I was invited along to Portsfest by Nomads 483, Rishi and Majid, who had seen me do the extract last April at the Theatre Royal in Winchester. Later that evening I opened for their final night of the festival, which had brought together such a mix of artists, many of whom were refugees. During the evening I chatted to some lovely dancers from El Salvador, and watched an incredible rap artist who blended Spanish and Arabic.
I’ve wrestled ‘Testy Manifesto’ into a 20 minute extract, where I have managed to keep all four appearances from my French revolutionary character, all of the music and costume changes, a few key poems, and the monologue about Paris – which is my favourite piece of writing from the show. Turning ‘Testy’ into a shorter extract was something I didn’t think was possible a year ago, but in a similar way to what the ‘Lobotomy’ extract has become, it is the edited highlights of a longer, much more existentialist piece. In the old days I made short vignettes, now I make longer shows and eventually condense them to their essential parts.
Speaking of the old days, and by old days I mean 2009, when I decided on a whim to become a burlesque performer. I haven’t performed burlesque since 2017, and just a few little gigs between 2017 and 2019. But it was an important part of my identity, and brought me so much joy for a significant chunk of time. I wouldn’t be doing what I am now without it, I wouldn’t have gone to drama school, and I certainly wouldn’t have had the guts to lay it all out to random passers-by in Gunwharf Quays of an afternoon. That gung ho, fuck it attitude that was fostered and nurtured in the burlesque world brought me here. I stopped making new burlesque acts because I knew that ultimately it wasn’t my audience, and the kind of work I wanted to create just didn’t have the ‘tah-dah’ factor that I knew they expected. But my gosh, I have zero regrets, it was absolutely the right thing for that time.
And now I’m tentatively gathering new pieces of writing together for a third and final show as Jeu Jeu la Foille, working with a theme which is so large and so taboo, that I wonder if I’m ready for it. But I’m feeling my way; taking workshops, listening intently, exploring my edges, adding books to my reading list, and holding it all lightly. I don’t feel called to share any of it publicly at the moment; it’s too vulnerable, and I don’t know what I have yet.
When I describe ‘Frontal Lobotomy’ I say it’s about Tom Waits and experimental brain surgery. ‘Testy Manifesto’ is about the Paris revolutions and intimate partner violence. I bring strange things together. With this final show, I only know one of the themes, I haven’t found the other one yet. It’s hidden in a book I’ve already read or have yet to read, it’s somewhere waiting for me. It’s hidden in an overheard conversation, a chance encounter, on an unfamiliar street.
I’m off en vacance in a couple of days to la belle France. I decided last September that I needed to get away for decent length of time, and so began saving my pennies and reading every guidebook the library had. I’ve not been abroad since 2019, and not away from home this long since 2016. I think the last holiday I had that wasn’t linked to work or study of some kind was in 2012. I intend to write, see some theatre and the Paris Catacombs, swim a bit maybe, but mainly I just want to walk, explore… as a free woman, with nothing better to do with her life. Sounds great, doesn’t it? I think so.