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Comedian Eleanor Higgins discusses her new show InPurSUEt with Kerenza Evans

Everyone loves Sue Perkins but how much is too much? Following two successful runs at Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Bush Productions’ In PurSUEt is a semi-fictionalised account of a Sue Perkins enthusiast who processes her obsession whilst battling with her out of control drinking. Equal parts comedic and tragedy, the show is a poignant look at addiction and the ways in which people find escapism. As it returns in 2023 for its VAULT Festival debut, midway through a nationwide tour, we caught up with writer Eleanor Higgins to learn about her inspiration for the show.

Kerenza Evans: How autobiographical is In PurSUEt?

Eleanor Higgins: The show is loosely based on some life experiences from about 10 years ago combined with a hefty dose of artistic license. I battled with substance misuse in my 20s and would fixate on certain things, like new hobbies, certain albums or TV shows and developed random crushes on various people. A long time after I thought it would be fun to write a play about obsessions, how people can take them too far and deny their impact. 

Kerenza: Is it challenging to display your personal experiences and vulnerabilities on stage? 

Eleanor: I used to find it really challenging but less so now. Sometimes I struggled when people took the show too literally, or didn’t separate the character from me as a creator. I think bringing a known celebrity into your work does present certain challenges and can sometimes set an expectation that is out of your control. But the show has been deeply rewarding. Sometimes with Fringe theatre there can be time constraints too (usually an hour show is standard) so as much as I’d love to explore more within the the piece, often there isn’t that wiggle room. But there’s no harm in a little mystery! I also find so much enjoyment of the show since its revamp last year. It’s matured a lot and I find comfort knowing that it speaks many truths about addiction and where denial of that can lead.

Kerenza: Any idea about Sue's reaction to the show? Has she received an invite to it?

Eleanor: We’ve not wanted to put any pressure on Sue. So while we tag her in our social media posts we’ve not made direct contact. We did reach out to her agents however, to make sure they were okay with what we were doing and to get permission to use her image. They’ve been really great and we’re really appreciative of that. Of course she’s always invited, however I imagine that might be a little awkward for her - being that most of the audience are fans of hers! But she’s always welcome.

Kerenza: An obsessive, stalker protagonist is a bold premise. How do you invoke sympathy for a character exhibiting these traits?

Eleanor: This is something I’ve worked on with my director; trying to gain sympathy for a character that is essentially doing something that would make a lot of people feel uncomfortable. I can’t imagine what that must feel like for Sue, and many other celebrities, having to deal with that kind of stuff on a day-to-day basis. I’m aware of the terrifying impacts of stalking on high profile figures and also the concept creep of ‘stalking’ in an online age - society can use the term so flippantly. So yes - whilst we want to convey the sadness and loneliness of the central character, it’s okay if the audience feels uncomfortable with her behaviour, because it’s not behaviour we endorse. Just because I play a character doing something that doesn’t mean I am morally aligned to that character’s actions. 

The central theme has always been about something more though. As with all obsessive traits, it’s often when we neglect our needs that we attach onto something (or someone) outside of ourselves in pursuit (sorry!) of an answer. We hope that the character’s ultimate realisation shows that she’s not devoid of that awareness and she is predominantly harming herself. 

Kerenza: What responsibility does theatre have to inform versus entertain? 

Eleanor: There’s definitely potential to feel a huge responsibility when tackling such themes, especially during current times where are all so more aware of mental health struggles amongst our friends and loved ones. I’d like to say that the work of art is to invoke feelings. To show people they are not alone. I’ve seen plays and films that have changed me but always for the better. It’s really important to us though that anyone affected by the issues in the show knows that support is out there. The show has a very informative message but to get this out it does need to be wrapped up in the flourish of entertainment!

Kerenza: What do you want audiences to take away from the show?

Eleanor: I just hope that they have a good time, they enjoy themselves and feel moved by it in some way. I really enjoy art that asks questions and allows me to see something from a different perspective. But audiences shouldn’t feel pressure to feel! Art is subjective and I find a lot of freedom knowing that. We are all unique with different life experiences and not every piece of work will speak to everyone. Hopefully they get a laugh or two and perhaps tap into something they’ve not thought before. 

Kerenza: How has the show been received so far? 

Eleanor: We’ve had amazing feedback from audience and press alike and that’s been such a rewarding experience, we’re so grateful. When I first started writing the show four years ago I was genuinely concerned about how it might look, will everyone think I’m crazy, will it make any sense. I didn’t give up though, as I felt it was such a unique and relatable premise. Celebrities are normal people with their own obsessions and even celebrity crushes. And addiction is unfortunately rife within our culture. I had faith in the project and feel like that’s paid off!

Kerenza: What stories do Bush Productions want to tell in the future?

Eleanor: I’m working on the beginnings of a new show that we’re calling “WANTED”. It looks at the themes of what is means to be wanted in this world, until you’re not. Watch this space!

Kerenza: Other than the theatre (and Sue), what brings you joy? 

Eleanor: Ah well the character and I are actually very different! I’m glad for her sake she’s fictional. I enjoy things like yoga (injuries permitting), getting out for long walks with my dog, trying out new restaurants with my partner, enlarging my plant collection and making homemade kombucha. Call me a cliched east Londoner! 


InpurSUEt plays at Vault Festival from Saturday 25th Feb - 5th March. To find out more and book tickets, please click here. 

Bush Productions is a female-led LGBTQIA+ film and theatre company. Its focus is to bring new and exciting talent to the forefront of television, film, radio and theatre.To find out more about Bush Productions, head here. 







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