Performer Stacy Makishi is bringing her new solo show The Falsettos to Chelsea Theatre this month. Alex Hopkins caught up with her to talk family, violence and why The Sopranos saved her.
Tell me about your background. How has this affected the concerns of your work?
I’m from Hawaii, which is a blessing, because no one can fault Hawaiians, it’s like supporting Accrington Stanley football team. And being from a place like Hawaii, you can imagine why my work has a homesick quality. Freud says Love is homesickness. Unrequieted love, homesickness, ‘elsewhere’… that longing for a love that’s just around the corner but always out of reach… These themes permeate my work.
What is your new show The Falsettos about and what can audiences expect?
Mobs. Moms. The Sopranos and lots of blood. Lots and lots of blood. It’s a show full of hope and a fistful of violence. Did you know that the word violence comes from the Latin, vis, which means life force? Who could know it? But I feel like watching the violence in The Sopranos aroused the life force in my Mom and I. My Mom nearly died three times last year and all that uncertainty plunged us into a depression. Now, if you’re worrying about death, I highly recommend watching The Sopranos. That show will whack some life force back into you, big time. And of course there’s Barbra Streisand and ET too. You don’t wanna miss this show. It will whack you, serenade you and then send you to the moon.
Sheldon Green is the star of Hutch, a a true life story of illicit love, racism and betrayal at the highest levels of British society.
What is the musical ‘Hutch’ about?
It explores the life of Leslie Hutchinson (Hutch), one of the biggest cabaret stars in the world, who rose to fame through the songs of Cole Porter. The show tells the story of Hutch’s affair with Lady Edwina Mountbatten, the wife of the Queen’s cousin and also his relationship with Porter. It is told through the songs of Porter, which Hutch performed.
Is this something of a ‘secret history’? Not much appears to have been written about it…
Yes, I think so. Certainly, when Hutch’s affair with Edwina came to light the royal family wanted to keep it as quiet as possible. Edwina lied in court and it brought about Hutch’s downfall. He was shunned by people and died in poverty. This man, who had created such wonderful music, was largely forgotten about, which is a great shame. When I auditioned for the role I had no idea who he was.
Hutch had many lovers, inlcuding men too…
Yes. Cole Porter was the man who brought Hutch into the music business and it’s believed the two had quite a long term relationship, sexually as well as musically. (more…)
Nick Field has chased geishas, discoed with Buddhist monks and travelled to the ends of the earth, all in pursuit of a freedom that constantly seems – quite literally – over the next horizon. He will be exploring all of this in his upcoming show Adventure/Misadventure.
What ideas about freedom does your show look at?
The central idea is how do we find freedom and what does freedom mean? I’m exploring this through stories of travel and stories about attempting to find freedom in terrible jobs or when relationships fail. It’s a performative travelogue in a way.
When did the idea come to you and how has it evolved over time?
It’s been quite a long process and I drew on different elements. I used diary entries I made while I was travelling and also experiences I had. Travel has been a big part of my life – I’ve been around the world to many exotic and exciting places and I also drew upon some of the characters I’ve met along the way. I wanted to curate these experiences in a way that would resonate with ideas of freedom. Does freedom happen by running away and finding adventure or does it happen through settling down and making a home? Those were some of the questions I wanted to ask.
What format will the show take?
It’s a solo work so will involve direct communication with the audience through spoken word, poetry and music. I will play the harp and will be using it as an emotional soundtrack to the journey. Additionally, I’ve worked with a choreographer to create a rather epic dance piece which pushes me out of my comfort zone.
Tell me more about your own travel experiences.
The longest trip I went on was for a year, seven years ago. I travelled around Japan, south-east Asia and South America and it was amazing. It gave me great freedom to discover new, cultural aspects to the world. Last year I returned to South America.
What did you gain from these experiences? Did you come to any conclusions about the idea of freedom?
