Tag Archives: Culture

An interview with ‘Big Girl’ star and creator Emily Jane Rooney

“Me and my friends still have arguments about Niall and Harry now.”

By Annabel Jeffery

It’s a dull and rainy afternoon in Plymouth when I speak to Emily Jane Rooney, 23, about her hilarious one-woman show ‘Big Girl’. But Emily’s warm hello is quite the antithesis to the weather. “I’m so sorry, I’ve just realised that I’m on the way to Tesco to get some buns!” she says from outside her home in London, and I immediately know that this interview is going to be far from dull.

‘Big Girl’ is Rooney’s debut solo show, which is hard to believe. Her tremendous confidence and ability to captivate an audience is that of a long-standing and established performer. ‘Big Girl’ was originally due to tour around the UK, but due to the COVID-19 lockdown, Emily has recorded an exciting digital version of the show.

Watching the hour-long “Sofa Edition” from my own home, I feel as though I’m having a catch-up or gossip with a friend. I find myself giggling at regular intervals at Emily’s references and impersonations and pulled into thought by her three poems that evoke more emotion and deeper meaning.

All of this combined creates an hour of complete escapism at a time where we are still slightly limited in social interaction.

When asked to explain the show in her own words, Emily says: “Big Girl came at a time in my life when I was like, ‘What am I doing ?’” Written in 2018, while she was still at the University Of Plymouth studying acting, she goes on to tell me that with ‘Big Girl’ she’s “reflecting upon everything”. This includes growing up as a fat, queer and working-class woman in Essex, and things that she was “quite oblivious to” when she was younger: “I was aware that I was big but I didn’t realise the connotations that came with being a fat person and I think that came with age.”

These taboos are addressed in the four poems performed throughout the show: ‘Big Girl’, ’I Like Myself Bare’, ‘Let’s Talk About Women’ and ‘Untitled’. Each deal with topics of body positivity, identifying as queer, feminism and not knowing what your future holds. These come from Emily’s own emotional experiences with these topics. She explains, “I’ll cry, I’ll be really upset about it, I’ll talk to a friend, I’ll sit down and listen to some sad music and make myself cry more, and then I’ll write about it afterwards, after I have a different perspective on it.”

Whether you’ve experienced them or not, Rooney helps her audience to understand these issues, whether that be through poetry or by being so completely easy to relate to: “I like talking about things that others don’t talk about because I think they are things that are relatable.”

This is also seen through the more easy-going references she makes as we chat: “Everyone you talk to who is 23 will be like: ‘I know my favourite One Direction singer’. My friends and I still have arguments about Niall and Harry now, and we’re adults.”

As I ask Emily about her experience filming ‘Big Girl: The Sofa Edition’ during lockdown, she shares that it was much harder , adding that one of her favourite parts of the live show is “knowing who’s in the room”. 

During the live stage performance, she explains, “People come in and I’m there, giving out biscuits and having a cup of tea, and I just like connecting with people in general… I’m like an old woman that just wants to know about everyone’s life.” She hopes that there will be a chance for one last live performance of ‘Big Girl’ in London in September, dependent on the restrictions on live performances by then.

What’s next for Emily then? As she says at the end of ‘Big Girl’, she doesn’t know, but she “just wants to be happy”. She shares that she is no stranger to the pressure that young people face about being expected to know what you want to do, reiterating “It’s okay to not know what you want to do ever. There’s a song by Baz Lurhmann called ‘Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen’ – listen to it, it’s really good. In it he says that the most interesting people he knows are 40 years old and don’t know what to do with their life, and I’ve always remembered that.”

She jokes “I really like plants, so maybe I’ll be a florist one day.”, before sharing this refreshing advice for people of her generation and younger: ”Try everything, I say this, just try everything.”

‘Big Girl: The Sofa Edition’ will be available to watch at Reading Fringe Digital until the end of August: https://readingfringefestival.co.uk/whats-on/big-girl/

You can also listen to Emily’s recommended song, ‘Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen’, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTJ7AzBIJoI

Messenger Joins #MissingLiveTheatre Campaign

The Theatre Royal Plymouth’s Messenger sculpture has been wrapped in pink tape today.

By Megan Potterton

Across the UK, theatres remain closed and unable to stage live performances. In life before Covid-19, these were busy and vibrant buildings – but COVID-19 has changed that.

Many of the UK’s most popular theatres are currently locked up, empty and, most worryingly, seem to have been forgotten about.

Today, in collaboration with theatres across the UK, #scenechange has launched the #MissingLiveTheatre campaign. Beginning with the National Theatre, #scenechange designers and theatre staff will wrap theatres with pink barrier tape reading ‘Missing Live Theatre’. The campaign hopes to give a ‘positive message of hope and visibility to the industry.’

And Messenger is joining in!

Today, Theatre Royal Plymouth staff have helped to wrap the Messenger sculpture in the campaign’s vibrant pink tape. In doing so, they have joined theatres across the country in this beautiful message of hope for the industry.

The Theatre Royal Plymouth installation has been designed by artist Tom Piper, who also designed ‘The Wave’ of 7,300 individual bright red ceramic poppy heads originally shown at the Tower of London in 2014.

The #MissingLiveTheatre campaign comes at a particularly poignant time for the Theatre Royal Plymouth. Last week, the theatre announced that more than 100 jobs are at risk as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown.

The installation today is a reminder of the importance of live theatre in our city.

Commenting on the national campaign, #scenechange said: “As businesses begin to reopen, the doors of theatres remain firmly shut, whilst we navigate a way back to live performance. Today as we launch #MissingLiveTheatre, we want to bring joy and colour to theatres across the UK and Ireland, whilst highlighting the ongoing impact of Covid-19, and what we as an industry and local communities are missing.”

