Emma Bentley talks to the three women that form Snapper Theatre. They discuss the hugely successful, Thomas, ensuring representation is always key and their latest, Hear Me Out.
It’s international women’s day and I’m in Peckham with three women: Julia Mucko, Kayla Feldman and Lucy Foster who collectively, form Snapper Theatre. Here is a trio who, it is immediately obvious, have been friends for a while and are tight as a company can be. They agree on almost everything and I can tell they have each other’s backs. Not that I am trying to catch them out at all and in fact, I’m rather in awe.
Lobster, their first show – a love story between two women – opened just over a year ago. About to graduate from Mountview, Feldman and Mucko came to work together on Catalyst, the producer and director’s showcase, and for both, it certainly did what it said it would on the tin. After seeing the work of writer, Foster at a new writing night, six months later they were performing their debut Snapper Theatre show at Theatre 503. “A pretty dreamy venue for your first show,” I gush and Feldman, the director of Lobster, tells me: “we keep ending up at venues that really care about artists.” I suspect it was more their hard work in inviting the right people that had paid off.
One of the most striking things about this company is their ability to listen. They are aware of the fact they are still learning and they don’t try and cover this with fake confidence or retaliation. Mucko, producer of the company remarks, “the most useful thing we have learnt is to be open to criticism and challenges.” This is a reflection on their kind hearts, but also an attitude that works in tandem with the focus of their work, which in Feldman’s words is an aim of “amplifying voices that are often misrepresented, giving audiences the opportunity to see themselves through a lens they may not have considered.” It was this mission statement that would put them in very good stead for their next show: Thomas.
It was Foster that put the rest of the company in touch with the writer and lead actor of Thomas, Robbie Curran, who she had agreed to give some dramaturgical support to on a new play. She had been working with Curran on one idea when he emailed to say: “Lucy, I’ve written a completely different show, will you read that?” She goes on, “and I read it and I was like this is the show you were always meant to write, this is brilliant.” Mucko tells me it was a serious consideration to bring the play under Snapper’s wing, but after reading the script and working out that it was a perfect fit with their company ethos, they started work on applications for VAULT festival. There was something important at stake from the moment this decision was made with Feldman recalling it was “very telling [because] when we did the elevator pitch of the show people would be like “oh yeah just like Curious Incident’, well no but that’s the only other show that you can think of with an Autistic person in.”
So they set out to do what they had already found successful for Lobster which was to make a play that focussed on the character rather than issue. Foster, director of Thomas remarks how Curran, “didn’t want people to feel that [the play shows] everyone’s experience of what autism is, because it’s not, it’s, this is what Thomas’s experience is.” That doesn’t mean to suggest that it was smooth sailing and Mucko is the first to admit that: “It’s not possible to get that right hundred per cent of the time.” But we can see how this didn’t lead onto a catastrophe of the likes of #Puppetgate for Snapper as they were open to change. Feldman sums up that unlike the writer Curran who has Aspergers, “we are three neurotypical typical people, [so] it’s knowing there are things we shouldn’t say whereas for someone who is on the spectrum would be within their rights to say and that is very fair.”
Next month they have another prolific venue to add to Snapper’s CV; Camden People’s Theatre, and with a highly sought-after place on their festival for innovative feminist performance, Calm Down Dear. At it, they will perform a full-length version of Feldman’s spoken word show Hear Me Out (which you can read our review of here). Feldman, who I thought was just a director now turns out to be a writer and performer too. She tells me about its conception:
“The reason why it’s called Hear Me Out is because it opens with … the poem I’ve performed the most in my life. It was called Real Women Have Curves and it’s a satire on all the different stereotypes of women in Hollywood and pornography and Disney princesses … and that title put people on edge and so every time I had to say this is called ‘Real Women Have Curves, hear me out.”
Although Feldman has fought to be heard in the past, bringing the show into a theatre context seems to have given her a solid platform to tell her story. She admits it’s a tough feat to perform, because it is a personal account which involves sexual assault. But Feldman won’t allow the piece to be anything but raw: “because there are so many stories coming out now it could be in danger of becoming a wall of white noise and people start to see statistics again, instead of people, when the key thing to this is that you need to see the people who have experienced this.”
A little time to think about the future for these extraordinary women, Foster reflects; “what we’d like to do is make [our work] more ambitious in terms of what we do with scope and form. We want to do things that are two acts and in major venues.” And for that, I hope they get some financial support… time to open up that Arts Council Application.
Hear Me Out is playing as part of the Calm Down Dear Festival on June 5. For more information or to book tickets, visit the Camden People’s Theatre website.