There are many venues at the Brighton Fringe with just one or a few shows and events. Here are some of our highlights.
I want to see…
… a politcal Drama. Then see King Charles III
… a darkly disturbing comedy. Then see When the Window Blows
Writer, Performer, Producer Sarah Hickingbottom from Brass Tacks Theatre talks about The Woman Who Conceived The Pill
What’s the theme of your show?
The themes of the show are gender, power, control, resistance, fight, sacrifice and the power of persisting when all around throw you in jail or dismiss you as a radical.
You can sum it up in 5 words: “sisters doing it for themselves”.
Women gave women contraceptive freedoms despite men and we are wise to remind ourselves how brutal life is without contraception.
What’s new or unique about the show?
Women gave women the gift of the Pill – why don’t we know that? We need to know. Female voices need to shout loud. This is ‘Herstory’.
The true story of one woman’s fight to decriminalise contraception and invent the Pill.
Women today young and old should know that they weren’t ‘rescued’ by male scientists, capitalists or politicians. Women gave women this gift.
It’s entertaining with multi-characters and involves the audience in that there is no 4th wall. The play speaks to every man and woman who has ever had (or wanted) sex!
How did the show come into being?
Sarah Hickingbottom – writer/performer in her writing/solo show debut – was driving on the A42 in April 2016 when Radio 4 talked of a woman – Margaret Sanger – who had the idea of a contraceptive pill. Sarah was floored and pulled into a layby.
Sarah says: “I consider myself informed. I’m a woman. I’m science educated. I had no clue. I thought men were behind the Pill or pharmaceutical companies. Yet the idea and money came from women who wanted to give their gender the gift of freedom. I want my gender to celebrate and be proud.”
Sarah knew in that layby this is the play that needs to be written.
Describe one of your rehearsals.
Quite intense! Sarah is working with Brighton’s Jonathan Brown (Something Underground) on the solo show aspects of performance.
Lots of physical movement, creating big emotion which can then be dialed down.
Improvisation around each character and their physical worlds. The play uses the actor’s body to create the set and props – the audience are asked to engage their imaginations. So in rehearsal, there is a focus on creating that imaginary world as if the actor doesn’t create it the audience can’t engage.
How has the writer been involved?
As Sarah is the writer and performer – the script is to a large-degree fluid. Initially, in the role as writer, the challenges of performance were ignored to ensure the script is as entertaining, powerful and emotive as possible in telling the story Sarah wants to tell.
But where glitches were found once it was put up on its feet, some script changes were needed. The essence and bones hasn’t changed though.
The writer is heavily involved!
How have you experimented?
In ways outlined above with character, pushing boundaries as to how to portray scenes on stage with one person and no set/props (bar a chair).
Sarah enacts a hunger strike force feeding – 5 prison guards, 2 doctors, 1 female hunger striker and a narrator character. Lots of experiments there!
The writing is experimental. Sarah fully embraces the freedom of a no-set solo show. This play goes from 1888 to 1960. It’s locations vary from NY apartment, disused warehouse, Governor office, Carnegie Hall, prison, ship, restaurant and other homes. It includes inter-cutting timelines/plots as well.
This makes the play varied in tempo, mood, plot etc. for the audience but was a gamble. We hope Brighton will prove it a wise gamble!
Where do your ideas come from?
Once the seed of the idea was implanted from a 3 minute Radio 4 story. Sarah spent 12 months painstakingly researching Margaret Sanger’s life and her work. As Sarah knew a theatre play was the goal, every theatrical moment found was noted (there are so many!). Every character explored with a view to a potential story.
Then it was a case of choosing a central dramatic question. One play cannot tell a whole life – so what story should this tell? And what threads of her life best tell that story. The ideas stemmed from there.
How do your challenge yourself or yourselves?
Beyond the experiments above which challenge:-
Sarah challenged herself to stick as closely as possible to actual history. There is one major tweak to event timelines and the obvious dramatisations but it is, at its essence, true to history.
There are a lot of writings, speeches, letters and more published from Margaret Sanger. Sarah has used as many genuine quotes as she could. The challenge being to create a character so close to the real woman that when she speaks the audience doesn’t realise these are the words of the woman or the playwright.
Solo show is another challenge – it fits the story perfectly in that Margaret Sanger was a manipulator of people for the good of her cause. Nothing else mattered. She was like a Chess Queen. A puppeteer. To have her on stage manipulating characters, alone/solo – speaks on many levels.
What are your future plans for the show ?
The goal is to tour the UK, Edinburgh in 2019 and USA in 2020 (their centenary of women’s votes).
Dates are booked for the end of June in Lewes and conversations with others.
We are looking for collaborators, sponsors, developers, venues etc. Including the concept of combining with teenage/adult conversations /workshops on the issues of gender, protest, history, human rights etc. Particularly collage age women – empower them to do anything!
What are your favourite shows, and why?
Having just been to the Barbican to watch The Encounter this weekend (second time after watching in Oxford in 2016), I must stay that. Simon is such a powerful presence and in such command of a complicated story. The audio is mind blowing but it services the story. It is a total experience. An Encounter to change your outlook on theatre, storytelling, life…
The Winter’s Tale by Cheek By Jowl stands out for its use of technology. Incredible power of film in the court scene. Plus it has a wicked sense of humour which is much welcomed in Shakespeare.
Often theatre seems to use technology as a gimmick without any theatrical merit. These two shows prove otherwise.
Show dates, times and booking info: May 4th, May 19th and June 1st at 21.15pm
May 5th, May 18th, June 2nd & June 3rd at 19.30pm
Exeter Street Hall, 16-17 Exeter Street
Brighton, BN1 5PG
Company web site: http://www.brasstackstheatre.
I want to see…
… George Orwell’s 1984. Then see 1984
I want to see…
… an intimate, moving new play from the award-winning writer/director team Nigel Fairs. Then see Morning is Red
… a new theatre piece, the sequel to last year’s sell-out ‘Brighton Killers, a chance to hear the murderer tell their story. Then see Brighton Queen of Slaughtering Places
We’re are updating this page in the run up to, and during the Fringe.