Jolie will be sharing her thoughts, reflections and experiences throughout the Fringe.
Wednesday 31st August
As my mother and I reclined in the bubbling rooftop hydropool at the Sheraton Hotel after a week of performing and attending great theatre, we mused on the highlights and themes emerging this year from the rollercoaster that is the Edinburgh Fringe Festival;
We observed there’d been a healthy number of delightful heart warming solo shows by men which we’d enjoyed, such as Daniel Kitson’s Mouse, James Rowland’s Team Viking, and Scott Turnbull’s Where Do All the Dead Pigeons Go?
We’d caught a couple of well executed macabre productions that had tantalised our gothic taste buds, namely the Ghost Quartet and Kill the Beast: He Had Hairy Hands.
I’d been disappointed to see a huge drop in the number of disabled led work or shows about mental health and the body, after last year’s high water mark of productions around these themes. Perhaps I just missed them, but the only one I got to see this year was the thought provoking The Inevitable Heartbreak of Gavin Plimsole.
“There’d been a lot of vaginas” mused my mother, who I’d accidentally taken to see Lucy McCormick: Triple Threat, only to discover it had been a little more ‘out there’ than I’d previously expected. Helen Duff’s; Come with Me and Torch had also added to the feminist quota.
But aside from the strong womanly vibe we’d experienced a shockingly loud call to protest. E15 – raising awareness about the UK housing crisis, Jonny and the Baptist: Eat the Poor – listing the millionaire celebrities who are guilty of tax evasion , World Without Us – a bleak look at what trace will be left of us once all humanity and even the earth has gone, Us/Them – a childhood view on terrorism and Bucket List – a young woman’s call to arms, to name but a few, but the top two for both my mother and I were Mark Thomas’ The Red Shed and Counting Sheep. Moments I will never forget are standing beside my Mum, a lifetime member of the National Union of Teachers, singing Solidarity Forever, led by Mark Thomas, as tears stream down our faces. Or holding my Mum’s hand amidst a violent protest led by guerrilla protestors in sheep masks at Counting Sheep, being handed foam bricks to throw at pretend riot police, and me thinking to myself I hope with all my heart I never get caught in a place such as this with my Mum, feeling as if all I want to do is throw her to the floor, cover her with my body and protect her from the harsh realities of the world.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, if it is true that the future already exists somewhere in a science lab, then the future of culture exists already at the Edinburgh Fringe. And so all I’m saying is, the establishment had better watch out… And the vaginas are getting angry.
Sunday 28th August
Victories and Lessons Learned
What an incredible experience that was. And yet over far too quickly. A week feels like nothing at the Fringe, especially when you are used to the full month run. Hardly scratched the surface with shows I wanted to see, just got in my stride with the performing. Am over the moon with how the run went though. The reviews were beautiful and the feedback in general was heart warming. People kept describing the show as being like a big hug, which is what was aimed for. We could have had bigger audiences, but the ones that came were the right size for the intimacy of the show and not so small it felt uncomfortable. Those who saw it went out of their way say how much they’d enjoyed the performance and how the show was different to anything they’d seen before. Everyone wanted to see more. There’s been interesting suggestions coming through for further developments. It seems that no one is satisfied with this being the end of the journey for HIP. Some people want to see it as a time duration piece, others want to see it as a phone app, like Pokemon Go, where you tour around Brighton discovering aspects of Anne’s life. There are additional design ideas too that will be interesting to develop, exploring different ways to present the archive. Plus there’s a book in all this, about the whole adventure. Much therefore to be getting on with. But before I forget, it would be wise to reflect on the lessons learnt from this run and some of these points might also be useful for readers…
- You have to be in the right venue. The kind of work I was presenting was more suited to the Summerhall programme and there wasn’t an existing audience for it at ZOO. The ZOO spaces are super, they’ve been delightful to work with and they looked after us well, but it just felt that HIP was different to everything else they were advertising, which meant we weren’t picking up extra audiences from people in and around the space.
