Date: 26th April 2012
Interviewers: Susan Croft and Debi Withers
Company are: Jane Boston, Tash Fairbanks, Deb Trethewey, Jude Winter
Topics List: Susan Croft
00:00:00 Jane Boston: Musical background – Grandma played piano and sang in pubs. Her own influences were protest music and folk guitar and lyric writing. Not really theatre, except school. Then at university the politics of coming out and socialist activism led me to the fomal idea that theatre was the way to change the world. Background: one of the middle class members of the group – father was in education, mother worked in a library.
Travelled a lot between England and US. Educated at Sussex. Going to University was important in terms of coming out and politicisation and that came before theatre, tho music – informally and not very confidently was my skill.
00:02:08 Tash Fairbanks: My Dad was a washer-upper, my Mum scrubbed other people’s floors. Grew up on the bombsites of the East End. Didn’t really have any friends so played my own little plays out on the bombsites – my first acting/ writing etc.
Hard to come out as a lesbian 50s and 60s. Didn’t do well at school and didn’t know what to do but got into a community play at Cockpit Theatre and people said I had a talent for it so went to Drama school: East 15. Got chucked out after 2 years as I was a bit mouthy and they didn’t like lesbians and gays. Then I joined Community Theatre. Still struggling with being a lesbian. Then met Debs with some other women in this barn in France. I’d been in Gay Sweatshop but was at a real loose end – my Mum had just died. Debs said come to Brighton and then I met Jane and we started getting into music together. I played the flute really badly and Jane sang and played guitar beautifully. Fell desperately in love with Jane. We formed a little band: The Devil’s Dykes and we also did street theatre against – anti gay stuff, Corrie Bill, health awareness, against cuts etc
All very political. It was the time of punk which is how I could get involved – you didn’t have to play well. Also teaching self-defence
00:05:17 Susan: Can I ask about Community Theatre – was that Paul Thompson’s group
Tash: Was in Sidewalk first – Islington based. Did children’s theatre. It was all political. Also in Gay Sweatshop – Care and Control – about lesbian motherhood
Jane: And they wrote the play about you? based it on you
Tash: That was Sidewalk – Son of a Gun. Main GS one I was in was Care and Control.
Sidewalk I was with for 2 years and that was fine but I was in this Hackney squat with lots of radical feminist lesbians and they started saying lesbians shouldn’t be in theatre because you are up there in front of men – that kind of radical feminism so I started losing confidence and I left Sidewalk. And then I found GS and that was ok –you were allowed to do that if you were a lesbian. It was all so hard. And my Mum had died about the same time and nobody let me know in the squat even though they knew. The most horrendous time. Then I moved to another squat in Vauxhall and that was a lot nicer and that’s where I met Rosemary and Jonah and then I met good-old Debs
00:07:28 Debs Trethewey. Born Johannesburg. Grew up running around the bush. Expelled from boarding school for being a lesbian. Lots of my motivation was around how I was going to live my life. Finished school and left South Africa at 18. Had never met another lesbian, thought I was the only one in the world. Came to England and went to the Gateways. A few years travelling around, living in a cave in Greece and things like that. Then back to SA and made sandals, did leatherwork, worked. I’m the technician in the group. Not an acting tho music has always been big for me, even in the bush. I was in Bristol and the woman I was involved with moved to Brighton so that’s why I moved.
Felt the separation from family very acutely and decided I needed to train at something so I could earn money and travel back and forth and visit my mother. So did City and Guilds in hi-fi, radio and TV servicing. Bit of a nightmare with 400 men but I stuck it out!
Brighton v vibrant – felt I’d come home – met Jane and Tash and Jude. Joined the group and did everything technical. Six years I drove the van, built the sets, did lighting design and ran the lights and sound/PA – pretty much everything but acting.
Conversations really important. Helped devise the plays because all the conversations around the plays happened in the van over hours of driving back and forth we discussed the next show– the politics of the time, what we should be talking about, wanted to show, what that might look like. If we wanted to do a western I would say ‘Well I can build this …’ That would be my contribution. As well as the politics. So we were a good team.