Review: Matthew Bourne’s ‘The Red Shoes’

Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes returns to the Theatre Royal Plymouth this week, giving audiences in the city a second chance to experience the magic, colour, and romance of this triumphant production.

By Megan Potterton

An award-winning adaptation of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s film and the Hans Cristian Andersen fairy-tale, Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes is ‘a tale of obsession, possession and one girl’s dream to be the greatest dancer in the world’. Bourne’s production received a phenomenal response to it’s first run in 2016. Now, three years later, The Red Shoes returns to The Theatre Royal Plymouth.

The powerful force of dance and its ability to dominate a dancer’s life lie at the heart of this ballet. Matthew Bourne’s portrayal of love, destruction and real emotion through his award-winning choreography creates a production that will leave its audiences simultaneously in love and heart broken as the curtains close.

The talented cast are, of course, to thank for this. In advance of the production’s run, Matthew Bourne said, ‘I’m thrilled that for the for first revival of our 2016 hit, The Red Shoes, most of the original leading cast will be returning, including Ashley Shaw in her multi award-winning performance as Victoria Page.’ Shaw and the rest of the cast are talented storytellers as well as dancers, making it incredibly easy to become caught up in the narratives of their characters.

Aside from Bourne’s beautiful choreography, his use of sound is exceptional. Of course, music is central to any ballet, but Bourne uses sound in a truly original way. He is not afraid of sudden loud noises, moments of silence or using music for comedic effect. When this unique use of sound is combined with outstanding cinematic staging, you cannot help but be struck by the hard work and talent that has gone into every aspect of this production.

If you have not yet had a chance to watch one of Matthew Bourne’s ballets before, now is the time to do so. The Red Shoes captured my attention in a way that dance had not previously done and I found myself very quickly caught up in the story and its characters. Matthew Bourne creates ballet that is both accessible and modern, making The Red Shoes the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the powerful storytelling nature of dance.

Tickets for Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes at the Theatre Royal Plymouth are available here: https://theatreroyal.com/whats-on/mb-the-red-shoes/

Breaking Creatives: A New South West Series

By Katie Stote

Would you consider yourself a Creative? Do you produce creativity in your day to day life or career? Are you interested in the local creative economy in your area? If you answered YES to any of those questions, Breaking Creatives is the series for you. If, by some small chance, you didn’t answer YES, Zoe Bloss’ new YouTube series Breaking Creatives will inevitably change your mind.

On the 1st of November a new interview series, Breaking Creatives, will be gracing the world of YouTube. As its title suggests, the series is a celebration of creativity which is hidden in some of the most unlikely places. We sat down with Devon based actor, youtuber and, most importantly, creator of the Breaking Creatives series, Zoe Bloss, to find out more about the series and what inspired her to begin her challenging and innovative project.

Each episode of the Breaking Creatives series features one self-starting creative who is, as Zoe passionately describes, “making waves in their industry”. Each interviewee either works in a creative industry or uses creativity in their career. When asked what inspired her to begin the series, Zoe explained,

“I started the series to try and begin a discussion about the creative economy and the value of having a strong creative economy; I really don’t think we value creativity in the right way. I see creativity in every industry, not just in creative jobs.”

Through interviewing people from a broad range of careers ranging from poets and photographers to STEM and music industries, Zoe aims to demonstrate that creativity is a versatile and useful skill to have, develop and nurture.

However, the Breaking Creatives creator isn’t only highlighting how creativity is imperative for a variety of industries; she is also hoping to inspire the next generation of creatives. After reading an abundance of articles about the lack of access for creative subjects in schools, Zoe decided to try and help creative students who may be feeling anxious about their future prospects.

“I worry about the lack of access to a wide range of subjects in schools. It’s not necessarily their fault, it’s just the situation we are in right now. Sometimes, if you see someone who has similarities to you, doing something that you are interested in doing, that can be a really big motivator. If I could just show people that these really cool people exist, then that’s amazing. The normal jobbing creatives are out there, making it happen for themselves, they’re everywhere and we just don’t necessarily know about them. So, we just need to show young people there are these really cool people, who aren’t necessarily in the well-known creative hubs and cities, doing these really cool things for themselves, by themselves; then maybe their goals will feel that much more attainable.”

Zoe Bloss, creator of Breaking Creatives

For Zoe, it was imperative to shine a light on creatives from as wide a variety of locations as possible. Her passion to inspire people from all locations and backgrounds is so strong that, during the interview process, she has travelled by car and train over 600 miles without any financial funding or support. She explained:

“It was so important to me to not just have people in London. I’m so glad I’ve got Hadeel Ayoub who is in episode two, she is incredible, but she is the only one based in London. I wanted to get as much variety as possible. I don’t know if I’ve fully achieved that yet, but that was really important to me.”

Hadeel Ayoub, who features in episode 2 of Breaking Creatives

Breaking Creatives also highlights an incredible sense of community which can be found within the creative economy. At a time when it is easy to feel more disconnected and fearful of each other than ever, Breaking Creatives reminds us of the beauty of mutual trust and support. The project wouldn’t have been possible without trust; the interviewees had to place trust in Zoe that their work would be handled with respect and sensitivity, whereas, Zoe, travelling to their towns and cities, was trusting that each creative would be as kind and generous with their time as she hoped.

Breaking Creatives is more than a YouTube series. It’s an inspiring celebration of creativity in its most incredibly varied forms, of working hard for more than monetary gain and supporting strangers without seeking anything in return. Zoe is hoping to continue her inspiring work on Breaking Creatives; creating more content for you to enjoy and giving creatives across the country some much deserved recognition.

To find out more about the series, head to Zoe Bloss’ YouTube Channel, ‘Blossom Bite‘. The first episode of Breaking Creatives will be uploaded on the 1st of November 2019.