- Part of the reason the main venues do so well with bringing in punters is because they have large enclosed areas where it is easy to flyer. Flyering on the streets is exhausting and reaps little reward. You have to be able to talk to the person rather than shove a flyer in their hand and you can only really do this if they are sitting down. But you can’t flyer in other people’s venues and audiences don’t like to travel far. You need them sitting down and next to where the show will be taking place.
- Paying a PR company is invaluable and it’s worth paying for a bunch of those ‘official’ looking posters . They look much more professional than the posters in shop windows and you don’t have time to put posters up once you get up there anyway, so you invariably end up with a pile of them in your flat that haven’t even been used. It’s worth spending the marketing budget on a few official posters and then just a few printed for the venues to distribute on their walls. Then it is all about the flyering and the PR support, which will not only get you reviews, but will also get you interviews in the free magazines, meaning potential audiences can read about your show at their own leisure and discover it is for them. It also means you stand out as one of the more professional companies.
- Short Runs. If you are doing a short run do it at the beginning of the festival, not the last week. It is more of an even playing field at the start, the press are out and you might even pick up and award. Also there is more general excitement. Turning up at the end of the festival is like turning up late to a party. On the whole I’d say do a full run if you can. It felt like cheating somehow to be there just a week and there’s a sense you’ve missed out on something. More people would have seen it if it had been up there longer and there’d have been a greater number of networking opportunities.
- Don’t skimp on accommodation. It is what controls your mood more than anything else. If your flyer team are not comfortable or having bad night’s sleep then it will affect the success of the show.
- Have a team around you. Even if it is a one woman show, don’t ever go up there on your own. Offering accommodation, travel and a stocked fridge in exchange for flyering and helping with the get in and get out is enough to gather up a gang of friends who are interested in experiencing the fringe and they’ll be there to pull you up when you’re down and help with the unforeseen jobs that keep popping up. And it makes the impossible fifteen minute turn around a breeze.
Friday 26th August
Halfway Pause for Thought
Three shows down and two to go. It has been a heart-warming and delightful experience. Like a big hug. Have shared tender moments with audiences and met interesting people along the way with their own stories about similar discoveries. One chap bought an apartment in Sudan some years ago. When he moved he in he also found it was full of the previous tenants belongings. She had suffered from strokes throughout her life and had lost the movement in one arm. The house was full of specially adapted implements that had assisted her with doing things one handed, like opening bottles and cans. And she had used weaving as a way of strengthening her arm again. The house was full of stools and other bits of furniture she’d made.
Last night there was a mother and daughter in the audience, which added a different dynamic. We talked about how close people are with their parents and whether they’d openly talk about drugs and similar subjects. Or even take drugs with each other.
Each audience brings their own melody to the piece.
For the first time Hedonist and Lover haven’t been the initial two bags chosen. You can tell I’d mainly performed this production in Brighton before. In the last three shows the Traveller bag has been picked twice and Artist once as well. Interesting that this reflects the Edinburgh audience. I wonder where I’d have to go for Mother or Worker to be picked? Actually, my own Mother is coming to see the show on Saturday. Perhaps I’ll suggest us looking in that bag then. Can’t wait for my Mum to see the show. Only two left to go. It has gone so fast.
Thursday 25th August
The Sick of the Fringe Review
Three days to go before landing in Edinburgh and the excitement is building. Am currently sat at a large banqueting table in the South of France where I’ve been celebrating an old friend’s 40th birthday party for the last week. This friend first met me in Anne’s squat fourteen years ago. I had a mullet at the time and he describes the twenty-four year old me as being a ‘rancid little worm’. Much reminiscing has been going down during our stay here and the stories of the squatting years have resurfaced. We were talking about the time when some of us were living in Berlin and how all of the former east side of Berlin was squatted for the start of the millennium and that this time was the greatest sense of freedom we’ve ever known. Our accommodation and artist’s studio spaces were all free. We had no financial worries and were able to create without worrying about the financial value of any end product. We could create just for the sake of creating. With no concerns for health and safety. What a privilege it was to have been part of that.