00:11:00 Jude Winter. From South Africa. Didn’t know Debs there. My Dad was a vicar. Formative years were in church pantomimes – I always had the leading role as Dad was the vicar! Grew up absolutely loving dressing up. A lot about wigs, stockings. But we were also a very political family. My uncle had been deported from Namibia during apartheid era. Involved in student politics at University and was arrested and went to prison for a short time. At that point left South Africa – not made to be a hero. Came over here very much aware of a certain area of politics but nothing around feminism, nothing about sexism. Had been the girlfriend of a boy who played in a band who were very successful in SA and longed to be in a band – but boys were in bands, not girls. A huge thing wanting to be in a band and to perform. Was qualified in clinical psychology – practiced for a year and was hopeless. Came to Brighton and started washing up. Moved into a household where there were feminists. Became celibate – crucial to what we’ve done. Knew – or thought – I wasn’t a lesbian like half those women in the house. Joined Theatre Againist Sexism, street theatre in Brighton – set up by JB and TF but they were in the States so didn’t meet them yet. Realised how much I loved performance – especially that had a political message. Asked to play keyboards (having played organ in church) in Devils Dykes. Tash and Jane came back like a burst of fresh air – musical influence, theatre influence, dynamism from States. Started a company – moved away from doing agit-prop – we couldn’t explore what we wanted to. Started with Mama’s Gone A-Hunting.
00:14:20 Susan asks about Theatre Against Sexism – how shows looked, what they were about.
Fantastic handmade props. My sister was in same theatre and made masks Judy and Punch show about violence against women. About anti-abortion – The Corrie Show
Jane: Who set it up?
Group: Plays on health issues e.g. in Lewes when we were away and campaigned. The boys set up Theatre Against Sexism (TAS). Mixed group. Nick Gibson got Wedlock together. An evolving mixed socialist feminist group. Some from university, some town, non-academic Mens’ house where they lived that lifestyle – Men Against Sexism and a women’s house where Debs lived.
0:15:55 Devil’s Dykes
Debi: Devil’s Dykes was you four?
Jude: Not me.
Group: Jen Green, Rose, Heather de Leon, a man who was a drummer. Jay…? One man who played guitar. The rest were women.
Jane: Very first formation was without men, before we went to US. I took a year out to go to US.
Tash: and I followed you.
Took us out of this extraordinary atmosphere that Brighton was to California. 78-79 – Thatcher got in while we were away. Band a motley crew. Gig at university – famous starting and ending at different points. Line up was – Tash, jane – Jen Green and we think Rose Yates, Heather on drums. First all-women’s band in Brighton. In London there was Guest Stars – so many different names Jam Today? Sense of being cousins on the coast – embryonic slightly different experience. Not cut and thrust. Half of us couldn’t play.
Jude: Joined while they were away – a man replaced Jane on guitar – honorary devil’s dyke. But we decided we wanted to be a women’s band DD transmogrified and became Bright Girls.
Susan: Playing punk?
Group: Jane wrote quite a bit of it, Rose did. Not pogo-jumping. Bit of reggae, ska. New wavey kind of style. Not heavy.
Jane: Jumpy, light, not culturally immersed in punk but that atmosphere gave us the courage to try and fail – and fail again. Mood of the times to have a go.
Tash: So many punk bands in Brighton such as Peter and the Test Tube Babies – their lyrics were disgusting. We did a gig together and pulled the plug on them
Jane: That was many years later
Debs: Patti Smith’s defined punk as an attitude, a way of looking at things –protest songs as well as angst songs – alternative people could come together
Tash: All rehearsed in what used to be the burial grounds.
Debs: Shared a lot of equipment with other bands.
Group: Played at Concourse, Richmond pub, Corn Exchange, University Pavilion, Polytechnic, Lambeth Town Hall, Bow Town Hall, Hackney Empire. Holland – our great resource place – also later as Siren.
00:21:30 Debs: Because the 4 of us were touring as a theatre company we played as a band called Siren – booked to perform one night as a theatre company, the next as the band – we had all the equipment for the songs in the show. I would be the drummer.
