set for Rhum and Clay (which is how Jolie met her) and also Jolie's treasured set for HIP. Jolie is very excited to be working with Alberta again.
Mish Maudsley - Jolie and Mish cut their teeth together as part of a new media collective called Nothing To See Here back in the early noughties. Jolie was learning to be an actress and a producer whilst Mish was learning to be a designer and artist. Their careers have grown together and Mish designed the logo for Jolie's wedding, which is now her tattoo, Jolie's book cover for her published novel and most of the marketing print for the shows she's worked on over the years.
Jamie-Rae Tanner - Statistician extraordinaire. Jolie met Jamie via the Bristol / Glastonbury Festival crew of the Croissant Neuf stage, who are all like a second family to Jolie. They are still getting to know each other better, but have a mutual respect for each other's adventurous spirits and strong wills
Jess Bernberg - A female lighting designer recommended to Jolie by the brilliant Geoff Hense from Arcola. Jolie was looking for a brilliant and daring designer, preferably early on in her career and Jess was sent her way.
Jolie will be blogging the development of the show as the process unfurls. To date the Research and Development funding has been secured, the residential and scratch performance have been booked, the preview in the Brighton Fringe has been registered and tickets for this are now on sale, and a slot at the Pleasance Beneath at 12.45pm each day throughout the Edinburgh Fringe has been confirmed and tickets for this will be on sale shortly. It's all happening, which is terrifying and terribly exciting.
We had the most incredible time taking our fabulous production TESTOSTERONE by trans writer Kit Redstone and theatre company Rhum and Clay to the awesome Feverestival Campinas this February with help from the British Council. We have never fallen in love with so many people so quickly...
MUSEUM OF ORDINARY PEOPLE CALL OUT:
Do you have an archive / collection of documents or objects that are important to you and tell a story of everyday / ordinary life?
The Museum of Ordinary People is holding its first free Workshop Series and is looking for participants…..
This collection could be letters left behind by a loved one / diaries or documents / found objects / a collection that chronicles a migration, a loss, a great love or anything in between...
The Museum of Ordinary people is a new project that celebrates the ripples that ordinary people leave behind, forging connections between generations and gathering stories of everyday objects. Aiming to explore and document the magic and the mundanities of ordinary life.
We are developing our first series of creative workshops working with people who have an archive or collection of documents or objects to explore them and the story they tell, leading to an exhibition held as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival. The workshop course is free and involves 6 weeks of Workshops held on a Tuesday evening (beginning in April) followed by a week long exhibition.
The workshops will be part academic learning (accessible to all) and part creative practice; Involving learning about archives and collections, objects and materiality and about artists that use objects and documents in their work and will also involve learning artistic practices to decide how to create an artistic presentation of your collection to exhibit.
There is no prerequisite for artistic experience or academic level of study (this is open to everyone) but an interest in collections, museums, art and objects is desired.
We are really interested to hear from people from all walks of life and any experiences / stories / documents are welcome!