We then reflected on how there are no photos of that time. It was pre-Facebook. Like the mists of Avalon, memories from a time beyond the Facecrack seem now like a forgotten mythical dreamtime. It could all have even be lies. There’s definitely some embroidery attached. Who lets the truth get in the way of a good story after all. But there’s something special about these non-documented memories. Precious jewels set adrift in an over saturated sea. This holiday and birthday celebration has been over documented, mainly by myself. Years from now it will be hard to remember the gaps between the photos as there are so many of them. The bike ride was photo free. Some conversations. But these moments will grow into a fuzzy backdrop behind the vibrant monoliths of photos and videos capturing so many moment and freezing them in time.
As a horrendous Facecrack and photo taking junky I’m in no position to complain. And in this line of work it is a vital tool. It just secured the funds for our HIP crowd-funding campaign. It is currently promoting the show at Edinburgh and selling tickets. It allows for a dialogue between the performer and the audience. But beyond the shiny, publicity shot facade, there’s a visceral, breathing, shitting, bleeding, living show that’s desperate to be released. Can’t wait to get to Edinburgh now.
Then yesterday, out of nowhere, an old friend uploaded these photos onto Facebook, taken from an analogue photo album, showing images from the squats in Berlin. Amongst them there’s a photo of me taken from the time I was squatting Anne’s flat. Red mullet and all. A proper blast from the past seeing these again. These synchronicities surround HIP.
Friday 12th August
Extra-live is a new name for an ancient thing. It’s exciting, isn’t it, when something gets named that’s been around forever. Not that I’m religious, but can you imagine being there at the start, going around naming all the things around you and then realising how nuanced it’ll be possible to get and becoming obsessed with dissecting things and looking at it all from different angles, giving new names to each aspect. What a delight, therefore, to be present when the naming of something occurs, and the thing being named is as old as time.
What was named is a type of performance that is audience conscious. Think pantomime, or street theatre, stand-up comedy, the narrator, the compère. It is also those moments in theatre when the performance becomes aware of the reality of the room. For example if someone forgets their lines and an actor starts to ad lib, or someone corpses, or throws an aside to the audience, or something occurs that shouldn’t, like the set falling down. Audiences live for these moments. It’s the danger, the frisson, the bit we loved best about the show.
Until now there hadn’t been a name for this. There were ways of explaining it, like I just did, or Chris Goode once came up with the explanation of the ‘Cat Test’…
“The Cat Test can perhaps best be thought of as a development of the old miners’ practice of using a canary to test for the presence of carbon monoxide. (Not to be confused with the ‘pop’ test for carbon dioxide, for which you insert a lit canary into a test tube, etc.) The Cat Test discloses liveness: an ordinary domestic cat is released into the midst of a theatre event, and if the event can refer to and/or accommodate the cat without its supporting structures breaking down — the structures of the event, not of the cat — then the event is said to be ‘live’.”
Seen as the show in question is still a live event, whether they deal well with a cat in the midst of things or not, suggests that an additional term or name is required for when a cat is successfully incorporated. This is where extra-live is useful.
The term was coined by the director Max Barton at Devoted and Disgruntled 2015 and then galvanised at a following open space event the next day held at BAC called Backstage in Biscuit Land, What Next? Initially it was coined whilst looking at ways of developing ‘Relaxed Performances’ with a view to opening up the autistic focus of these to a wider audience. Subsequently Touretteshero ran with the idea of relaxed performances being for all and decided to continue building on the work already in place around this terminology. But this left us with having named an aspect of relaxed performances, because relaxed performances do to tend to be extra-live in nature, but we weren’t sure what to do with it next.
