News, happenings and goings on from the Old Fire Station, Oxford
A couple want to raise their twin children, Jen and Jake, as complete equals. But — as they grow up and move into the world of work and relationships, there appears to be more and more of a difference. Have the parents got it wrong? Can it be Jake’s fault? Or is it Jen we should blame? Is she just too distractingly female?
The Saturday Matinee Company perform Distractingly Female, a new play by Renata Allen, at the Old Fire Station on Saturdays 3, 10 & 17 October. We asked them a bit about what to expect:
Tell us a little about SatMatCo’s story so far.
We formed The Saturday Matinee Company November 2014 and launched at the Old Fire Station in January 2015 with our sell out production of Collider by Shaun McCarthy. We followed this with another successful show, Connie’s Colander, written by SatMatCo member Gaye Poole: exploring the impact of dementia on a mother and daughter’s relationship.
SatMatCo is a ‘no frills’ theatre company, bringing theatre into peoples’ lives and making it accessible to all. It’s core is a standard format of new plays of 1 hour in length for up to 4 cast members to be performed at Saturday lunchtimes. We want our productions to address big questions relevant to society, challenging people to engage with the subjects and encourage pro-active citizenship. Ticket prices are kept low (pay what you can) to ensure it is really theatre for everyone. As the company develops, we hope to grow a reputation for creating high quality, affordable theatre with productions which will change lives and minds and be recognised as a ‘hothouse’ for developing new writing and new actors
What do you all do when you’re not acting with this company?
I run READ Media, a literary publicity company, occasionally teach at the Oxford School of Drama and run half marathons, all whilst enjoying and bringing up my young family in Woodstock.
Outside of SatMatCo one week is never the same! But it is usually a concoction of voice-over work, medical roleplay, filming and working for other theatre companies. Most recently; a radio drama series for Cbeebies, a site specific theatre job for Scary Little Girls, in a crypt of an antique shop and reading play-excerpts for a Michael Billington event at Blenheim Palace!
Away from SatMatCo, like Amy, I do a lot of medical role-play. Also role-play for ‘Safeguarding Children’ training and reminiscence workshops for older people, penning the beginnings of countless potentially great scripts and stocking and re-stocking the family fridge and dog bowl.
You specialise in a very stripped-back style, with minimal lighting and costumes. Why is that?
Haha, aside from the fact we started the company with zero budget? We wanted to realise, rediscover, rejoice in the power of theatre, the thrill of watching people tell a story before your very eyes – but in an informal, everyday setting. Having no set/costume/lighting design enables the audience to focus on the text and the acting. We believe the intimacy of shared light and shared space is an exciting way to experience theatre. However, from an acting and directing point of view, we haven’t set ourselves an easy task. Performing in that raw environment is incredibly exposing!
Tell us about Distractingly Female.
It has been written by Oxford-based author Renata Allen and then is also being devised in part by the company. It is about a couple who want to raise their twin children, Jen and Jake, as complete equals. But as they grow up, there appears to be more and more of a difference. Renata was inspired by the social media buzz around the hashtag #distractinglysexy on Twitter, along with the disturbing accounts of so much sexual harassment that girls and young women seem to be dealing with.
How have rehearsals been going?
Well, we are only a few rehearsals in so far! Every artist will probably smile and groan in agreement at the everyday challenges one is presented with when attempting to make theatre. The battles with funding, finding rehearsal space, casting, having to ask favours from Tom, Dick & Harry. However, we were absolutely thrilled to receive our first tranche of funding from the Arts Council for Distractingly Female, only two days before our rehearsals started! So we are delighted to be able to pay ourselves, and our guest actors.
The play touches on gender, and society’s expectations of what it means to be one sex or another. Do you think this is an important issue for theatre-makers to take on?
From the very beginning theatre played around with gender roles onstage, so it seems only right that we are continuing to explore what is like to be our opposite gender with its different expectations. As women we feel we have come a long way in society over the years, but surprisingly when we workshopped the topic with a group of local actors, we discovered that in some respects, we haven’t come as far as we think. Our sessions highlighted that women are not always assertive enough and are still sometimes too shy to say no. However, it has also been very interesting to explore these views from a male perspective. We believe it’s important to provoke thought through theatre no matter what the issue, and provide a potentially alternative way of looking at things for the audience. And hopefully entertaining them at the same time!
Distractingly Female: Saturdays 3, 10 & 17 October, 12.30pm. Book your free ticket (01865 305305 or www.ticketsoxford.com) and then pay what you can after the show.