Jane: When we came back we would sometimes play with the others as Bright Girls – to raise income as much as anything.
00:22:15 Formation of Siren
Jane: Very, very conscious formation – out of the books we were reading, the politics – decision that the women-only environment was where we needed to chew this over – 1980.
Played at Melkweg and Paradiso, Utrecht etc + other Dutch venues. Phenomenal opportunity in terms of resource and lifestyle – Dutch women had lots of money.
Also went to Switzerland and to Berlin. A broomstick was hard to get through customs.
First street theatre piece they took to Houses of Parliament – anti-Corrie – performed in a debating chamber. Byinvitation.
Jane: I had always performed at school but did not feel I had the skills base to put myself out there. Meeting Tash and the group gave me form, substance and environment to test and develop things – crucial for me. Confidence cusp.
Jude: Not just theatrically but as feminists. Forming our ideas, coming out as a lesbian. It was absolutely true the personal was political. We would talk through what was happening in our lives and that would become the seed of a play
All: Mary Daly – hours discussing the theory + doughnuts and improvisation led to play
Jude: On tour we would be talking about the next play in the van
Tash: I did the scripting and forming into a show
Jude (and others): Reluctance at the time for anyone to take or give credit. Tasha’s role was underplayed at the time. Hugely responsible for clever wordplay – making it into a piece of theatre.
00:27:46 Group: Mama’s Gone a Hunting. Based on a court case – Woman puts argument as to why she should leave Man. Plus Inter-Galactic Judge. He puts the counter-argument – all through history. Turning concepts on their head. Invisibility of women in history.
Jude: Kate Crutchley did us a favour early on – they arrived with props – each with a hat teetering on their head for each role. Lose the hats, said Kate.
Shared admin, made it up as they went along.
Made lists of women’s groups, theatre groups. Poor man at Southeast Arts helped us along. Man at ACGB though was awful. Lots of phone calls, stamps. DIY. Got slicker as years went by. No money except for [govt.] benefits – they were very equitable – would share them based on need.
Tash: Edinburgh – went up late in the day. Because of that they were not on publicity but would perform for the queues – the builders working nearby started joining in after a while.
00:32:25 Curfew. Big show on women’s activism and violence against women.
Tash: Set in a state where men… Leeds conference – Yorkshire Ripper was happening at the time. Cf The Handmaid’s Tale [Atwood] – futuristic. Charlene (Jane) a secret lesbian. Scurrying around in the dark to get to a women’s place Jude was owned – a ‘manned woman’.
Debs: A very hard-hitting play. I helped out with the 3 floodlights in front – all we had. Sometimes the audience changed them. With Curfew I joined the group. We had a bit more equipment. I felt very nervous – atmosphere in audience was so uncomfortable. Fear the women would be attacked. Heterosexual woman climbing onto the laps of their men because the men were getting quite aggressive. Hard-hitting show – pulled no punches about rape etc. Fantastic play. I had a plan how to deal with violence and sabotage. Very well-received and popular with women though.
Attacked religion, marriage, fashion – roles in which women are held down. About institutionalised state as well as personal sexism.
Susan: Reviews? Discussion feedback?
Jude: Reviews were mixed. Debates very interesting – often very small towns – stilted in formal after-show discussion, but in the pub it was incredible, women said it was life-changing. Lots of women would come out.
Group: Created a new touring circuit through doing it – groups of women that wanted us would book us into local clubs and theatres. They’d raise money to pay for us to come.
Invited back again and again.
Jude: Importance that they had Debs in non-traditional, non-atmospheric performance spaces e.g. community halls – she would transform them.
Jane: Spaces became safe and possible. People at the venue knew their part, selling records, tapes etc
Debs: No desire to be onstage except as drummer – being herself.
Bought kit themselves from money they earned – all ploughed back in e.g. 2nd hand 8 track mixing desk, then lighting mixing desk.
Never paid wages. Lived on benefit. Built sets out of stuff on skips, throw-outs e.g. from refitted Albany Empire. Debs had skills to rewire them.