And that’s pretty much where we are now. When I began creating HIP I knew I wanted to create an extra-live performance, where the audience are key, and then I started thinking about the content of the piece. The architecture is more important in this case than the content. Now I’m already thinking about the next way to do this. How can I create interfaces with the audience that open up safe spaces where they can take time out of the hullaballoo of life to pause for a moment to breath, think and reflect. We are living in pulsating times and it seems to me that a passive audience is no longer relevant or even appropriate. I believe it’s time for everyone to get stuck in and create this show together.
Tuesday 9th August
Why the Short Run?
Going on social media at the moment feels like being able to hear the sound of a thumping party up the road that I’ve not been invited to. Even though sometimes it can feel like being put through the mill, a month at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for me is like a month in paradise. As a person who thrives off of mayhem, it’s as if the world is suddenly beating to my drum.
But this year, with my own show HIP, I’m only going for the last week. Why?
Well, there are two reasons; One is an artistic choice and the second is because of finances.
HIP is predominantly improvised and involves the handling of genuine thirty/forty/fifty year old letters written to the real life protagonist of the piece, Anne Clarke, throughout her colourful and hedonistic life. If we spent a month touching, sniffing, opening and reading these letters then they would fall to pieces. This show is a special little treat for the few who stumble upon it. Once the run in Edinburgh is over only a short tour is planned, before the full archive is donated to the Brighton Museum, along with the story of the play and how the whole tale of HIP has unfurled. Then the letters and diaries will be preserved for future generations to explore and enjoy.
Of course, I’ll also write a book about it, which will continue the life of Anne and my entanglement with her beyond the confines of the museum.
It will also keep the improvisation fresh to perform a run of just five shows. Unsurprisingly perhaps, audiences tend to chose the same paths to stroll down when presented with the choice of picking two out of the six bags containing aspects of Anne’s life; Mother, Lover, Hedonist, Worker, Traveller, Artist. Can you guess which two bags tend to be chosen? It means that although the other options are available, the show can end up being less of a surprise to myself than I’d set out expecting it to be. I like performances to be raw, surprising and edgy, both as an audience member and as a performer. That’s why I loved working with Jess Thom so much on Backstage in Biscuit Land. We literally never knew what was going to happen from one night to the next. This is where the term ‘extra-live‘ was coined and is a way of performing that not only resonates with me, but when looking back over all the work I’ve ever done as a performer and as a producer, with Jonathan Kay and the fools, or as a stand-up comedian, street performer or even twenty-eight years as a Tudor re-enactor (don’t ask), it became apparent that everything I’ve ever worked on has been to some degree extra-live, there just hadn’t been a clear name for it.
So I want to keep HIP fresh and the letters intact.
Second of all there is the finances. Whilst producing Backstage in Biscuit Land we discovered that it was possible to come up to the fringe and do just a week without it being a failure. Obviously Jess Thom arrived armed with a PR machine and already had a level of public profile, but when we first came to the Fringe in 2014 she was a lot less well known than she is now and we had no idea how the show would be received. We came for just a week because a month would have been too much for Jess and a week was all we could do. It was a risk, but it worked, and it came with a lot less financial pressure and was less physically exhausting for all of us.
There’s no way I’ll be able to pull in the kind of numbers Jess brought in when she turned up on that first year. She already had a following and the show was ground-breaking. HIP is different, but it’s intimate and gentle, not ground-breaking. But with the knowledge already gleaned from years of producing and flyering for Touretteshero and Tangram Theatre Company, I know how to get people through the door and am friends with many theatre promoters, so have a number who already have me on their list. It is harder to get reviews, in fact I’m not expecting to get any, but having taken the show first of all to the Brighton Fringe Festival this May, which was right on my doorstep, I’ve already got the reviews I need. Yes it would be good to have some stars or quotes to staple onto the flyers, but we’ll also be able to say we’ve just arrived and so no reviews have come out yet. People respond better to a personable conversation from a flyerer, who takes the time to tell them the story of the show and what they might enjoy about it, then they do to a strip of stars on a flyer simply thrust into their hand.
