At Tobacco Factory Theatres, we programme a wide range of work, from Shakespeare classics to contemporary theatre from emerging companies. This autumn we’re presenting three exciting new pieces of work written and performed by young women, for three nights each: The Cubed Series. These three distinctive voices each approach being young and female in modern society from a different angle.
First up is Vanity Bites Back. Written and performed by Helen Duff, it takes the form of a deranged cookery show presented by Jill – a creation some have described as a cross between Alan Partridge and Margaret Thatcher. Duff uses clowning to explore anorexia, something she has personally struggled with. When asked about the serious message at the heart of the play and the kind of research that went into the writing of it, Helen told us:
“Vanity Bites Back was inspired by my own experience of anorexia, from which I suffered most severely when I was at sixth form, then began to recover from, physically, while at university. I started making the show after training at LAMDA, working as an actor, then heading to L’Ecole Philippe Gaulier in Paris to study clowning. Here, the performer’s capacity to play with their audience assumed a whole new importance for me. It took about 8 years for me to speak openly about my experience of anorexia, so there was an awful lot to unpack in the rehearsal room. I worked with a fantastic drama therapist and facilitator, Holly Stoppit, to bring the material to a point of playfulness and connection. Surprisingly, the individuality of the show seems to be what makes it most accessible to audiences, allowing them to recognise a personal truth and reflect back on their own experience.”
Second in the series is And Now: The World!, the English language première of an award-winning German play by Sibylle Berg. Performed by one woman, it is a darkly funny depiction of an increasingly digital world. The Director, Abigail Graham, feels that the time is right to present such a play: “And Now: The World! is a laugh-out-loud play about the challenges of being a feminist in a digital age. It made complete sense to tour it now as we are having honest conversations about feminism and gender equality; about our relationship to technology and social media; and about clicktivism vs activism. We wanted to make something which would contribute to the debate in the way that only theatre can.”
Finally we’re presenting Portrait, written and performed by Racheal Ofori. It’s her debut solo show and was first shown in London at Calm Down Dear, Camden People’s Theatre’s festival of feminist work. Portrait looks at modern life through the eyes of a young black woman, inspired by Racheal’s own experiences. We asked Racheal how she had found the process so far of presenting her solo work:“I’ve very much enjoyed the process. It began initially as a dissertation and wasn’t very long at all, so it’s been great to develop it and improvise new bits to get it to where it is now.
Presenting a solo show for the first time is both scary and exciting. No one knows your voice, which is liberating because you have nothing to lose but also quite daunting as you have no reference from previous work of how the audience will receive the show. This keeps me on my toes in each performance. It means I don’t take an audience’s response for granted as it’s in no way a guarantee. The show depicts quite a few female characters that have pretty strong opinions and it’s interesting to experience how each audience reacts to them and their ideas.So far the process has been a good launch pad for my work as an artist and I’m very excited to create new work as this experience has been great. Hearing how the show has resonated with individuals makes me glad that I chose the platform of theatre, particularly when younger audiences respond because in the current climate they’re not our main theatre-going demographic and I feel it is imperative to get young people going to the theatre!”
In a theatrical landscape where only 31% of new plays produced are written by women, we wanted to give an elevated platform to these shows. By programming them as a series we are able to offer a promotional deal when booking for all three. We hope this will encourage people to see all three, and encourage a continuation of the dialogue generated by these brilliant writers.
The Cubed Series takes place at Tobacco Factory Theatres from Thu 29 October – Sat 07 November.
For information on individual shows and to book tickets click here: