Monday, 15 May 2017

Above the Mealy-mouthed Dramaturgy: Jemima Foxtrot @ Edfringe 2017

 Above the Mealy-mouthed Sea
3rd-27th August 2017

 Jemima Foxtrot, acclaimed performance poet and theatre maker stars in Above the Mealy-mouthed Sea, a strange, funny and poignant play about the self we present to the world and the self we try to hide. 

Exploring memory, childhood and what happens when you can’t quite get to the punchline, Foxtrot deftly weaves three separate narratives together in a multi-layered performance - a joke that Jemima tries to tell at the pub, buried memories from childhood, and snippets from an American pop-culture phenomenon. 

Repeated sound using a loop pedal works to externalise inner worlds and memories; at times repetitive, discordant and disturbing, and at other times soothing and harmonious. Thoughts and memories bubble up, exploding into the microphone where they are looped, harmonised, repeated and unravelled.

Foxtrot’s unique and award-winning style - fusing powerful poetry, song and storytelling - delivers an emotional and punchy one-woman show. 

Foxtrot teams up again with co-writer and director Lucy Allan. The show is produced by Unholy Mess in association with Omnibus Theatre.

Above the Mealy-mouthed Sea follows Unholy Mess’ 2015 Edinburgh debut and award-winning poetry show Melody, a lyrical exploration of music and memory told through a journey home from work. The show won the Buxton Fringe Spoken Word Award.

Running Time: 60 mins
Box Office: 0207 498 4699 

What was the inspiration for this performance?

The original stimulus for the show was my own story of something difficult that I experienced as a child. The show tells the story of what happened, but also is about the after-effect these experiences can have, especially on memory and how it functions.

The co-writer and director Lucy Allan and I were
also interested in exploring the relationship between troubling childhood memories and performance and the play looks at the character that we all use to ‘cover up’ when we are feeling exposed. We are both interested in telling important and often overlooked stories in new and inventive ways so this story from my personal life seemed like the perfect challenge.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas?

Absolutely. Performance is visceral and immediate. We both believe that theatre should ask questions rather than give answers and that live performance can be a key catalyst for discussion.

The central issue that runs through Above the Mealy-mouthed Sea is something that society, and individuals, find particularly difficult to talk about, so exploring these ideas through theatre feels particularly important to me.  

How did you become interested in making performance?

I’ve always loved to write and to perform. I’ve been through many different phases: actor, writer, singer. Now I’m in a position where I’m lucky enough to be all three.  

I got pretty quickly disillusioned with traditional acting as it didn’t feel creative enough and also because it’s an industry so based around appearance.  A couple of years ago I started to make performance with Lucy and I thought, yes, this is the best way. I love collaborating with Lucy as I trust her completely, she is critical and has great taste! Plus, as this is the second play we have made together, we can be brave and take risks in the show’s creation without feeling exposed.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

Lucy and I make work mainly through a process of devising. Generally, Lucy is responsible for the dramaturgy and I’m responsible for the bulk of the text, although Lucy is also an excellent editor. I often write a lot of material which we then move around and whittle down together until we’re left with the best stuff. We spend a lot of time just trying different ideas out to see what’s most effective. A lot of our favourite moments came out of messing around and making each other laugh in the rehearsal room.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

This is Unholy Mess’ second play. There are some similarities with our first show Melody in that the we blend poetry and song throughout, the form is quite episodic and we explore ideas about memory. On the other hand Above the Mealy-mouthed Sea is a lot more experimental. We’ve brought a loop station into the space, meaning that we can play a lot more with music and sound. Above the Mealy-mouthed Sea is also a big step up from Melody visually, we’ve worked with a designer and a choreographer on this production.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

As always I hope the audience will be surprised, excited, entertained and emotionally affected. I hope it makes people think and feel and that it raises awareness of the issues the show explores. The show explores how difficult it can be to talk, how difficult it can be to remember: I want the audience to feel this tangibly.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

Because Above the Mealy-mouthed Sea’s central narrative is quite a challenging one -- to talk about and to listen to -- we made an effort to make big tonal shifts, to move quickly into humour and back again. Difficult moments in our lives are often the times when comedy is close at hand. We find this contrast exciting and something that live performance can explore.

Artistic Team
Writer - Performer: Jemima Foxtrot
Writer - Director: Lucy Allan
Designer: Mayou Trikerioti
Choreographer: Tara D’Arquian
Sound and poetry consultant: Hannah Silva
Associate Producer: Felicity Paterson

Praise and accolades for Unholy Mess’ Melody:

Buxton Fringe Spoken Word Award Winner 2016

“The brilliant Foxtrot is the one to watch” The Observer 

“Show-stopping acapella singing…spine tingling” The Scotsman

**** “A glittering show, a gem in every sense, a shining thing” The Stage

**** “Her happy energy in the face of life’s more depressing aspects is infectious” The List

**** “Funny, charming and poignant” Broadway Baby

About Unholy Mess – An award-winning London-based theatre company touring nationally. They create bold new work to tell important stories of human experience that are overlooked or underrepresented in art. Drawing on performance poetry, live singing and physical theatre, Unholy Mess creates work that entertains, surprises and moves its audiences.  

About Jemima Foxtrot – Writer & performer. Jemima has performed extensively across the UK at venues and festivals including Latitude Festival, Colchester Arts Centre and Nuffield Theatre. Melody, her debut poetry show won the Buxton Fringe Spoken Word Award in 2015. She has also performed in the Barbican main hall as part of Doug Aitken’s Station to Station project alongside poetry legends including Simon Armitage and Don Paterson for a special concert curated by, and featuring, Beck. She has been featured on BBC Artsnight with Lynn Barber, BBC’s Women Who Spit with her commissioned poetry film Mirror, and in a short film by Florian Bichet for Random Acts on Channel 4. Jemima blends powerful, sonic heavy poetry about modern life with snippets of her favourite artists’ songs – as well as her own. Jemima was shortlisted for the Arts Foundation Spoken Word Fellowship 2015.

About Lucy Allan - Co-artistic director of Unholy Mess, writer and director. Directing includes: Melody by Lucy Allan and Jemima Foxtrot [Clapham Omnibus, Barbican Art Gallery, Edinburgh Fringe, national tour], Unsung by Ayndrilla Singharay [The Rosemary Branch, Wilton’s Music Hall, C Nova], Rootbound and Rigor Mortis by Fiona Doyle [The Miniaturists at The Arcola], Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down by Richard Cameron [Studio Salford, The Lowry Studio], Endgame by Samuel Beckett [Joshua Brooks]. Assisting includes: The Shawshank Redemption, dir. Lucy Pitman-Wallace [The Assembly Rooms], Cyrano de Bergerac, dir. Lucy Pitman-Wallace [Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre], Olympia dir. Alex Clifton [workshop: Jerwood Space].

About Omnibus Theatre - Housed in a former Victorian library in London and inspired by the building’s literary heritage, we provide vital support for emerging artists to create new work within the building. Omnibus is a current recipient of the Peter Brook/Royal Court Theatre Support Award. Notable in-house productions include Spring Offensive (2017), Macbeth (2014), Woyzeck (2013), Colour (2015) and last year’s hit Mule, which was featured as one of The Guardian’s Edinburgh Fringe picks and received 5-stars from The Stage. A registered charity, Omnibus is led by Artistic Director Marie McCarthy. Patrons include Sir Michael Gambon, Matthew Warchus and Sir Richard Eyre.

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