But who knows. This might just fall flat on its arse and I spend five days performing to an empty theatre. But it won’t cost me as much as it would have done performing to an empty theatre for a whole month.
Monday 8th August
Producing to Performing
Ever felt like a wolf in sheep’s clothing? Or a cat dressed as a nun? Having spent the last four years producing for the incredibly talented and delightful Tangram Theatre Company, with whom we created a Scientrilogy of musical plays about our intellectual hero’s Darwin, Einstein and Curie, then also working with the world changing and ever inspiring Touretteshero on Backstage in Biscuit Land (for whom I also made an appearance at the end as the slightly sinister looking Cat-Nun), my time has been spent travelling the length and breadth of the country, meeting theatre promoters and talking to the Arts Council, the British Council and all the festival producers… as a producer. It therefore feels very odd and nerve wracking to be approaching them all once more, but as a performer. It feels, for some reason, rather sneaky.
Let me be clear, I am a performer. As one may know, it is difficult to make a living as an artist and most performers have side jobs that allow them to put bread on the table. My sideline ended up being producing. Basically I can’t be involved in anything without sticking my nose into the running of things. It means I’ve always ended up producing for the creative projects I’ve been involved in, for example spending six years producing for the world famous fool Jonathan Kay whilst also living and training with him on the road in his unique fooling technique. But then a few years ago, due to health issues, I found that I couldn’t commit to performing in anything as I didn’t know from one day to the next whether I’d be available for the performance dates. But I needed to work and so fell into a path of solely producing.
For a while it felt like my performing days were over. A year become four and the producing was going rather well. All of the shows I produced went on to win awards and Backstage in Biscuit Land was picked up by the British Council and the BBC, meaning we were travelling all around the world and performing on the telly. It didn’t seem like a train I’d be wise to jump off of. But then an old friend I used to perform with got in touch and invited me to do a slot at the Brighton Fringe and it felt like the universe was inviting me to take that leap. So I did and it has been going well thus far. The reviews from Brighton were positive, but most importantly the friends and family of the woman who the show is about gave it their thumbs up and were reunited with each other, coming together for a heart-warming evening spent drinking and reminiscing. I learnt more about Anne during that night than I had previously achieved from doing all my research.
It’s been a wondrous journey and Edinburgh is a magical soul city I adore. To be taking my own show there is a dream come true. But when it means this much to you, it’s always terrifying isn’t it? But then I think that’s why we do it.
Wednesday 3rd August
Am half way through running a Crowdfunding campaign for HIP and can’t help but feel like a beggar with a bowl asking already stretched friends and family to empty their loose change for me. This is the state of play for theatre makers in the UK today and it is set to get harder and less dignified.
I have to remind myself though that I’ve been very lucky. This production was able to secure Arts Council Funding to support the research and development stage of HIP, but ACE do not fund companies to take shows to Edinburgh. Obviously there’s some overspill, like paying for a designer to create the marketing for the piece, which can then be used in Edinburgh. It definitely takes some of the weight off. But it costs £10,000 on average to take a show to Edinburgh, so the weight is heavy. We’ve got a healthy looking budget and with 13 days left on the crowdfunding campaign we have NEARLY hit the £1,000 mark, which is amazing and I’m so grateful to all the wonderful people who have contributed.
But I do know all the people pledging though. It is all family and friends. Which is why it feels like begging. There is one delightful pledge from someone who came to a workshop I ran for free last week, as part of an audience development thread I was helping the Dancehouse Theatre in Manchester to begin creating. The workshop participants came and saw the show and for the price of their tickets received a free three hour workshop during the day. It was a wonderful three hours and the work went deep and some big feelings came to the surface. One of the participants then made a significant pledge to the crowdfunding campaign and it really made my day, because that is emotional money, where the cash represents an acknowledgement and a thanks for the work done.
