Saturday, 29 July 2017

Queen of The F*cking Dramaturgy: MarysiaTrembecka @ Edfringe 2017

Queen of the F*cking World – Marysia Trembecka
Never be a Princess – be the Queen
Don’t ever be a princess – be queen of your own f*cking world. Join Marysia Trembecka and her wild bass guitar on an audience-empowering ride through the ups and downs of sexual politics and power.

Rocking the audience through the show is a fiery exotic dancer who reveals the story of her work, life and lovers – and why she has the words “Queen of the Fucking World” emblazoned on her dressing room door.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

The character ‘turned up’ whilst I was devising my previous Singing Psychic show into a full hour piece in 2014. I had spent so long putting off fully realising my Singing Psychic character that I knew I had to focus on getting that done, rather than trying to develop two completely different characters and shows. 

However the reaction of my fellow improvisers, who were also developing their own work,  to this Queen character who popped up for a second .. to the point of being asked about her 2 years later when I bumped into one of them at Edinburgh Fringe 2016.

All it was a pose, leg on chair looking seductive but the words she was saying – (perceptive and mocking) was diametrically opposed to what her body was saying (selling a fantasy of a woman).

Also years previously I had toyed with the idea of making a show about women and their femininity, what it is to be a woman, how we are critiscised and judged for using our beauty and our sexuality. Having been a bond dealer in the City, to becoming an actress who is often type cast as yummy mummies or crazy strong women – when I play a crazy yummy mummy the film always wins awards, a cabaret artiste and indeed a model, I have always been aware of the seeming pull/push of using ones femininity and sexuality as a woman, how it is a line that we must change depending on the career we are in.

Hence in 2016, after I felt the Singing Psychic was established (4 & 5 star reviews, a Best Show, Funny Women 2016 nomination and European gigs including the official Brit Awards After Party at the 02, I started pulling the strands together.

I did an 8 min showing at a workshop in October 2016 and realising I needed to do a huge amount of research and interviews to fully look at the subject. Depending on ones life experience, marital status, sexuality, economic wealth, education, background: female power is seen as being many things , for some to overuse ones sexuality is seen as ‘wrong’, for others it is the only choice to feeding your children. 

Hence I decided to apply to the Arts Council for funding for the first time, which I received, to include a small research portion so I could interview people from the English Collective of Prostitutes, to the Consultant Gynaecologist who has set up the only sexual health clinic in Scotland that caters largely for sex workers (50% of the clinics clients are Romanian)

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

I believe it can be a more direct connected way of discussing things than watching TV as a passive half interested viewer, tapping on your smart phone at the same time. Live performance, human to human always creates a relationship and it is in that relationship, uncomfortable, confrontational or comic, that discussion for both performer and audience to grow. Being fed even a balanced documentary or discussion watched via a monitor is never the same as feeling the energy live in the room, with the opportunity for feedback and q&a’s.

Given my cabaret and solo theatre viewpoint that the audience should be a living partaking piece of the work, I feel that this discussive energy is even more enhanced. In every show I create I expect to be changed by the audience every night, by their reactions and energy. I also pursue this interaction deliberately by having audience interaction embedded within the show. 

This is true of this new Queen show, getting the audience involved and also having a couple questions I ask them via paper at the beginning of the show, and that I look through live on stage.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I have always written songs, words, characters and told stories. I am an ex bond dealer and have to leave the City as my creativity felt under-utilised, even though talking of the various new economic data or politicians comments as to their impact on FX or bond prices feels as much story telling as anything I now do in a wig!

I am a ‘straight’ actress as well and love telling other stories on film or theatre, but I need to tell my own stories. I started by making cabaret shows, with linking stories between the songs. Each show I have made has become more ambitious in range of medium, subject matter and my reach which in turn has given me the fire to then make more ambitious stuff. 

For example I made over 140 videos as The Singing Psychic , including a 21 episode webseries of the pros and cons of the EU Referendum in June 16, doing all the research myself using my banking background. This led me to then feel I was equipped and able to do the research and pull together the relevant strands to make Queen.

