Freak, which hits the Fringe today for five days only, explores female sexuality, self-image and sexual exploitation in a comedic, relatable and sometimes shocking manner.
Director, Katherine Latimer, spoke to The Fountain about what to expect from this show as well as the pressures on women and how this affects this performance.
TF: Directing Freak in Edinburgh in August, how exciting, what can we expect?
You can expect both moments of fast-paced intensity and moments of tenderness, with unique choreography and movement. What I love most about the play is the crude and often hilarious way in which the protagonists, thirty year old Georgie and fifteen year old Leah, discuss the all too often taboos of female sexuality such as waxing, masturbating, or having sexual relations with the same gender. Our adaptation of Anna Jordan’s play emphasises this even more through the use of the silent ensemble that move fiercely and often unashamedly sexually, providing a constant visual for the ongoing desires and struggles all women experience daily.
TF: And what is the premise for this, where did the influences come from with this project?
There was never any question about the fact that we, as a theatre company run by three women, wanted to put on a production that provided gritty female roles, and that connects to prominent issues that have affected us and the women around us – with the cancellation of consent workshops at universities, the prominence of the #MeToo campaign in the media, and our own personal struggles with self-image just to name a few. The play really highlights the pressures placed on women as we follow the two protagonists trying to juggle their own sexual desires with the constantly contradictory ideals society places on women. Georgie, who is lonely and depressed, wants to feel sexy, confident and liberated in herself, but becomes completely engrossed with seeking validation and self-worth from her ability to make ‘every man hard for [her]’. Then through Leah we are constantly reminded of the pressures from the media, music videos, and the cosmetic industry to look, dress and act a certain way that influence girls from a very young age. She is heavily affected by what her schoolmates think of her and is at one and the same time afraid of being labelled ‘frigid’ and a ‘slut’.
In terms of movement, I was really inspired by Headlong’s People, Places and Things, in the way it mixed more naturalistic moments with energetic, choreographed sequences which involved multiple lookalike versions of the protagonist, who at one point manically run around the stage depicting her inner agony, enabling the audience to feel equally as overwhelmed as her. I believe that movement and ensemble work can make for a bold and visually exciting experience for the audience and makes the serious topics (such as addiction in People, Place and Things, or sex and sexuality in Freak) of the plays all the more encompassing and accessible.
TF: And have you been to Edinburgh before, is there anything you are keen to see whilst there?
Personally, this is my first time going up to the Edinburgh Fringe, although several members of the cast and crew have been before. I’m particularly excited to see In Bed With My Brother’s latest production, as I have heard so many rave reviews of their show We Are Ian. In general, my aim is just to see as wide a range of styles, genres and performance forms as I can, as I believe that is what is so important and special about the broad mix of theatre that is so encouraged at festivals like Edinburgh Fringe.
TF: What are your plans, post Freak, anything more we can look forward to over the year?
We are planning to begin a new, potentially devised, piece in the autumn. This will be made working in conjunction with The Doppler Effect, a London and Bristol based company that support and market innovative emerging companies. As of yet, all we know is that it will be tackling social issues and have a community focus, with the aim of attracting a diverse audience who may not usually go to see theatre. Keep checking our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages for more information!
TF: And have you worked with Thomy and Ruth before or is it refreshing to be directing new talent?
I had not worked with Thomy or Ruth before Freak but it has been a pleasure to work with them both, as has the ensemble. They have all been extremely open and prepared to discuss and explore in-depth the characters and what they go through, especially Thomy, whose character Georgie has a particularly dark story. Rehearsals with the whole cast have involved not just acting and movement, but discussion of the characters’ thoughts and feelings, and more generally, the issues, pressures and expectations they face and how these can be related to themselves and our society in general.
The process hasn’t just been about the end goal; creating a polished and engaging piece, although that is obviously important. But it has been just as much about the process and allowing the girls to feel increasingly comfortable and empowered in the rehearsal room, exploring how to feel most confident and sexy in themselves and amongst one another. One of my favourite activities to do is to get the actors to pick one of their favourite sexy tunes and to spend two minutes just dancing with their eyes closed. It is amazing to see the confidence and loss of inhibitions that comes with having no one watching. It was great to then be able to transfer this confidence to the opening scene, where we see through movement Georgie’s most private, sexual fantasies played out on stage. Their seductive and suggestive movements and exploration of their own bodies, whilst being in such a close proximity to the audience and intimidating use of eye contact with them, exploits the truth that women are constantly criticised for being overtly or unflatteringly sexual.
The entire cast have been full of ideas, particularly with choreographing movement, allowing it to be collaborative process and making the rehearsal room an extremely productive and exciting environment for me as a director.
Freak, theSpace on the Mile, 20th – 25th August, 8:10pm