Which I need to also remember is what is coming from family and friends too… Kind generous support for a vocation they can see that I’m passionate about doing and a project they want to help get up off the ground. I don’t feel comfortable asking people for money, but am moved by the support people are able and willing to give. It has the weight of community and kindness behind it.
Tuesday 2nd August
Can’t believe the festival has started. It feels weird not being there. To make myself feel better I’ve booked all the shows I’m going to see. The list is below, but let me know if there’s anything I’ve missed off…
HIP @ Zoo Aviary 16.30 – 17.30
Lucy McCormick @ Underbelly, Cowgate 20.10 – 21.10
Where Do All the Dead Pigeons Go? @ Northern Stage at Summerhall 22.05 – 23.05
Mark Thomas: The Red Shed @ Traverse Theatre 10.30 – 11.50
Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons @ Roundabout @ Summerhall 12.10 – 13.10
The Marked @ Pleasance Dome 13.30 – 14.30
Team Viking @ Just the Tonic at The Community Project 14.55 – 15.55
All In @ Summerhall 17.25 – 18.25
Jonny and the Baptists @ Roundabout @ Summerhall 19.35 – 20.35
Torch @ Underbelly, Cowgate 20.50 – 21.50
The Inevitable Heartbreak of Gavin Plimsole @ Pleasance Dome 13.40 – 14.40
Bucket List @ Pleasance Dome 15.50 – 15.20
Kill the Beast: He Had Hairy Hands @ Pleasance Courtyard 18.25 – 19.25
Shit-faced Shakespeare @ Underbelly, George Square 22.15 – 23.15
Often Onstage @ Pleasance Dome 16.10 – 17.10
Mouse – The Persistence of an Unlikely Thought @ Traverse Theatre 22.00 – 23.40
Blank @ Summerhall 18.30 – 20.00
The World Without Us @ Summerhall 11.30 – 13.00
E15 @ Northern Stage at Summerhall 18.30 – 19.40
Ghost Quartet @ Roundabout @ Summerhall 21.00 – 22.05
Folie a Deux @ Pleasance Courtyard 23.00 – 00.00
Saturday 30th July 2016
Took HIP to the Dancehouse Theatre in Manchester for a one off Edinburgh preview on the 29th July. Thankfully it went wonderfully well. There’s a lot of business in the show and there was a newly tweaked script to remember, a workshop to hold and a totally new playlist to run on a programme none of us had ever used before, but it went as smoothly as we could have hoped for and the audience were as warm, interested and positive as the Brighton audiences had been, which means I now feel safe that the story works universally and is not just a Brighton-centric piece. Phew. Now all the set and props are packed up safely in the care of Spun Glass Theatre Company, who are kindly taking it up to Edinburgh for me. Eeeeeek! So excited.
Monday 25th July 2016
Trimming Your Darlings
The difficult part of the creative process for me is having to admit that some of my favourite bits of the script need weeding out or trimming back. I’ve spent the last fortnight working with two wonderful critical friends; Emma Kilbey and Brian Lobel. Having read through the script with Emma she suggested that the part about songlines should be cut. She saw by the look on my face that she might as well have suggested we go out on a daytrip to drown kittens, but her response was spot on “Sometimes we just have to kill our darlings.” Without getting too bogged down in maternal metaphors, artistic creations are a form of birthing and it goes against thousands of years of programming to kill that which we have birthed, so it is not easy to get rid of an idea or an image that speaks volumes to the artist. Perhaps she was right though and the songlines bit was a bridge too far for the audience. They didn’t need to understand every link in the mess of wires that is my brain after all. Sometimes it’s better to trust that the audience will take leaps with you from one train of thought to another and that there will be a general feeling that still unites it altogether. But it’s painful to let these darlings go. Then Brian mentioned it again a week later, along with a bunch of other cut suggestions. I wanted to tip the table over in the cafe where we were meeting and smash all the plates on to the floor (I wish we could get away with doing that in real life), but they both had a bloomin point… The show does need to be an hour long for Edinburgh. An hour is so short. I think this production needs 90 minutes once I take it out into the big wide world, time for it to brew properly. It needs room for the atmosphere to arrive, for the audience to relax and to have space for a proper chat after the show, when the performance element has been ‘dropped’. And yet, it is good practice to chop it down. Make it lean, then build out again from a stronger base. I swallowed my pride and made the necessary cuts. Or at least gave them a good trim.
