Week 3 of VAULT festival coming up and today we have a release of FOUR interviews we did with lots of exciting people about lots of exciting shows! First up, we spoke to Edwina from Flugelman Productions about their show, The Poetry We Make, which explores gender transition within a relationship.
What drove you to make The Poetry We Make?
The thing that attracted me immediately to The Poetry We Make when Jaswinder brought me the script for the first time was the opportunity to tell a different type of of love story. Its political because it speaks about gender, but really at the heart of it, its a simple story about humanity and seeing people as they want to be seen.
I was driven by the chance to sink our teeth into the challenging subject of gender transition while also having a bloody good laugh - and when Dolly Parton is a character its hard not to.
Who is The Poetry We Make for?
Its for everyone! Everyone that’s ever been in love.
Its unique because people can connect to it whether they’re a non-binary activist or whether they’re completely cis and heterosexual; whether they are intimately versed in issues to with gender or whether they’ve never even considered gender before. Primarily the story is a love story - its about seeing the people we love more clearly.
What is it about theatre that makes it a great platform for LGBTQIA+ discussion?
This is a tricky one because there’s probably lots of different reasons for different people. But in my opinion its because there’s so much performing involved in gender and sexuality. Everyday we play ourselves as the version that (ideally) make us feel the most like ourselves. On stage there is so much scope for representing gender and sexuality because we can use theatrical devices to ‘write’ a character, and the audience is given the privilege of reading the actors bodies to make sense of the world they’re in.
Working on The Poetry We Make has been a fascinating process because of the subject of gender. I’ve been lucky to work with Elijah Harris, who is trans (FTM) himself, on how to show Robin’s gender transition from male to female on stage (a huge thing to squeeze into an hour). While everything does have to be a little bit bigger on stage, I think there is a tendency when a show is about an issue to make that overt and somewhat stereotypical. With Elijah’s help I’ve realised that there’s so much subtly to gender and how we read it: tiny differences in the voice, breath, posture, use of hands etc. all tell a different story.
I believe that theatre has a great big role to play in forging a path towards a greater understanding of the nature of gender, breaking down barriers for actors, writers and other creatives who once felt being gay or transgender prevented them from expressing who they truly are. I hope that with The Poetry We Make we’ve contributed in some way to change, by giving voice to the trans experience from various viewpoints, increasing the visibility of trans performers and breaking down stereotypes.
What theatre ‘turn offs’ do you have?
I’ve had to wrack my brain a bit for this. I generally feel that there’s value in so many different types of theatre - even if you don’t like it, chances are you can take something away from it.
But all my luvvy views aside, I’m turned off by shows that deliberately try to bamboozle their audience. At the end of the day we’re all here to understand the story and to connect with it in some way. I’m not a fan of shows where you can tell that they’ve thought more about form than content - it might look great, be groundbreaking and have all the buzz words but it still won’t light anyone’s fire because they haven’t told anyone a story. Not to say that it has to be a traditional narrative or a traditional style of storytelling but as an audience member I want to be able to recognise that the whole operation of theatre or performance has been motivated by storytelling.
Theatres that don’t allow drinks in auditoriums = TURN OFF (luckily there’s not many of those in the UK)
What was the last show that moved you to action?
It happens to be a show I saw while I was on holiday in New York: Tennessee William’s The Glass Menagerie directed by Sam Gold. It caused a bit of stir because they cast a disabled actor as Laura, (which is really quite absurd when you think about it - the character is meant to have some sort of disability, but in the context of Broadway it really was quite revolutionary.) I particularly loved this stripped back production.They emphasised the ‘memory’ of the main character and managed to uncover so much about the play that resonated with the contemporary: an older generation’s nostalgia for the past holding young people back from their identities, their sexualities, their freedom (Trump and Brexit amiright?) but none of it was heavy handed or obvious. It was just bodies on stage telling a very universal story about family and identity - Simple right? The Final image that has stayed with me is of the huge bare stage space at the Belasco Theatre being lit up and Sally Field storming off in a pink prom dress through the enormous loading-in door far upstage - magic.
What shows at VAULT are you looking forward to?
(Get ready for a list)
The Poetry We Make is on from 7-11 Feb, at 18.00!