One of the things that’s very interesting about travel, if you do it a lot – and this is certainly an arc in my show – is that there’s a kind of naiviety to it at the start. You go into it thinking about all the wonderful experiences you’re going to have and the people you’re going to meet, but then you graduallly start to see a different side to it. There’s a section in the show that focuses on lost souls, people I met along the way who were perpetually travelling.
How did you avoid becoming another lost soul?
I talk about myself as a lost soul in the show. I think that’s something we can all relate to in some ways. I think I avoided it largely through focusing on my work and my art. That’s been my priority for a long time, but there were periods when I was teetering on that edge.
How do you think being in or not being in a relationship can affect a person’s sense of freedom?
It’s a double edged sword – the idea that perhaps being settled down is being tied down and that this can be a barrier to being free. In the show I talk about an early experience of running away with a boyfriend and there’s an incredible sense of freedom in that story – fleeing from barriers that were holding us back. But we went as far as we could go and then had to come back.
How does your show explore the idea of returning?
There’s a key point in the evening where I look at the idea of coming back and finding ‘reality’ again. I talk about being at the Rio Carnvival and the excitement of its colours and characters and then returning to Heathrow and my mother telling me that we had to stop at Sainsbury’s on the way home. After being away for a year, having to negotiate that reality again can be tricky.
Where do you think freedom can be found – is being settled down not the same as being tied down?
I think it can be a fine line. I love my work so creating art has given me an incredible freedom. Having said that there have been awful days when I’ve been stuck in jobs just to try and pay the rent and there’s been that sense of being tied down and stuck. I think if you can find the thing you love then there’s great freedom in that. I don’t necessarily believe freedom is found in running away all the time. It’s basically about finding something you’re really passionate about. There’s freedom in that.
Nick Field’s Adventure/Misadventure is The Marlborough Theatre, Brighton until 12 May and at Oval House, London, from Tue 4 Jun – Sat 22 Jun, 8:00pm.
Words: Alex Hopkins
Greg Wohead’s The Ted Bundy Project is a solo work-in-progress opening at Ovalhouse this month. It examines Wohead’s relationship to American serial killer, rapist and necrophile the infamous Ted Bundy.
Where did the idea for the project come from?
I’ve been interested in Ted Bundy for a long time and really wanted to find out more about him. I’d go on Wikipedia and look up details about who he was and what he did. One night last year I was up late, looking at YouTube, and came across video interviews that Bundy did just before he was executed in the electric chair. I found them so compelling – they were creepy, but I just wanted to watch more and hear more of his voice. By all accounts he was a very charming guy and that certainly comes across in these interviews. I was simultaneously attracted and repelled and found that very interesting and thought that could be a starting point to make a performance.
A lot of the feedback I get about my work is that it’s ‘sweet’ or ‘charming’, so I also thought it would be interesting to devise a piece that plays with an audience’s trust. I wanted to ask where you can taken them once you have their trust and what happens if you betray that trust.
What format will your performance take?
It’s a work-in-progress, so it will continue to be made after the performance at Ovalhouse. It won’t be a play and some parts will be documentary type of performance pieces, coupled with some autobiographical stories. It will take quite a conversational tone and in some ways be a very relaxed piece.
Self-styled ‘Tranny With a Fanny’ Holestar will be celebrating 10 years of drag and troublemaking in her solo show ‘Sorry I’m A Lady’ this May. She caught up with Alex Hopkins to talk drag, depression, dominatrixes and what’s wrong with queers in the mainstream.
Where does the title for the show, ‘Sorry I’m A Lady’, come from?
I like it because it means numerous things and comes from the Baccara song of the same name, which I’ll be covering and releasing as a download before the run starts. A friend suggested I record it and I then thought it would be a great title for the show. It raises all sorts of questions – am I a lady in the feminine sense of the word or a lady because I’m a woman dressed up as a man dressed up as a woman, confusing people?
When did you first have the idea for the show and what are the motivations behind it?
Two years ago I worked out I’d been in the business for eight years and I wondered how I would mark the 10 year milestone. I’m not a big one for anniversaries, but wanted to do a roundup of where I am right now in my life, put a full stop behind it and move forward.