00:41:43 Van. Clapped old Bedford. Tours done of the back of the AA – broke down and were relayed to venue. Waved goodbye. A mechanic ‘fixed’ it – and they broke down again on the way back – and they took us all the way to Oxford. Later a blue transit and a yellow one. Later Community Transport vehicles – no that was Dorothy Talk.
Debs: Unbelievable how we fitted it all in. Someone travelled in the back.
Customs in Holland wanted to look in the back – early hours of the morning. They opened the back and a giant Mother Hen costume started to come out. We always had more than our quota of wine in the back. Made us unpack everything.
Jude: We all personally invested in really good band equipment. We got on the nerves of young men – carrying heavy gear, not paying attention to them. Twice we got attacked – once seriously with a knife, punched, a paving stone lobbed through the window. Seen as the ‘aggressive lesbians’ just by being there.
00:48:15 Accommodation. Often stayed in people’s homes. Hotels etc in Holland. Free drinks tickets. They were 2 couples so didn’t take up as much space as some! But often women would come back and want to talk through the night. There’d be some vegetarian hot pot…
We’re all still very close. Jude and Debs still together 30 years on. We’re like family. Shared history.
00:50:16 Food, Housing and Work Ethics and Engagement
Jane: England at the time a very beleaguered country. Not much choice e.g. about food
Touring to N and Midlands suffering under Thatcherism, much worse than Brighton.
Food was a big issue. Often fish and chips – nothing else available, and they might be closed. Chip butties and a cuppa tea.
Did you get a lot of hassle from the dole?
Tash had the classic Employment Review Officer response ‘I want a job as an actor’ ‘There’s a job at the box office – you can work your way up. Signing on every 2 weeks – helped by large number of unemployed which meant it was 2 wks not 1. We had to make sure tours fitted around signing on. Or sometimes they could have a week’s holiday which gave them 3 weeks. This was because they did not have ACGB funding, this was how they had to do it.
Jude / Tash: I feel very clear that I felt it was very justified. Very little funding for the arts, alternative, women’s arts – not our radical kind – it was something we thought was good for women and society. It’s interesting with image now of scroungers on dole, living ‘an easy life’. We worked our butts off! And we all worked as washers-up. We had a rota in a fish restaurant’.
Jane: We were very connected to a work ethic. I sometimes would find it really daunting because we never stopped – driven, on many levels – upskilling all the time, interrelating. One could hardly accuse us of wasting taxpayers’ money – there was a constant sense of transformational desire to do something with/ for our society – that was our choice to use funds in that way
Jane also doing a part-time MA in the first cohort of Women’s Studies at Kent. Very radicalising. Helpful for me and would bring that material back and we’d chew over it.
Susan: Remembers there was a journal at the time called Gossip: a Journal of Lesbian Ethics – that that was a context in which you could explore the ethical assumptions behind different relationships – a whole notion that you had to be engaged.
All: Absolutely – engagement was it. All in women’s groups, CR group, Tash teaching self-defence, doing Women’s Newsletter, marched on everything…
Susan: Where were you living?
In communal houses in Brighton. Jude: I was in a house where there was shared childcare – my touring had also to fit around my days looking after Anna. There was an agreement – could only tour Th, Fr, Sa, Sun. Group were very supportive tho’ we’d been trying to tour more. Tensions where there was career but also alternative family.
Anna was the house’s daughter (Jude’s sister’s daughter) but became Debs and my daughter – that’s another story.
All had shared responsibility – part of the alternative ways of being, supporting, looking after each other.
00:56:47 From the Divine. Started 1982. The Falklands war – Thatcher. We missed the ferry from Sheerness to Holland. Brave boys going off to war – sweethearts lifting their jumpers to say goodbye – patriotism, patriarchy, heterosexism. Systematically interrelated: ‘War and Marriage’ sums it up. Songs reflect the politics of the time. No love songs – they were all about out there, the world we wanted to change.
