& # 39; Our stories are more relevant than ever & # 39;

Sexual harassment in the industry is the hot topic of 2018, and it is no different in Edinburgh. Emily Jupp hears from directors, actors and writers about how fringe shows help to tackle theirs and the experiences of others

In the past year shock waves were sent by the entertainment industry after high-profile sexual abuse scandals and the rise of the # MeToo and Times Up campaigns. It was inevitable that plays that investigate this seismic shift in the theater would be prominently present at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

There are 29 shows with #MeToo as a theme in the pony this year and another six shows with themes such as rape and sexual violence. Then there are more who have not chosen to label themselves so explicitly, but are focused on some of the gray areas of sexual abuse and power dynamics that have brought the movement to light.

Shona McCarthy, chief executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, says: "The margin has been providing raw, honest commentary on the most important issues of the day for a long time, and it is heart-warming to see the variety and breadth of the day reactions to the topic of gender policy at this year's festival. "

Shona McCarthy. Photo: Jane Barlow
Shona McCarthy. Photo: Jane Barlow

She adds: "From the politics of craving for slut, body image and masculine gaze, #MeToo is a thread throughout this year's fringe program and we welcome the many and varied conversations it will bring."

To underline the point that this is the year to question sexual politics, Theater Uncut – self-described & # 39; political agitators & # 39 ;, established in 2011 to do short plays in response to political events – a series of plays on the theme Ladies brought to the fore Power to Edinburgh this month.

Emma Callander, co-artistic director of Theater Uncut, says: "Every year there are many things to choose from, sometimes broad and sometimes focused, and this year we felt it was a moment in history for gender politics. great and has the potential for such a change that it would not have been a mistake if you did not, and it enabled us to appoint a series of female playwrights to investigate gender politics. "

Although it has been less than a year since the rise of the # MeToo movement, Callander has been warmly encouraged by the plays about the problem in the margins. "It's never too early to address the subject, and each response phase is valid," she says, before referring to the leadership role that the Artistic Director at the Royal Court played in the theater in 2017. "Vicky Featherstone's response was great because it went so fast. "

One of the pieces that #MeToo investigates is The Empty Chair, set up for a Hollywood after party, written by Polly Creed or Power Play Theater. The company also conducts a research and data activist campaign at the edge of the environment to analyze and expose the inequality between men and women in the theater of the edge and the base.

The questioning of the scammers of the subject does not stop there. The first week of the break included a 90-minute discussion on the Traverse about the balance of power in the theater and whether it was shifted, called: Gentlemen, I just do not have it here.

At the Edinburgh Fringe this year there is a series of shows about sexual abuse, including a number of historical studies, and it is impossible not to see them in the current context.

Ellice Stevens, Kathryn Bond and Sophie Steer in It's True, it's true, it's true in Underbelly, Edinburgh. Photo: The other Richard
Ellice Stevens, Kathryn Bond and Sophie Steer in It's True, it's true, it's true in Underbelly, Edinburgh. Photo: The other Richard

It is true, it is true, it is true, by theater company Breach, is about the lawsuit against Agostino Tassi, who raped the painter Artemisia Gentileschi in the beginning of the 17th century. It is not billed as a # MeToo show, but Billy Barrett, one of the company's founders, says: "We exist in the same culture where #MeToo takes place and the game is played now, so you would call to ensure that it has no relevance. "

Read our Breach Theater profile

Set several centuries later, Olivier The winning producer Guy Masterson's The Marilyn Conspiracy looks at misogyny and abuse in the life of Marilyn Monroe. "She was pushed from one pillar to the other," says Masterson. "She had three abortions and was molested and she was abused by the two Kennedy brothers … She could have been the poster girl for #MeToo."

Peter Darney directs James Dean is Dead! (Long live James Dean) watching the troubled life of another Hollywood Hollywood star, but this time a male. It reflects on Dean's life with his family, how he made it in Hollywood and the ill-treatment he suffered in New York.

"James Dean had to use sex and drugs as a way to get jobs," explains the theatremaker, who wrote and directed the award-winning 5 Guys Chillin. "The game asks: & # 39; Has he ever found joy or love in his life? Was it worth having sex with people for his career? & # 39; There are moments in the show that resonate with more recent stories about sexual abuse and power games in the entertainment industry.

Kit Edwards in James Dean is Dead!
Kit Edwards in James Dean is Dead!