Sunday 24th July 2016
Top 4 Recommendations for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2016
I really enjoyed this show at the Brighton Fringe in May, predominantly because it took me by surprise and continued to do so as the story played out. Marie Rabe gives an adorable and at the same time unnerving performance, often catching the viewer unawares and provoking increasingly uncomfortable giggles, whilst at the same time hitting sensitive heart strings with the odd surprise flush of tears. All this and she captured a sense of place and atmosphere throughout.
ZOO Southside @ 13:00
Haven’t seen this show yet but am very much looking forward to it. Theatre Ad Infinitum are one of my festival favs. Loved their previous shows Ballad of the Burning Star and Light, so can’t wait to see this new piece, which is the story of one Mexican woman’s fight for justice. Their shows are always unique and visually exciting. This is a company who knows how to use the medium of ‘theatre’ to its best effect.
Pleasance Dome @ 15:50
Can’t wait to see this piece, not least because it stars one of my favourite people, Jess Mabel Jones, who I’ve had the pleasure to work with over the last two years on Backstage in Biscuit Land. But the whole team are an exciting bunch working on this piece, collaborating with Channel 4 playwright Phoebe Eclair-Powell and design from Amelia Jane Hankin whose credits include Fake it ‘til you Make it by Bryony Kimmings. I’m expecting this piece to rock my world.
Underbelly @ 20.50
This piece looks like proper good fun. Figs in Wigs are a playful bunch who use puns, fruit cake and pop culture references to create shows. They say that beneath the deadpan monobrows they seek to address big issues one sequin at a time, and although they might not change the world with glitter they’ll have fun trying. I mean, what’s not to love about that?
Pleasance Dome @ 16.10
You can also support the current Figs in Wigs crowd funding campaign here.
Saturday 23rd July 2016
I’ve spent today compiling a playlist for HIP and it is difficult. There are so many amazing tracks from Anne’s time. Am trying to pick tunes that have not been overplayed. Would you be able to help? The below link takes you to the HIP playlist on Youtube. Anything else you’d suggest to add to this?
Tuesday 19th July 2016
We have just launched a crowdfunding campaign to cover the last gap in the budget to take HIP up to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival at the end of August… If any of you can spare some pennies that will be amazing… http://goo.gl/Uz7QD7
Thursday 14th July 2016
My name is Jolie Booth and I’m a theatre practitioner by trade, though I’ve spent the last four years mainly producing. I produced Backstage in Biscuit Land for Touretteshero and the three Scientrilogy shows for Tangram Theatre. This is the first time I have ever taken my own show to the Edinburgh Fringe and I’m extremely exciting and terrified in equal measures. But what is the show about I hear you ask. Well let me tell you a bit more…
HIP by Jolie Booth
A bunch of semi-hip young squatters find a once hip woman’s long-forgotten possessions in an empty flat above some shops. A true story of hedonism, drugs, mortality, sexuality, choices and enlightenment.
Broadway Baby ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘extremely funny…painfully and breathtakingly sad’
Fringe Guru ⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘Booth treats Anne with a respectful curiosity and affection…’
The Reviews Hub ⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘engaging style and easy rapport with the audience holds the piece together’
‘hugely enjoyable, engaging and at times profound’
Fringe Review – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
‘Hip is a must see show’
HIP explores the life of both an ordinary and extra-ordinary woman called Anne Clarke and what happened to her in the 1970’s and 80’s. Theatre practitioner Jolie Booth discovered Anne’s diaries and letters when squatting her house fifteen years ago, unearthing a huge archive about Anne, the city they’ve both lived in and experiences they’ve shared.