Fantastic costumes – gone upmarket. A student from the Poly helped. They played an ENSA troupe in WWII. An angel starts it talking about all the bleeding wars – 30 Years War etc All the same war. Lily and Ruby, the nice girl and the whore Tash played Harry the bloke in the top hat. Taught herself ventriloquism. ‘I had a dummy dressed the same as me’ the persona of the male got more and more destroyed’ based on the language of how men are forced to define themselves. Gendered language. Influenced and mirroring research like Dale Spender. External director for the first time: Sylvia Vickers from RADA. We didn’t wholly understand each other. Professionalism helped. Becoming more theatrical. Recognising more the importance of entertainment (tho’ always there)
Jude: Within feminism a no make up, ordinary clothes approach. We embraced glamour big time. Also the early seeds of quite physical theatre. Lots of dance and movement. Visual things using props, not language. Style of theatre developing. Not just the message, moving away from agit-prop. Interested in pleasure. More subtle piece.
Jane: It worked with anti-war groups. Reception widened
Debs: First time we had a small grant. Becoming more known. Began to be booked by arts venues, not just women’s groups. More mixed audience.
More ‘oldies’ i.e. our age now! They loved it. People could take from it whatever they wanted – lovely costumes, nice songs. Unlike in Curfew. No escape.
Debi: How did it effect you as a group doing something that was so intense and political and on the edge? Was that why they moved away from it?
Not a reaction to that – our development as performers. Ideas were still radical just moved on theatrically. Not that subtle. But always many layers to whatever we did.
Curfew was about rape. From the Divine was broader worked as feminist or as anti-war. CND would book us.
Jane: Still grappling with ingredients to make them work together. Interesting juxtapositions – wearing glamorous dresses, playing bass and guitar, unexpected images.
Tash: One-off performances usually. Setting up, long drives, get-ins, warm –ups, doing the show, talking to audience. Onto next venue.
Jude: Challenge of how to move seamlessly into the song. More acoustic, used banjo.
Debs: Backing track for first time. Full sound. Recorded tracks on reel-to-reel in basement where she lived. Done on next to nothing. Then recorded at Newhaven boys’ club. Some tracks on Siren Plays done in studio. Trying to free ourselves up but still connect to music we knew.
Front rooms. Sometimes a church hall.
Susan asks about devising process.
Jude: Not improvisation. Lots of discussion of characters. Then Tash went away and put that into a scene and we’d try it out. Ideas. How could an idea be made theatrical. That came later. Talking ideas and politics.
Lots of music writing was Jude and Jane. One would bring an idea – literally improvised around that – maybe some lyrics and a refrain. Synthesisers were fantastic then – exploring atmosphere.
Jane: Trying to think of myself as a poet – lyrics were my thing. Not all of them. Lines, suggestions, moods.
Debs: While waiting for Jane and Tash, setting up for band practice they might just start singing, exploring, free play – jamming. Knew a song was needed – explore stuff and it could become a song
01:14:33 Now Wash Your Hands, Please. The Miners’ Strike instigated it – bastard Thatcher. Pretty explicit target. Set on an Intercity train. Set was a large toilet seat with a lid. Had some fantastic things – formed a raised stage – phenomenal design.
Debs kept finding new solutions, refining them. Massive roller towel. It was a toilet seat but a performance space. Ends with lid coming down and flushing. Jude was flushed away. Metaphor for Thatcher, washing her hands of society, lack of responsibility. It all had to be collapsible to tour. Locking sections.
This is when 5th member of group joined – Hilary brought something unique – Gaulier, LeCoq, Monique Pagneux training in France. Played viola and violin. Had a quirkiness that brought a completely new dynamic – but unfortunately had the wordiest part.
Going nowhere at speed, trapped on it, couldn’t afford a ticket but couldn’t stop it. Anti-nuclear. We also went to Greenham. Unemployed as sleepers.
Lots of comedic opportunities. All stations announced were names of cheeses.
Miners’ strike references. Jude as oily PR in pale blue suit.
Next play was more visual and physical – influence of new person changing dynamics.
Susan: How did she come to join?