You’ve undergone many different transformations – soldier in the army to dominatrix to performer. How are you going to merge these and look at them in the show?
It comes in sections and isn’t necessarily in chronological order, but I’ll be looking at all the different aspects of my biography, including the time spent in the army and the most popular story from my days as a dominatrix.
In the second half I’m looking at what it is to be queer today and how I identify with gay men and envy their cruising. I’m also interested in questioning who our queer role models are now.
What motivated you to join the army and what was the experience like?
I left school without any qualifications because I was too busy discovering drugs, sex and rave music and then, after a few years off my tits, realised I had no job or security. Someone suggested I join the army, which I thought was a ridiculous idea because I was a pacifist and had also been an army child which had been a very painful experience, moving from place to place all the time. But the next thing I knew I was in khaki and running up hills; I signed up when I was on a come down and just thought it would be a laugh. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, physically and mentally, but it taught me a lot about myself and toughened me up. I was ‘Private Hole’ for two years.
This month Outbox, the LGB theatre company presents a new show, You Could Move, which focuses on sharing forgotten and unheard stories of the gay community. Alex Hopkins caught up with Outbox’s director, Ben Buratta.
What is your background and how was this project born?
I’m a theatre director and also an acting tutor at The Central School of Speech and Drama. This project was started about four years ago. I wanted to do something that looked at gay issues, using gay actors. It was an experiment initially, to look at the ways that we could talk about the process of coming out and to do this theatrically and not in a cliched way.
I spoke to a lot of gay actors who said that they never really got a chance to play gay characters and tell their stories, and if they did it was often in a rather two dimensional way.
What themes are you looking at in ‘You Could Move’?
We’re looking at what it is to be gay in 2013 and have been collecting stories from people for the last four years. We then put workshops together, with younger gay people aged between 14 and 25 and also much older gay people, of 60 plus. We found that although the laws are changing and gay people are getting more rights, homophobia in schools is endemic and bullying and gay suicides are on the rise. Moreover, a lot of older gay people suffer from isolation and loneliness.
The Spill Festival of Performance, the UK’s premiere artist-led biennale of experimental theatre and live art, kicks off for its fifth year in London this April. Alex Hopkins caught up with Artistic Director Robert Pacitti to talk about the vital types of connectivity that only performance art can give.
Tell me about your own background and work.
I am a performance maker myself and spent the last 20 years working almost exclusively oversees. I trained as a visual artist and am 45 now. Back then there was a lot of street activism. Thatcher was in power and it was a very particular time in British social politics. I realised quickly that I didn’t want to make things that hung on walls in galleries. I’m not dissing that – I’m a visual art fan and go to a lot of galleries, but I knew I had to use my own voice and body somehow.
While it was exciting to travel it also became a little frustrating as I was building work from UK politics and ideas of activism and not getting to share it with a UK audience. I moaned about it for a while and then decided to do something to change it. Out of this Spill was born.
Xavier de Sousa is a founding member of Needless Alley Collective. This month he will be taking his Cabaret Voltaire to the King’s Head Theatre to explore the European avant-garde art movement, Dada. Alex Hopkins caught up with him to find out more about a revolutionary group of artists who reshaped the creative landscape and their relevance to today’s world.
How would you define Dada?
It’s kind of art against conventional art and uses art against self. It was born out of the horrors of the first world war and the key figures included artists like Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings, Hans Arp, Raoul Hasumann and Tristan Tzara. When it first started in 1916, it was a reaction to how things were in art then. At the time things had to be something in order to be art. Dada said that if you wanted to draw a toilet seat then you could do so. It asked why that was any less art than a painting of the Mona Lisa. In fact some Dadaists did paintings of the Mona Lisa and then drew things on them. It was all about rebellion. In the manifesto it says that Dada is ‘everything and nothing.’ The movement promoted instantaneous explosions of creativity and then asked why these could not also be art. If you have an idea, a seed, and then spend so long changing it and developing it, you may lose the initial idea, the seed that you had, but it then becomes something completely different. Dada says that this is still art.
