Spending all that time in France was glorious, and coming home was amazing. But I must’ve picked up a nasty virus on the Eurostar on the way back, as for the next (nearly) two weeks, I could do nothing but marinate in snot. I’m never usually ill for more than a few days at a time, and this was frustrating. I came off social media for the summer, and so couldn’t even mindlessly scroll. I had returned feeling like a tornado; full of creative ideas and thoughts of people I planned to see, but was brought back to earth with a bump.
While I was away, I had found out that I’d been selected to perform the ‘Testy Manifesto’ extract as the Propel Scratch Night at MAST Mayflower Studios. Luckily I was well enough to do it, though not as fit as I like to be before a show. It was the first time I had done the show as an extract; I was pleased with how it turned out, and delighted that I had some friends in the audience.
There were four other acts; all very different, spanning genres and generations. Everyone gave written feedback after each performance. We had all sent in some questions in advance, and I received the feedback two days ago. I haven’t had anonymous written feedback for this show since the very first scratch back in November 2019. And reading it all the comments today, knowing how long and arduous this process was…well, it means a great deal.
Reading the feedback helped me see things that I hadn’t considered before. Quite often while staging and blocking performance work, I’ll do things intuitively, and not think too much about how they might be read onstage. The actions just feel right for that moment. And it’s similar with the language used and the structuring of scenes, though the poems tend to lead me to how and where they want to be expressed. Basically, I’m just feeling my way in the dark most of the time, and having some meaning reflected back helps illuminate what I’m doing, and gives it a sense of purpose.
Here is all of the feedback – everything – it’s all useful, even when someone doesn’t know what to make of it, or is critical. It’s all welcome. I’ve grouped the responses to each question because it’s more useful to me to see the overall opinion.
This is a 15 minute extract of a 45 minute show. Does watching this make you want to see the whole show, or have you seen quite enough?
Yes. It’s very engaging. I’d be interested to see how the elements come together and the journey for the performer/ character through the piece.
Might see it. Not sure what’s going on.
Yes, would definitely like to see more.
The whole show.
I would be interested in seeing the rest of the show.
Would like to see more – was very engaging. Might need to strengthen the links / have a greater clarity for audience to follow.
There was a lot packed in there. A veritable assault on the senses.
I would be open to see it.
Either clearer links between scenes or each scene to be more distinct. In places I was confused. This is ok if it was deliberate.
Yes, I think so.
Yes I could watch more, but it needs to less disjointed.
OMG Absolutely! I would 100% come and watch this, and then come back and watch it again 😊
If I saw the rest of it, it might explain the 15 minute version.
Yes more please, but where is it going?
I would like to see it in context.
I would like to see it in full to see where it goes.
Would like to see an interplay between the various persona.
Yes I’d be intrigued to see the rest!
45 might be too long, but would like to see more, so maybe 30 mins.
Loved the poetry. You’re quite a wordsmith.
I’d like to see the whole show based on this.
I would like to see the whole show.
Do I want more? Hell yes I do 😊
I wanted to understand more about the throughline of the piece, and I think seeing the whole show would help with that.
I want to see more!
I’d like to see the whole show.
I definitely want more.
Yes! I’d love to see how all these things link. I’d bring friends.
Absolutely! Was awesome. What an incredible journey and way to deal with such hard hitting and important subjects.
Would like to see it all.
Yes – definitely can’t wait to see more!
More French? Less French? Just the right amount of French?
MORE! If you’re in any way French. If not – about the right amount. More music please! What is the relationship between the French clown and the other character / the performer?
Just the right amount!
Just about – more I wouldn’t understand 😊
Enjoyed the French, it helps to create atmosphere.
Just the right amount.
Can never have too much! But for audiences as a whole – just enough.
I thought about right.
Better French 😊
Just the right amount of French.
Un peu plus. NB: Face downstage more when talking to skeleton.
Give me all the French!!!
Just the right amount.
The right amount.
Bit less French.
Just the right amount 😊 Enough to get the character across, but not too much I got lost.