Jane: Tash and I had fallen out as a couple. For various reasons I took office role for a year and wasn’t in the show.
Group: We knew Hilary’s sister. Word of mouth. Changed the form. No songs – a real loss but part of our growing and changing. After that we didn’t have electronic music – we had acoustic.
Debs: End of NWYHP – dramatic – seat came down, made such a wind – shocked people
01:23:05 Pulp. Desire – sexuality. Issues not of out there but what’s within. Most popular and successful. Much lighter. Romantic. A thriller. Not light – about betrayal. 1950s McCarthy era and 1980s. Magda, a glamorous bar singer in a Mafia plot. Good songs. Lovely bar. Sensuality and betrayal. Best set design ever.
Had a Director, costumes, played at Drill Hall – our peak. Sold out – returns queues. 1985. Exposure to more mainstream lesbian network.
More lesbian romance. People stamping their feet. Electric response. Passion. Flirtation and pulp fiction. Early lesbian pulp novels with tragic endings. Also the betrayal of McCarthyism. Lovers who work for MI5. German neighbour who had been in the Camps – but a ‘trusty’ who collaborated.
Some Jewish women upset because of what it seemed to be saying – Monika assumed to be Jewish. Moved away for the first time from gender politics of knocking men and looked at relationships between women and then being baddies. Need to look at ourselves in society.
Quite a sexy show – we allowed ourselves. Hilary was the detective in a trenchcoat. Hilarious. We knew how to work the audience better – with humour and sexuality.
Influence of Split Britches – Peggy and Lois.
Giving ourselves permission to be glamorous, be gorgeous and explore that.
Went to Boston Women’s Festival, NYC (just as visitors)
01:29:56 Hotel Destiny
Jane: Natural extension of exploring identity disguise, costume, fantasy, how do we construct ourselves, worlds we can inhabit – heroes, heroines. Not so clear-cut
Debs: Discussion in van. What would be the medium to explore that theme? – a Western. Cacti. I would then be thinking about set. Big bits of polystyrene that looked like rocks. You could sit on them. The paint I used first dissolved them and they looked more rock-like. bent aluminium tubing. Fluorescent sign. Light through black net. Looked stunning.
Jude: Explorations of lesbian pornography, pushing boundaries, taboo subjects. Asking what are we playing around with. Not as popular as Pulp, though meatier. Characters: Blame, Rough, Chance. Hilary was Miss Evans – in a different play. Still a fabulous performer.
Music? — Country and Western. Jane played acoustic guitar. Jude had a piano. Most were unrecorded – one only. Music added to action – short linking sections – more embedded than just singing songs. They were singer at a C&W fair.
Directed by Bryony Lavery.
Susan: Have others produced the published plays?
Not as far as we know.
Jude: Hilary and I performed Dorothy Talk later in US. A women’s college had done a Siren play as a reading
01:37:04 Cabaret and other shows, Performed a cabaret to raise money. Lots of short quirky pieces – could do a few or many e.g. supporting Pookie Snackenburger. Brought out the best in us.
Also still doing gigs. Tension in group over styles – Jude and Hilary wanting to do more physical theatre. Jane and I did a more physical show. J & H eventually did Les Les.
Jane: Bubbles. Exploring ideas about existentialism and identity, gaps between making a main show.. Less pressure to produce it as a full-length piece. Went off on slight tangent
Tash: I wasn’t in it. Gripping bizarre piece. Left-of-field.
Jude: You were in it. I just played synth.
Finding different ways of expressing shifting company dynamics.
Debs: No fallout or horrible parting of the ways but we were growing up. Ten years of working together. I needed to earn more money. Jude and I were bringing up Anna and had moved to London.
01:40:52 Swamp. Final piece that did us all in. An extraordinary piece. ’ A horrible experience’. Trying to make us all be together in a more physical piece. Director [Clare?] Improvised and Tash scripted but Clare didn’t want Tash to pull the piece together. She was from Complicite.
Jane: Ending was complex, mirrored perhaps some of the dynamics of where we were at. Irony was we got a substantial grant for the piece for the first time.