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

It all comes from character, listening to the character and the characters around them in their life. I do not feel that I write the characters, more that they come through me. So I play physically, and vocally, improvise in character. For example I was improvising in the character of the Queen’s dresser Marta, in her voice and she said ‘She even has Queen Of The F*cking World on her dressing room door in neon’, hence giving me the title of the show.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?
No. I have never done interviews with various people on their viewpoints and points of specialist knowledge. 

From ballet dancers, choreographers, women in industry to strippers, sex workers and actresses they all gave me a piece of a puzzle I then had to choose to build it together and allow the knowledge to inform my character. I also did a huge amount of historical research on women in history such as Emma Hamilton, Lord Nelson’s love of his life to London in Roman times and women as seen through Shakespeare and Chekhov’s eyes.

Feedback was asked for as well unusually from the two showings which was invaluable as to what people wanted more of as well as what was confusing.

I also chose to use my bass guitar, writing original songs as needed such as a Queen Of The F*cking World song which someone asked for. I also used some songs that seemed to have almost been written for the show from my earlier live album IF YOU CANT MAKE LOVE MAKE COFFEE which seemed to reflect Queen’s journey.
I first worked with solo theatre director, Colin Watkeys (Ken Campbell and Claire Dowie) to look at the narrative arc of the work in my Singing Psychic show, and have used him again to help me shape the narrative. 

I have also consulted with Phil Ryan, the brilliant singer/songwriter on using my bass with a Roland synth to develop a soundscape as I play. 

Mary Hammond, formerly the head of the Royal Academy of Music Musical Theatre MA, who has given me singing lessons over the years, has also been brought in to consult on using the voice as an instrument to further the story.

What do you hope the audience will experience?

My story on modern sexual politics from a historical perspective hopefully will give some new information and education. I certainly have learnt a huge amount from the research and interviews, and realised where I have been judgemental in some areas of my life. 

When you talk to a sex worker or a woman having to go on the game to pay for her disabled son’s required care because of benefit cuts, it can open your eyes to what else is going on around. Looking at how erotic dance has gone from being sacred to the profane and how sexual mores have been set has opened my eyes and hopefully my audiences to look at the  topics in a new light.

It is also meant to be super entertaining and inspirational. The core message ‘Don’t be a princess, you gotta be a queen’ is what I want people to leave with singing, seeing how to strengthen that sense of self responsibility in their children and in the way modern rhetoric is used.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audiences experiences?

I am focusing on the narrative strand, is there a story here? Can they follow it? Does it make sense? Do the audience hear what I think I am saying? 

I also have two bits of audience interaction, as it is something I love, so that is less of a strategy and more of a MARYSIA TREMBECKA show experience.

On advice I have added a guitar synth, more tech than I have ever used in a show to make my bass guitar sound different through the show. A bass guitar and a female voice are rarely heard on their own so filling the sound is something I have had to look at.

Trembecka, a former city bond dealer and now actress, draws on a deep well of personal experience in her exploration of the challenges faced by women and the LGBT community in today’s world, and what it takes to rise to the top.
And her conclusion is: “All through history we have been judged by who we choose to sleep with. And the judgements are often made by a certain privileged selection of men who say one thing and do another. It’s time for that to stop.

“The message is simple, whatever your gender or sexuality, never be a princess – unleash your inner queen. I’m encouraging everyone to be queen of their own fucking world, because queens don’t need a prince to rescue them, they can do it themselves.”

Trembecka’s show has been developed with Arts Council funding which has allowed her to interview and learn from a cross section of women including sex workers, strippers and others at the sharp end of 21st century gender politics.

Premiering as part of the PBH Free Fringe, it’s a fierce, dark one-woman theatre-cum-cabaret performance that embraces everything from Shakespeare and Chekhov to RuPaul. There’s also humour, audience interaction and even a smattering of Burns’ bawdry in there too.

It’s also informed by Trembecka’s research into the experiences of women from the past and from literature, including Lady Macbeth.

This new show comes from a consummate entertainer whose Singing Psychic was a hit at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, toured Europe, earned five-star reviews and a Best Show Funny Women 2016 nomination, as well as featuring at the Brit Awards official after-party.

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