What sort of techniques are used in Dada?
The Dadaists looked at the spontaneous formation of art. For instance, one exercise you can have to form a poem is to cut headlines from a newspaper, put them in the palm of your hand and then drop them. The way they fall creates your poem. Dada asks why is that any less art than someone else spending two hours trying to write a few sentences?
The Cabaret Voltaire was a building in Switzerland. Tell me about this.
During the First World War lots artists escaped to Zurich. Artists like Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings and Tristan Tzara already knew one another and decided to go to a local student pub which had a massive room at the back which was not in use. They asked the land lord if they could use this. They didn’t pay any rent and the land lord received money from beer and sausages that would be grilled during the Cabaret Voltaire. This group invited more artists to join them and from this the movement was formed. Every day, from around 12pm, they would start creating something and would then show it in the evening. The whole ethos was very bohemian and celebratory of what they were doing in that particular moment.
Will the show at the King’s Head have any kind of structure, or is this contrary to the ideas behind Dada?
It will have some kind of structure. It’s different depending on the venue we perform in and this one is going to be more cabaret like – a bit more like what we imagined the Cabaret Voltaire in 1916 to be like. We are going to use the space as much as possible and not just be confined to the stage. There will be a sense of unity and responsive performance from everyone at the same time. Sometimes the pieces will be durational, with things going on throughout the show, such as items being built. Two people in a music group have decided that they will be writing a musical score during the show and will then perform it at the end. In total there are around 16 people taking part across two weekends. There will be more people on the second weekend and the people on the first weekend won’t be there on the second.
What is your role in the show? What can an audience expect to see you doing?
I bring Almost Xav, my live art character, and perform mostly durational pieces. I am thinking that my character may have a voice this time, which he usually doesn’t. The show grows every time it is performed and the shows across the two weekends will be connected as they will have developed. When we first did a show at The George Tavern in June2012, it went on for 35 minutes and we then just came to a stop. We didn’t know where to go from there and had to develop things on the spot. As we have become more comfortable with each other it has just kept growing. There is an arc, a beginning and an end, and that has to be achieved each time. We know there are going to be things that will happen in the middle, but how we get to them depends on the connectivity between everyone. Most of it is created in front of the audience.
What relevance will the show have to today’s society?
We always read the Dada poems and look at the concepts before we begin work on a show. This way we can put them in perspective and see how the world was at the time, in 1916. When we did The George Tavern show there was a brilliant poem called The Dance of Death by Hugo Ball. It’s very much about the tyranny of society and the enormous pressure it’s put under. Even though it’s linked the First World War there’s still a terror about the whole poem that resonates now. We felt that it had a lot of links to the London riots, which were very fresh at the time. The kind of war we are going through at the time was different from previous wars, yet also strangely similar. The issues generally remain the same. Our show at The Performance Space used a poem by Emmy Hennings and from my character’s point of view it was all connected with punishment and how people put a label on you and how you’re forced to go with that. In response I created a durational piece that went on for two hours in which I carried out very mundane tasks. One of these was dragging a block of concrete around the gallery, in my underwear, in front of my father! I’d then be bathed and have the pain stripped away by two dancers. For me Dada is about how we look at society, rather than the Dada techniques. I see it as more than the techniques of making art and as a critique of what you have around you.
How did Dada influence other art forms?
Dada itself is not actually very well known, but it actually changed art as we know it today. Before it there was no real sense of artistic forms being juxtaposed in the mainstream artistic environment. Everything was compartmentalised. What people call modernism today comes from Dada and the surrealistic movement was spearheaded by the likes of Tristan Tzara. From the simplicity of Dada people started to find new ways of creating art. You had artists deliberately starving themselves so that they could hallucinate to feed their imaginations. One of my favourite Dada techniques is what I call the ‘one to one hundred poem’. You sit down with a piece of paper and a pen and you’re not allowed to look at what you’re writing or even think about it. You then have to count out loud from one to one hundred and concentrate on the numbers while constantly writing. You’re often not aware of what you’re writing. It’s a technique I’ll be using in the King’s Head show and one I recommend everyone has a go at…
20, 21, 27 and 28 January.