Please like our page: https://www.facebook.com/museumofordinarypeople/
And to find our more, contact Jolie or Lucy by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wed 28th Feb - VAULT Festival - London
Mon 12th - Tue 13th Feb - Transforma Space - Kazakhstan
Tue 20th - Wed 21st Feb - International Theater Festival of São Paulo - San Paulo
Sat 24th - Sun 25th Feb - FEVERESTIVAL - International Festival of Theater - Campinas
Thu 1st Mar - Marlowe Theatre - Canterbury
Fri 2nd Mar - The Place - Bedford
Sat 3rd Mar - Harlow Playhouse - Harlow
Mon 5th - Wed 7th Mar - The Old Market - Brighton
Tue 13th Mar - Exeter Phoenix - Exeter
Wed 14th Mar - The Sundial - Cirencester
Thu 15th Mar - Hertford Theatre - Hertford
16th & 17th March - Newbury Corn Exchange - Newbury
Wed 21st Mar - West End Theatre - Aldershot
Tues 27th March - Norden Farm - Maidenhead
Thurs 29th & Fri 30th Mar - MAC - Birmingham
Sat 31st Mar - Lawrence Batley Theatre - Huddersfield
Tue 3rd Apr - Greenwich Theatre - Greenwich
Mon 30th Apr - Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre - Hartlepool
Tue 1st May - Saltburn Arts Theatre - Saltburn
Wed 2nd May - Alnwick Playhouse - Alnwick
Thu 3rd May - Arts Centre - Washington
Fri 4th May - The Witham - Durham
Sat 5th May - Bishop Auckland Town Hall - Bishop Auckland
Thu 10th May - New Theatre Royal - Portsmouth
What a rollercoaster ride of a month August turned out to be... I've just got back from a break post Edinburgh (which I always book in each year otherwise you just don't stop when you get back) and in a position now to be able to look back at that month objectively, I have to say it was the hardest Fringe show I have ever produced. Why? Well, partly the ticket sales seemed down somewhat across the board. Apparently the Pleasance sales were good - possibly even up - but a news report I overheard said audience numbers across the festival were down, especially in the last week. Which isn't surprising really considering the current economic climate. But the main reason why this show was difficult is because it is right at the vanguard of change. And that's exciting of course, the whole point of theatre as far as I'm concerned, but it's lonely at the vanguard and bloody hard work, I'm the most broken I have ever been after a Fringe. And this time the vanguard was less lonely then it was when I was here last time with Backstage in Biscuit Land. Back in 2014 we were the only high profile show exploring disability, along with The Vacuum Cleaner, also at Pleasance, with his incredible production Mental, exploring invisible disability. This year there were at least five high profile shows exploring transgender narratives. This meant that sometimes we heard punters say things like "Oh we've already booked in to see a 'Trans' show." Competition is healthy and the other trans narrative shows at the Fringe this year were great. Together our voices are louder, but it was still competition for ticket sales.
But it isn't about ticket sales is it? It can't be or we would never do the Fringe. No, the reasons for doing the Fringe as far as I'm concerned are these...
Edinburgh success checklist;
• Tighten the production - The production significantly tightened and developed during our month long run. The actual show developed and meant it had settled in and we were ready to hit the floor running during the British Council Showcase week at the end of the month.
• Become clearer on how to market the production - Also the marketing settled in as well. The best market research a producer can do is go out and flyer for a few weeks at Edinburgh, you'll soon find out after a while if what you're saying to punters matches what is written on the flyer. You discover what the right thing to say is to hook in audiences. Every year I get back from Edinburgh and re-write the show's blurb.
• Have industry folks talk about the show and want to book us - We managed to get the industry talking about the show. There's one major way of doing this and that's to let everyone have a comp who asks for it. That does start coming out of your own pocket eventually, but I think it is an expense that's worth paying. Industry people talk and they will talk about the show. They are the go to people in their circles of friends who are visiting the festival for information on what shows to go and see. They will talk when they get home. They then will also turn into future bookings for tours. Our comps ended up costing us around £1000, but this will be covered if just one or two of these venues go onto book us, and they already have.
• Receive a positive buzz from audiences - We received a standing ovation nearly every day and people tweeted about the show afterwards. The buzz definitely got out there. This is thanks to a mixture of postering, flyering, press and the industry buzz I mentioned earlier. Industry people tend to tweet, so they definitely helped with our online presence. Another plus to flyering for a show as a producer is you bump into people who saw a performance in the days to come and you can ask them what they thought and how they would sell the show to other audiences? And obviously at the end of each performance we asked the audience to tell their friends about the show and to tweet about it.