Just the right amount of French.
Just the right amount of French.
The French is about right.
No problem with the French (except dicey accent!)
Just the right amount! But I did do French GCSE.
Just the right amount of French.
I don’t speak French but was able to follow the French parts. They were fun. The right amount.
I’d be happy with more French as the storytelling becomes more visual through using it.
Just the right amount 😊
For me – perfect. I know French.
My French is poor. I got enough of it to enjoy it & I imagine many people got much more.
Just right (5% less) I fear I may have missed a joke or two.
Definitely not less French. It worked really well and the French used was really accessible.
Loved the French – right amount for me.
Which moment stood out for you the most?
Barbie! The juxtaposition of the humour and hard content. Wanda. Strong writing – interested in more form holding the different sections.
The scene with the skeleton – the straw, the last straw.
The abused woman part.
‘Barbie’ moment / Reference to feminism / Female inequalities / Outstanding acting / Wanda.
Barbie. Wanda. Really beautiful and poetic writing.
Loved the talking womb!
All the scenes were effective, but I’d pick the first – bullying in a nutshell.
The Barbie gag.
The positive bits!
Start – expected more comedy and dance from intro. Barbie’s jobs. Wandering womb.
I really resonated with the journey of the straw, you perfectly encapsulated an experience which can be so hard to explain to people but you did it perfectly. The same when talking about the friend and her partner.
The skeleton straw bit.
The monologue about the abusive boyfriend was very poignant.
The conversation with the skeleton. The puppet and the French character.
The quality throughout was mainly very good.
When the skeleton was thrown to the floor after their conversation.
The Barbie moment / monologue.
The dramatic entrance. NB – Please use unperfumed spray. Perfume can cause anaphylactic shock.
The poetry – there were some amazing lines.
After the scene with the male voice/skeleton.
The beautiful poetry of the spoken set pieces. Also Wanda the Wandering Womb – she was hysterical! (Sorry for the pun)
Puppetry and clowning. I’d like more of that.
Wanda the Wandering Womb. I enjoyed the moments of absurdity. Though the piece is analogue, I wonder if lighting and sound might help with its pacing and tension.
The story about the ‘friend’ and the detriment of female empathy.
Critique of Barbie – so topical! Use of props.
The very powerful description of coercive control. Such a short length of time to deliver such an intense, authentic punch – really got me in my chest.
I liked the skeleton scene and its abrupt end. Also the domestic abuse poem that ended in splits.
Not going to lie – it was all so bloody fantastic – I want to give constructive comments but all I can think is how marvellous and needed your work is!! Thanks for sharing!
The talking womb, the physicality, the poetry.
Wanda the womb.
If you were describing this piece to someone who hadn’t seen it, what would you say?
Feminist clowning and punchy spoken word. Engaging performer.
Nicely performed. Good poetry. Not sure what’s going on.
It’s a piece about the female condition. Thank you. I really ‘enjoyed’ it.
Spoken word. Creative. Multi-rolling. Emotive.
A timeline of a feminist.
An illustration of how women are doomed in an amusing and non-didactic way.
A little bit bonkers and a bit of a mish-mash of styles and ideas and writing. Leftfield 😊
Very interesting. Beautifully played. Disjointed.
A miscellany of opinion and monologues seen through the performers eyes. Fringey.
That it’s a piece about the human experience as a woman with comedy and refreshing links to the past.
Be open minded. One woman show.
A feminist manifesto in French-lish.
Off the wall fringe show with feminist info.
Quirky one woman multirole feminism and revolution show (Definitely worth seeing!)
Different language styles. Varied female persona.
A slightly disorientating but thought provoking monologue that had me entertained throughout. France also. It was quite brilliant.
Gosh! No idea. Very entertaining, wonderfully performed, but have no idea how to describe it…Be ready for surprises.
Surprised. Couldn’t quite work out whether it didn’t hang together because it was a short version, or whether it was meant to be this disjointed.