Hip is an extra-live show. This means it’s a relaxed performance where everyone is welcome and you can move around, comment on the action and make noise.
Jolie only ever manages to scratch the surface of Anne’s life during the hour long show, a lifetime that was rich in hedonism, counterculture, sexual exploration and alternative health, so rather than trying to cover the whole of Anne’s life the idea of the performance is to create a safe space where the audience can respond to points of interest: Anne’s big decisions, demise and death. Using Anne’s story as a touch paper, Jolie and the audience explore their own lives, thinking about choices they’ve made, how they hope to grow old and how they’d like to be remembered when they themselves are gone.
As the material is vast and because every audience is unique, each show is completely different.
The story so far…
The show came about after I was invited to participate in the Arcade of Fools at the Brighton Fringe Festival in 2015. In the early noughties I’d produced and trained at the Nomadic Academy for Fools created by the world famous fool Jonathan Kay. Fooling is a form of improvisation that puts the audience at the centre of the work and I spent six years training in this technique. After leaving the fools I hadn’t performed for four or five years, so the invitation to take an hour long slot at the Arcade of Fools seemed like a message from the universe that it was time to get back on my performing horse. But what to do with an hour? I thought about themes that were important to me at the time and whether these might also be interesting to an audience, but I also wanted to avoid doing an hour long show about myself. The best work from my favourite performers, people like Bryony Kimmings and Brian Lobel, have been when the focus was on other people and not on themselves. It all comes through the prism of the performer anyway, so doesn’t need to be about the performer. That’s when I thought about Anne’s box of stuff.
Ever since leaving the squat fifteen years ago I’d been carrying Anne’s box of letters and diaries around with me to each house I’d lived in. It was the first thing to go up in the loft every time I moved in and was the one thing I definitely wanted still from the loft every time we moved out. She has lived with me in ten locations around Brighton and moved with me to London and Berlin. It was about time I did something with it all. I’d had a look through the box when we’d been squatting her house. We were interested in who had owned the timecapsule we had happened upon. But we didn’t delve too deeply and created a mythology out of the scraps we had gleaned. Like my housemate told me he’d read somewhere that she’d had a hip replacement (she hadn’t), which meant we came to believe that the hip bone that was on her shelves in the livingroom was her hip bone (it’s actually an animal’s pelvic bone). This was the only item I ever kept down from the loft as I moved from house to house. Anne’s hip bone always lived on my mantlepiece. I also believed she’d been a sad alcoholic and that her life had been a tragedy.
But as I finally started to read through her box of letters and diaries I realised that her life had been amazing. She’d been a terribly exciting human being who didn’t do things by half and wanted to taste all that life had to offer. Someone who was just like me. And serendipity began to flow. As my team of friends and I started looking through the bits of paper, funny little bubbles of magic kept popping to the surface; like the discovery of the record we’d just been reading about that she’d bought in Greece was hiding in the sleeve of a Sex Pistols single. And my friend asking why Anne kept mentioning ‘Infinity’ in her diaries only for me to realise she must have been talking about Infinity Foods, an organic vegetarian food co-op set up in the seventies and that’s still open and much loved today. I’d even carried the box of Anne’s letters to the meeting in an Infinity Food’s totes bag. It all felt right and the production has organically unfurled in a gently magical way; forever meeting new people who knew her, discovering a poem to Anne framed on the wall of a pub in town, finding out about all the places she worked around Brighton and meeting her daughter, who gave me and the show a big thumbs up.
Next I’m doing a rewrite with a non-Brighton audience in mind and am taking the production to Manchester’s Dancehouse Theatre as a pre-Edinburgh showing in a week’s time. I’m meeting Emma Kilbey this Monday to help me with the rewrite, who is supporting me as an outside eye and a critical friend. I’ll also hopefully have a chance to see Brian Lobel before the off as well. As things move on I’ll update you with how they go and hopefully… See you in Edinburgh. Whoop whoop!