• Get good reviews for future touring - For this you need a PR person. You can't do PR on your own. A good PR person knows the big journalists personally and understands how all the broadsheets, smaller publications and blogs work, so that they can tailor the way they pitch your show to attract as many of the right publications as possible. Reviews do and don't matter. At the actual Fringe they help with morale and depending on the publication can help a bit with ticket sales, but even a good review or even a whole article from Lyn Gardner does not a full house make. The main use for reviews is for use on your flyers and posters afterwards. With reviews, it is more about the quality of the publication then about the stars. A four star review from Lyn Gardner needs to be up on your poster before and above a five star review from a blogger no one has heard of. If you're not sure which of your review publications are the most prestigious, look at which ones other companies are using, especially companies you think of as a rung or two above you on the professional ladder.
• Earn a 'sold out' laurel - We sold out a good few shows, but we didn't actually achieve a 'sold out' laurel this year. The sell-out status of your show is determined a few weeks after your Fringe box office payout has been sent to you at the end of September. The show would have had to sell 95% of its capacity across the entire registered run (excluding previews) from both the Fringe box office allocation and the venue box office allocation in order to qualify. The copyrighted logo was introduced to combat a growing tendency for shows to advertise a "total sell-out in 2009" when, in fact, they had simply sold out for one night of the run, perhaps when they stuffed the auditorium full of their family and friends. It is a bit arbitrary still though as a 50 seater sell out run receives the same laurel as a 150 seater sell out run. But every little logo helps, especially when it comes to designing your flyers and posters.
• Win an award - We won the Indies award for Best Theatre, Family, Musical or Dance Show at the Pleasance, Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2017, which was great. Awards are like reviews, they help your morale during the Fringe and they are another selling point to promoters and audiences. Even an award nomination is worth talking about.
• Be part of the British Council Showcase and attract international theatre promoters - The showcase week went exceptionally well and was full of surprises. We had been expecting the show to be of interest to the English speaking delegates from places like Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand, but to our surprise it was very much taken up by the South American delegates - from all over South America - and the South East Asian delegates too. These delegates saw the show and then expressed an interest in wanting to book us to bring our production to their countries, which is very exciting news.
Off the back of all this I will now be able to build a national and international tour. This means I am certainly chuffed. It was hard work, but we got what we needed. And the show feels in better shape now then it did when we headed up to Edinburgh at the start of August. Which is the main thing.
Genre: Feminism, Verbatim, Physical Theatre. Venue: Paradise in Augustine's. Festival: Edinburgh Fringe
The Low Down
A new verbatim play devised by Mary Higgins and Ell Potter, HOTTER platforms the voices of everyone - from grannies to trans women to teenage girls. By drawing on their own experiences as well as collating the stories of others, HOTTER presents a nuanced and uncensored portrayal of the human body. The show fuses recordings, movement and original music to explore how our bodies can make us both laugh and cry.
This was a punt on an unknown venue, with an unknown theatre company to see a proper fringe show. It had been recommended to me through a conversation with a group of sassy, creative, vibrant twenty-year-old women. We enjoyed one of those rare and nourishing conversations that gets right into the nuts and bolts of things, in this case the subject had been about gender, and it had led them to recommend this show to me, so I decided to trust them on it. Which in turn led to me taking a whole gang of friends, made up of mixed genders, to go and see Hotter.
The show is simply staged. We enter the auditorium and there's already two young women striking a pose on the stage adorned in brightly coloured clothes. Hanging along the ceiling is bunting made out of cartoon pictures of vaginas, which we discover later is called 'Cunting'. The show opens with the women mouthing along verbatim to interview recordings about whether the interviewees preferred being cold or hot. The two performers are instantly charismatic, funny and endearing. They mouth along to the words perfectly, which sets me at ease. It showed commitment to their craftsmanship and this allowed me to relax... It wasn't going to be awful. The piece opened feeling like Creature Comforts and was just as funny. But this was only the beginning.
What unfolds before us is a colourful collage of questions, reflections and discoveries about the female experience and about living with a body that doesn't always feel like it's your own. Some moments are funny, some moments are painfully sad and some are deliciously surreal. But the whole piece feels truthful and beautifully washed with brightly coloured playfulness. Overall it leaves you with an overwhelming sense of celebration.
