As she revives her 2015 Feminist solo show, writer and performer, Emma Bentley asks when a good time to revive is. Or, when should you finally put it to bed?
I thought I performed the final performance of my one-woman show on January 9 2017. I was at the Burton Taylor Studio in Oxford, a brilliant venue that felt particularly apt as it was the first theatre I had ever seen a contemporary play. Now I was there performing my very own show!
It also felt like a good time to put the show to bed: we’d toured and the show’s ‘call to arms’ of female representation on stage didn’t feel as necessary to me. Emma Rice had just been appointed artistic director of the Globe so it seemed the waters were changing. Unfortunately, later that year Rice would step down and something all the more sinister would be unearthed in the acting industry.
So, when I decided to bring my show, To She or Not To She back for Six Plays One Day at the Tristan Bates, it seemed there were three main considerations: Do I have the time and money to do it? Will I be able to get an audience? Is the play still relevant?
In terms of time and money, it’s often a question of having to work your bum off at ‘CAFE/TEMP JOB’ for a month to save up so you can take time off to learn, rehearse and promote the show. We’d all love to have an endless Arts Council grant coming in but unfortunately, you’re going to have to do a lot of ‘in kind’ work to make a rehearsal space, so get moving the sofas in the living room!
Money worries aside, you’re not doing this show because you want to be rich, right?! You’re doing it because you’re an artist, you want to be active, you want an opportunity to invite the casting director of Netflix’s Sex Education to see you in action …
Let’s say you’ve finally been paid for the Shloer advert you did last year, and now you think, “okay, yeah, I want to do it, but does anyone else want to come and SEE it?” When you’ve been doing your show for over a year, the chances are, most of your friends have already been to see it. Your options are: plead with them to come and see it again? E.g. “Please it’s got a bubble machine in it now!” Or, you must find a new audience.
Well, if that commercial was paid well, then you could look into hiring a PR agent. They should help you reach further afield than your mum, your cat and your best friend Izzie. Otherwise, get on the social media and start spreading the word. Or, you know, write an article for A Younger Theatre and hope it gets retweeted 386,877 times.
Finally, is the show still important? If you had written it on a topic that angered you, you are now probably hoping that it is no longer relevant, and that times have moved on. If that is the case, then you might have thought your show had an impact on that change – great! Luckily for me: we still need more women on stage.
Obviously, try not to rest on your laurels for too long. It’s okay to go mad doing a commercial tour of Fluffy Wuffy Doodles the Dog (I’m not judging!), but if you fall out of love with your own show, isn’t that just so much worse? I can imagine it feels something like day twenty-six of Edinburgh times ten.
Having considered all of the above and you still decide: YES! I’m doing it. I will revive my show at ‘INSERT FRINGE VENUE HERE’, now you might want to think about how you will redefine it. It feels like my co-writer and I were babies when we first wrote To She, so in returning to it, I am more cynical about playing the same character, trying to tackle the trials and tribulations of the acting world.
And just one more thing… the proof isn’t exactly in the pudding. If you’ve managed to be creative for a few days, then you haven’t lost anything by doing THAT SHOW again. And you never know who’s in the audience. Last week, I performed To She to a friend in a tiny practice room (it got very sweaty very quickly) and she had a little cry when I finished and said, ‘this is a very important show.’ Now I feel justified doing it, whether there are two people (unfortunately my mum can’t make it) or fifty-two. Who knows, maybe if you don’t want to revive it as a stage play you could try another medium: radio, short film, television series? Who produced Fleabag on BBC3? I must send them an invite…
Emma’s show, To She Or Not To She is on at the Tristan Bates as part of Threedumb Theatre’s Six Plays, One Day on Saturday 9 February. Visit the Tristan Bates website for more information.