An intriguing, absorbing piece of performance. NB – Your use of fragrance could be problematic! My friend has a fragrance allergy – she was at the back of the theatre, but had she been at the front she might’ve had to leave, which would have been a shame…😊
A one woman show about her abusive relationship.
Electric and engaging performance piece with serious issues but a sense of fun. Slightly campy (in a good way) Beautiful writing.
Beckett meets Avenue Q meets The Good Fight.
An exciting incite on enacting and continuing revolution.
Clever use of language, playing with words. Theme of age-long struggles – political and very much the personal.
You have to see this!! I don’t really know how to describe it, but it’ll make you scratch your head, fill your soul with imagery and thoughts, rock and roll you, smash you up and warm your cockles and ok I’ll stop now – it was very poignant, but also made me feel RAAA. Powerful.
A creative, funny, considered meditation on femininity.
Powerful, impactful and really thought out. Felt like you were transformed into a different world with the poetic language. Really impressive!
A series of ideas being performed beautifully to make you think, think and think some more!
Powerful and poetic.
What a great set of responses! I guess the French works then, and people could even handle a little bit more. As for the piece being less disjointed, I don’t think seeing the whole show is going to make it any clearer for those who prefer their stories to be linear. I’m sure I’m not the first person to make ‘anthology’ theatre, I’m definitely not the first person to mess around with narrative. The etymology of anthology is from a Greek work meaning ‘a collection of blossoms’, which I like a lot. I enjoy linear stories, but I’m not interested in telling them…yet.
Wikipedia says this: ‘In book publishing, an anthology is a collection of literary works chosen by the compiler; it may be a collection of plays, poems, short stories, songs or excerpts by different authors… Alternatively, it can also be a collection of selected writings (short stories, poems etc.) by one author.’
I did have to make some of the changes and transitions more abrupt in this version. I needed to drastically edit some pieces of writing, and cut others out completely. All of the music was shortened as well, which I think usually gives an audience some time to process what has been said. But what I presented was true to the overall shape of ‘Testy Manifesto’, and seeing a longer version won’t necessarily make it make sense. In the same way as ‘Frontal Lobotomy’ was, it’s an album of sorts, a dream that you have while awake. But while the Lobotomy show was ultimately meant to soothe our troubled spirits, this one could rouse us and make us go RAAAA!! I’m glad it did that for some people. I will continue to experiment with how to give the individual pieces more form. I hope to continue to grow into it, until it feels like the comfortable, elasticated trousers that ‘Frontal Lobotomy’ now is.
What is the purpose of the third Jeu Jeu show I’m working on? What is the meaning I’m searching for? Why do I want to make another fucking show?! What I’ve written feels so vulnerable and unfinished. Poems used to come out of me in one go, like I’d plucked them from the air. Now it’s fits and starts, orphaned lines, everything is swimming and nothing wants to take form. Ugh, it's so frustrating. The first two shows were just as difficult in their own ways, and taught me so much Maybe I haven't lived enough life yet. FL taught me to be brave, TM taught me to get out of my own way...what do I need to learn? I'll understand one day, and probably laugh at how dumb I sound here.
‘Jeu Jeu la Foille’s Testy Manifesto’ gets its next outing at Faversham Fringe on the 19th of October, and it’s the whole she-bang this time. I’m toying with the idea of adding another poem that I wrote during one of the covid lockdowns. It illustrates the feeling of being trapped, and is one of the most viscerally bleak things I’ve ever written. At the very least there will be a new red dress - the old one is getting a bit fragile.
Love and overgrown courgettes,
PS: The use of perfume always goes on my risk assessment – but I think from now on I will provide laminated signs. The fragrance is an ‘aide memoire’ in the story, and it’s important that it’s real. Sorry.
PPS: I hadn’t realised I was doing the splits at the end of the monologue about ‘the friend’, (see photo) but now I see that it looks like I’m being pulled apart – again this is something I did intuitively, and now I understand it cognitively because someone pointed it out to me. Hooray for audiences!
Photo: Aaron West for MAST