Mary Higgins and Ell Potter are endearing performers and they remain committed throughout the show to the sometimes peculiar choices they've made with the piece, but their commitment to every choice means you feel right behind them every step of the way and in turn feel supported as an audience member to go there with them. I was genuinely impressed with the confidence they had in their delivery. Even when being vulnerable and revealing their cracks to us, it was delivered in a strong and confident way. It was a pleasure to watch them work.
The show ends with a wonderful moment of festivity and elation. This left us all with a strong sense of unity and generosity towards both ourselves and each other. This show is by women, but it isn't just about being a woman. Anyone who has experienced having a body will enjoy this show. Bodies are complicated places to be and we all left the theatre feeling we had laughed, cried and celebrated our own bodies in a room full of other people doing the very same thing. It was a brilliant fringe moment and I highly recommend getting out the big venues and going and taking a punt on this.
Genre: Children's Theatre, Clowning.Venue: Pleasance. Festival: Edinburgh Fringe
The Low Down
Climate change is massive and Bees aren’t... Multi award-winning theatre company, ThisEgg, invites you to save the world – one bee at a time. A new comedy for children and adults alike, co-produced by Pleasance.
This is the first piece of children's theatre I've been to this year and the bar has been set incredibly high. The show doesn't feel like it has been written for children, it feels like it could just as easily have been written for adults. The educational information is expertly woven in amongst the humour and there are facts in there that I'd never heard before, meaning this show taught me things I didn't already know about bees, both about what they do and how catastrophic it is going to be if or when we lose them.
All three of the performers are adorable in their own ways. Josie Dale-Jones has a deliciously sadistic edge and the makings of a colourful little dictator, Greta Mitchell feels like she's just walked out of the TV set and into your living room from CBeebies, and Joe Boylan brings delightful clowning to the stage as a giant huggable bee. The dynamic between the three of them is great fun to watch.
The premise of the show is funny, but I don't want to give too much away. It's a simple and effective set up. The way the storyline, characters and bee facts unfold is smooth... Nothing feels shoehorned in. They deal seamlessly with issues like people being scared of bees due to getting stung, by demonstrating how much worse it is for the bee, whose insides are ripped out along with their sting and they also point out that only female bees sting anyway - which I didn't know. Joe is a great clown and his bee interpretation keeps you chortling throughout. If you entered the theatre scared of bees you'll leave feeling like all you want to do is give them a great big cuddle.
It's a simplistic piece without too much set. A flip chart and some party hats are pretty much all they need, but with these few items they create a medley of colourful moments. This show feels fresh and contemporary. Not at all what I had been expecting. There wasn't a hint of condescension or dumbing down, pitched perfectly between adult humour and younger silliness, interlaced with clear useful and pretty worrying information. But it also comes with answers for what can be done to help, which is refreshing. Adult theatre so often poses problems, but then leaves the audience to figure out how to make a difference. This show has an answer for how to help and gives it to you... Quite literally.
There are genuine moments of belly laughter throughout, from both the little ones in the audience and the adults alike. And I'm pretty sure everyone left that theatre a fully fledged signed up member of the Bee Party.
We are creeping closer to the half way point of this year's Edinburgh Festival and it has been the usual rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, but this year's fringe really has been an eye opening experience for my team here at TESTOSTERONE. Having produced a number of different productions at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival over many years now, this has been the first time that a show my awesome team and I have flyered for has caused such a visibly disdainful reaction. TESTOSTERONE has proven to be much more divisive than I think we had perhaps naively expected. Although TESTOSTERONE is not simply a trans narrative, but an objective look at the sometimes toxic world of masculinity through the eyes of a new man, around one in ten tables of punters start slipping each other sideways glances as soon as you mention there's a transgender person at the centre of this show. Some people are outright telling us this show is not for them as soon as we mention this.