Words: Alex Hopkins
Mark O’Connell is the author of Catching Bullets – Memoirs of a Bond Fan. Alex Hopkins caught up with him to talk martinis, Bond girls, Bassey and what would happen if Q got a boyfriend…
Tell me about your back ground as a writer
It started when I was 18 and got a lucky break by winning the Lloyds Bank film challenge. I went on to make a short film with John Simm, which gave me the bug for screen writing. I like the idea of screen writing because you can technically do it on your own without relying on anyone. Another couple of breaks with other competitions and schemes followed and I then fell into writing comedy writing which I love because of the immediacy.
What prompted you to write Catching Bullets?
The book came from a few avenues. I had frequented a few Bond geek forums and written some reviews of the last few Daniel Craig films, but quite different reviews. These got a lot of traffic in a short amount of time and I began to think that may be there was a book there. What I didn’t want to do was to write 22 chapters of Bond reviews or reanalysis; it had to be something else. A lot of publishers said I could do the personal or do the reviews, but not both. I thought why can’t I do both? I wanted to repoint these films.
How did you strike the balance between a memoir and factual analysis?
At one point I thought there could be two separate sections – one for the reviews and one for the personal. As I carried on writing I found that the reviews actually weaved themselves in and bedded down nicely with my reflections. I used quite a few running jokes like wanting to marry Maud Adams from the film Octopussy.
DJ Connell’s debut novel Julian Corkle is a Filthy Liar has been optioned by a major film company. Her second book, Sherry Cracker Gets Normal, has also won widespread praise. Alex Hopkins caught up with the driven Kiwi author to talk about childhood, funny business and the importance of exercising that butch side…
How did you get started in writing?
I’ve been writing for 25 years and started on a newspaper, firstly as a proof reader and then a reporter and page editor. Journalism work at a not-for-profit organisation followed and a long spell as an advertising copy writer. This gave me a very varied writing base. I gave up all commercial writing in the 2000s and threw myself in writing books, while I lived off my savings.
Giving up that security must have been a daunting experience…
Yes, it was very frightening, but I think if you have a burning desire and a hunger to do something like that you’ve just got to take the risk. Other people might have bought a house, but I bought a future, some kind of freedom. If you write commercially you’re always prostituting yourself on some level. People talk about journalism as being better than advertising, but it’s not because you’re still working for someone, you’re still conning someone in some way and always looking for that angle or hook. But when you write creatively, when you write a novel, you can create the whole world and the characters. You don’t just have a compelling story, but you can also have a message. I write about people who are different, people who are excluded or a bit queer in some way, those who don’t fit. One of my hopes in writing about people like that is to in some way encourage tolerance and understanding.
I’m interested to know when you first set your goals for your novel writing. Can you pinpoint the time when you first had a clear idea about what you intended to write about?
It started when I lived in Japan for 12 years. This was where I earned the money that I lived off while writing fiction. I then moved around a lot; I came to the UK for a couple of years and then I went to France for nine years, but I knew when I was in Japan that I was going to do something creative in the future to do with books. I was also an illustrator and I thought I might do something to do with illustration and did some illustrating for big newspapers when I arrived in Britain, but it wasn’t fulfilling me and I knew I had to write. It took me a while to figure out what I was going to do. At that stage I was also freelancing and it was finally when I moved to France that I decided that I wanted to write novels. My first story, Julian Corkle is a Filthy Liar, is about a young gay man in Tasmania. I’ve always had lots of gay male friends and feel comfortable with gay men. It’s straight men who have always given me trouble. I have an understanding with gay men, so I thought I would try and do something for my friends. (more…)