Some beautiful bits but we weren’t gelling, she didn’t. Wonderful writing but Clare didn’t like it / want writing. Problems of form. Lots of things watered down. Not one thing or another. Three women – three Fates – trying to separate and work out what to do next
Jane: It was a swamp. Close to Beckett . Psychodynamically amazing. Raising extraordinary things. We couldn’t fully realise it.
01:44:06 Les Les. A Siren show? Not certain.
Jude: Could we be Siren if we did something separate from the group? Not the quality control of Siren. Hilary and I made up a new company name: three productions
About couples. Two women who have long since forgotten what it is to be apart. Difference was interesting. Passion was interesting ‘They grew slowly more alike – and that was not’. Took clothes off. Plastic kids’ pool.
Anecdote of hot water one freezing night that stayed too hot…
01:48:25 Susan asks what they’ve each done since…
01:47:55 Jude. Formed Dorothy Talk with Hilary Ramsden. Toured for 4 nearly 5 years, did 3 shows. Lots of touring in US as H’s partner was a writer there – residential work there. But Anna was 16 and I felt I’d been away too much. Got a job in a Community Transport organisation – have gone on to be Deputy Chief exec and absolutely love it. Nothing to do with theatre since except seeing it. Took me a while. Successful businesswoman.
Debs: Your theatre background has stood you in good stead.
Tash: Has turned it into a major social enterprise. Lots of money running mainstream bus routes – HCT Group, employing 800 people.
01:50:38 Debs. Left sooner to earn money. Needed to visit my mother. Got a job as tech – lights -with Monstrous Regiment on My Sister in this House [Wendy Kesselman] Toured. Sitting in control room with Gill McBride she pointed out a job ad: working with vol sec repairs in the home for people with disabilities and elderly. I could do carpentry, electrics, a range. In Hackney. Worked there for 13 years till a Senior Engineer. CORGI reg. Plumbing, electrics, gas. Preventing falls for older people.
Video ends 01:51:59
The remaining 15 minutes of the interview can be heard on our audio recording.
[Set up a business aged 49 – manages people’s building works. Some property development. Word of mouth. Often for older women known through women’s movement. On a circuit. Works well with men. As does Jude in transport sector!
01:55:18 Tash. Siren break-up was very painful for me. Was commissioned for plays from community and political groups – some ok. Missed working in the group. Lacked confidence as a playwright on her own. Started training as a psychotherapist and working in mental health. Got ME about 10 years ago – haven’t been able to work since. Helping my now ex-partner’s son who was into theatre to get into RADA, I started getting back into theatre and we started writing a play together: Fog – at the Finborough – lovely writing with someone else again. No clashing of personality. Lots of acting it out. Lodgers pay the mortgage sometimes shocked by this. Would have fostered kids– so is glad to have a son indirectly.
Fog has been v successful – going to NY and maybe West End. Working on screenplay.
Playwriting workshops in women’s prison. Doing something to make world different.
An opportunity given again.
01:59:50 Jane. Siren made me. An extraordinary story for all of us – very moving. Did M.A . Trained in Voice. I needed to make one strand work on my own. Heard about the course at Central. Put myself into mainstream theatre – worked my way up – conscious learning process – took a long time. I run the course that trained me after 20 – 25 years. Becoming advocate for my own sense of system.
Tash: You have fought against male-dominated system. Instigated equal opps at RADA.
Siren gave me understanding as a way of using theatre to understand social relations and equity.
Rest of group: And a book. Writing poetry. Dedicated, thorough, loyal. Not compromising. Jane speaks so nicely but you should see her when she’s riled.
Also Hilary – she has a PhD in performance. Still performing – Walk and Squawk. You must interview her – a one-off
02:04:20 Musical Influences. Debi: Who are your musical influences – your music sounds so unique – weird rhythms, structures – where are you coming from?
Jude: Laurie Anderson. Untraditional rhythms
Debs: Elvis Costello, The Au Pairs, The Raincoats. Mix of reggae, ska, New Wave…]