There are many productions with transgender narratives at the Fringe this year. The overwhelming difference between TESTOSTERONE and the other shows being presented is that our production is not about being transgender or transitioning. That does appear as part of Kit's story, but our focus is one step beyond that, transitioning has happened and is a thing of the past. What we're interested in is what then happens once a FTM transgender person becomes immersed in the world of masculinity? What is the difference between the two gender worlds that they have experienced? What has Kit learnt? What has been gained and what has been lost? What does it mean to be a man? The perspective of TESTOSTERONE has far more in common with Grayson Perry's The Descent of Man than it does with the other trans narrative shows at the Fringe this year. Perry observes in his ground breaking book that “Gender inequality is a huge issue for all of us and… the world would be a better place without it.” “I often look at men and think that they seem to be victims of this drive to perform their gender. What are they afraid of? Why do they play the man so extremely, whether with muscles or knowledge or wit?” “Boys are taught to be brave but in quite a specific way, mainly when facing physical danger on the sports field or in the playground. But what about emotional danger?” TESTOSTERONE is an almost feminist, light unpacking of this big and crucial issue. It's not providing answers, merely signposting theatre goers who might not have heard of Perry's argument to the beginning of the conversation.
But because there's a trans person at the centre of this provocation it has proven to be divisive. We knew it would be, but it is interesting to experience this out in the field. I've said for years now that if it can be true to say that the future exists in a science lab somewhere then it can also be true to say that the future of culture exists at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. When I came here three years ago with Backstage in Biscuit Land by Touretteshero, the theatre and entertainment landscape across the UK presented a noticeably different face to the one we see now. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe itself was significantly less accessible, fewer theatres around the UK had considered how a person who uses a wheelchair might gain access to their stage - let alone get around the dressing rooms or have use of an accessible toilet from backstage. Comedians were still making inappropriate jokes about mental health and disability. It was socially normally for people to use discriminative language as part of their everyday speech. Three years later and any comedians making the same kind of jokes now get lampooned for it, language on the whole has been cleared up, and - in no small part influenced by the success of Backstage in Biscuit Land -many festivals around the UK are now much more on it with regards to Access, including the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. There's still a long way to go obviously and it's not all down to Touretteshero, but Jess Thom's work has been a big driving force. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe implemented a three year access improvement business plan off the back of a meeting and discussion they had with Jess about her problems with getting around the city. The Pleasance Courtyard, which presented Backstage in Biscuit Land, has gone through a redevelopment and access has been at the heart of their improvements. Venues the show toured to throughout the UK have been able to push access to the fore - many of these local authority run, and often one of the last front line services being offered by councils and often the last department thinking about access and inclusion at the moment. By presenting a show like Backstage in Biscuit Land and inviting Councillors to see the show, venues have been able to demonstrate the need to implement a host of step changes in improving access and inclusion at their venue and throughout the council as well as helping cement their importance as a necessary front line service. Last of all, relaxed performances and access needs have become woven into the very fabric of theatre making. The culture around access in this country has noticeably shifted since one little production of Backstage in Biscuit Land nervously wheeled out onto the stage for the first time at the Pleasance Above in 2014.
And we are already seeing the same with trans issues of inclusion at this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Many of the venues now have gender neutral toilets. I keep hearing the same conversation where ever I go... Men complaining they have to queue more now. Women pleased they no longer have to queue for so long. But no one really outright objecting. People get used to things very quickly... That's why we've done so well as a species. We adapt. In three or four years time this will almost certainly be the norm all over the country. And the sneers and up turned noses being experienced by my flyer team and I at the moment is simply paving the way for future trans performers who will be flyering this very same courtyard years from now without it being any kind of big deal at all. Adapting to be more inclusive and thoughtful of the needs of other people on the fringes of society is one of the best things about being British. We do it. And I think part of the reason why we are one of the more inclusive societies in the world is because we have the Edinburgh Fringe Festival driving this along. And then we take that drive and promote this inclusion all over the globe through the work of the British Council. It feels great to be part of this pollination process and it gives me the strength to continue flyering regardless of the rain and intermittent sour faces. We are paving the way for future smiles.