Sunday, 25 June 2017

A Woman's Wit, Wisdom and Dramaturgy: Joan Ellis @ Edfringe 2017

Edinburgh Fringe
theSpace @ Jurys 16-19 Aug 1-2pm.

In her one-woman show, award-winning writer, Joan Ellis celebrates women, our funny bones and our flaws. 

Meet the flip, fantastic women from her 4 acclaimed books including, ‘The Killing of Mummy's Boy’, shortlisted for the Winston Fletcher Fiction Prize 2016 and inspired by Joan's real-life meeting with a murderer on a train.

In addition to sharing her encounter with a killer, Joan recounts teaching Noel Fielding all he knows about advertising and lowlights from her life in 80s Adland including juggling working with talking cats, the Milky Bar Kid and celebrities with bringing up baby. She also dropped a lot of balls.

Q. What was the inspiration for this performance?

Women! Smart, funny, flawed and literally floored - those banana-skin moments where life rips the rug away. Celebrate those times. They make us human and make us laugh.

The show is based on the 4 women from my books - an alcoholic with a warped taste in men, a girl burdened by guilt and a woman in a man's world itching to find the perfect response to the question: 'I haven't had you, have I?'  And me, an ad girl in the 80' (think Mad Men meets Bridget Jones) juggling work with single parenthood in the 90's. I dropped a lot of balls. I also worked with a lot of celebrities including TV's first talking cat and The Milk Tray Man. Less charming was the murderer I met who was as fascinating as he was frightening. Glad to be alive and inspired by  the workings of a criminal mind, I wrote 'The Killing of Mummy's Boy' which was shortlisted for the Winston Fletcher Fiction Prize 2016.

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

A. Yes, it can open people up to share experiences. It reassures us we're not alone. We're not the only ones who mess up. There's no shame in it. We're all human and it gives us the opportunity to laugh at our mistakes. So much of our society is about seeking perfection. It doesn't exist. I love performance that focuses on the flaws. It makes me feel better about my own.

Q.How did you become interested in making performance?

A. I used to watch all the old movies when I was a kid and strut around belting out numbers from 'Gypsy'. I never knew 'Gotta Get A Gimmick' was about stripping. I entered a speech competition at school. One girl had painstakingly researched her subject and I got up and told the whole school about baking a cake. To me, the mixture being full of cat hair and mum yelling at me for using a week's supply of butter was normal 

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

A. I wanted it to be something any woman can relate to. See a glimpse of herself, her friends, her family and laugh. Let's face it, they're not the only ones slipping on those banana skins. Look at me. I've messed up so many times, I've got mates who say the only reason they like hanging about with me is because I make them feel better about their own lives. 

Q.Does the show fit with your usual productions?

A. No. My other Edfringe show this year is DIED BLONDES about Marilyn Monroe and Ruth Ellis. Infamous women and their famous last words, reimagined. It's about women using men and men abusing women and the consequences to their mental health. Women can be very critical of one another. For me, it's about getting into their hearts and minds and discovering what makes them tick. DIED BLONDES is dark whereas 'A Woman's Wit, Wisdom and Pratfalls' is more light and shade, comedy moments mixed with the chill wind of real life.

Q.What do you hope that the audience will experience?

A. I want them to glimpse themselves in the characters and have a laugh. The show spans the 60s to present day so it'll also be a trip (those pesky banana skins again) down Memory Lane.

Q.What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

A. Being honest about my own life - fat thighs, mad mums and bad boys. Welcome to my world. 

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