In comparing the two eras, Darney says, "It's better now than in 1950, but you still have to be incredibly brave to be the first person to say anything about it."

Velvet, written and performed by Tom Ratcliffe, offers a more contemporary story about intimidation within the entertainment industry. "Together with the story #MeToo, it captures the inherent impossibilities and dishonesty of the acting industry more broadly," said The Stage's Review by Rosemary Waugh.

Continues …

Shows to watch out for

Kit Finnie & # 39; s debut show Mabel and Mickey is about Mabel Normand, a silent film star from 1910 and the 1920s, who often appeared next to Charlie Chaplin, but only received a fraction of his salary. Her story finds parallels with contemporary Hollywood power struggles. Underbelly Cowgate, 12.20pm

Samira Elagoz has brought Cock, Cock … Who is there? to the edge. It follows her personal research project that shows gender relations "in their brutal and beautiful ambivalence". It's about her regaining power and an attempt to get in touch with men after being raped. Summerhall, 06:45

ThisEgg brings dressed to the Fringe this year, based on the true story of a woman's response to sexual assault at gunpoint. Lower abdomen, 18:00

Polly Creed is co-producer and co-founder of Power Play theater, which aims to be the Guerrilla Girls of fringe theater & # 39; and producing data about inequality in the theater. The Power plays are a series of site-specific shows. Fun, several times

Baby face is the well-thought-out solo show by performance artist Katy Dye who reveals the absurdities of how our society is infantilized to women. Summerhall 13.30

The incubation time for a show in the Edinburgh Fringe is often longer than the 10 months it has been since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, which forced a few shows to make a choice. "[News about] Weinstein broke when we went into rehearsals for the first time, "says Lydia Grace of ThisEgg.The Dressed show is based on Grace's true story about making new costumes for herself after being told to strip at gunpoint. she made after the incident represented an aspect of the woman she wanted to become. "Sewing became a therapy for me," she explains.

Dressed review on Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh – & # 39; as beautiful and visceral as raw silk & # 39;

ThisEgg wondered if he would continue to make the show in the wake of the accusations against the Hollywood film producer and decided it was important to tell the story. "Partly it felt like our story was more relevant than ever and # MeToo felt too big to deal with it," Grace says about the decision to focus on her personal story instead of expanding it.

The show questions both the movement and also makes a point about how sexual violence has always existed. "The juxtaposition of the # MeToo movement and the show is about how it happened forever," says Grace.

Others also bring real stories about sexual abuse to the outside world. The Moonlighters Collective is staging I Am Not Your Woman, inspired by real stories, #MeToo and a challenging attitude towards sexual assault. Cock, Cock … Who is there? presents a "Complex and disturbing mix of literature and performance art about the aftermath of rape," according to Anna Winter's review.

Alissa Anne Jeun Yi in Love Songs. Photo: Harry Elletson
Alissa Anne Jeun Yi in Love Songs. Photo: Harry Elletson

Alissa Anne Jeun Yis one-woman show Love Songs is based on her own story about rape. "I wanted to make the show because of these stereotypes of a victim or a survivor," she says. "Things just happen in life … women are so strong and able to have positive sexual relationships [after an assault]. This idea of ​​being damaged goods went through my mind. That power must be celebrated. & # 39;

Danielle Ward, whose play The Half is at Pleasance Courtyard, was sexually abused 10 years ago by a fellow comedian. "I know that many female comics have appeared, but I've never had the feeling that I put such a thing in a stand-up show," she says. "By writing a play I could address it, and other aspects of the industry, through a filter, and the first time I saw Margaret and Anna play that scene, I felt sick, happy and in tears.

Also this year Caroline Bryant of Futures Theater is directing Never Vera Blue, about domestic violence and how it can erode the identity of a woman. "This is the 1950s, but that was me in 2002, with the same experience," she says. Bryant has been working for 26 years with survivors of domestic violence and women living with vulnerabilities and inequality with Futures Theater.

Laura Dos Santos in Never Vera Blue

Although gender-political shows are diverse in nature, they all have the same goal: to keep the conversation going. "At one point with #MeToo, it felt like it never ended," says Kirsty Osmon, whose show is Awakening on the Underbelly. "But it is so important that people think about the treatment of future generations and I hope that by telling them artistically about it, the audience can see it in a different light and not feel that they just hear the same thing again. "


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