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"It’s like ‘women’ but without the ‘men’ in it". One fifth of Figs in Wigs, Rachel Porter talks Little Wimmin

Hello. My name is Rachel Porter and I’m one fifth of performance troupe Figs in Wigs.

We are about to premiere our theatrical adaption of Louisa May Alcott’s novel Little Women. We’ve decided to call it Little Wimmin. It’s like ‘women’ but without the ‘men’ it it.

Now, real talk, this whole thing started as a joke. Please don’t tell anyone. If you’re familiar with our body of work, you’ll probably know we’re not really ‘adaptation-of-classic-text’ kind of people. We’re more into deadpan dance routines, beginning a show with a ten minute bow, or doing an art lecture on ‘selfies’ but referring to them as ‘facies’ because it sounds a bit like faeces. Real high brow stuff.

We certainly don’t pride ourselves on our classical training or our acting technique. In fact someone once walked out of our show because they found it offensive towards actors. But he was an actor, so he could have been pretending.

So, if Figs in Wigs are all about this experimental theatre shit, how did we end up here?

It started in the summer of 2017. We were sitting in our most frequented rehearsal space aka Rehearsal Room 3 in Queen Mary University of London. Despite having graduated seven years ago (what have we been doing?!) we still hang out at our old uni in a black box studio with students opening the door every 20 minutes to see if the room is free for them to rehearse their soon to be graded performances only to find us still deep into our third croissant and fifth coffee pretending to make a show.

“They don’t even go here”. We hear them say.

That’s true. We don’t. But we used to. And we get free rehearsal space because we’re alumni and we will continue to abuse that privilege until that privilege is revoked, or we develop a sense of shame, or the building is demolished. Whichever comes first.

We were preparing to take our show Often Onstage up to Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Once described as ‘an absolute pain-in-the-arse of a showOften Onstage isn’t for everyone. And it certainly can’t compete with the seemingly never-to-be-quenched thirst for fringe festival favourites such as Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello and Shitfaced Shakespeare - though we do wear ruffs in one scene.

So there we were “rehearsing” our dance moves and avidly discussing what everyone would be having for lunch. When it hit us.

What if no one wants to see experimental theatre? Who are we doing this for? Even performance artists go to see the Lion King, but do the cast of the Lion King ever go to see blood-letting in a windowless basement in Dalston where the walls are as sweaty as the people? We’d need to do a poll to make sure, but we think the figures are low. Almost as low as our Edinburgh ticket sales. What were we doing with our lives?

Maybe we should do a play. We joked.

With characters. We teased.

And a plot. We laughed.

And an interval… actually an interval would be nice, everyone gets a little break and a drink.

But what would the play be? We mused.

A classic text with five strong female characters. Like…Little Women. They’re all women, and they’re all strong, apart from Beth who dies.

It could be our side project! A naturalistic play that gets bums on seats and we use the profits to fund our experimental work. They’ll never know!

It should have ended there. But instead we started telling people that next we’d be making a proper play. An adaption of an old book they’d never read. “Brilliant!” they said, and for once their eyes lit up. They asked who’s playing who? Were there any parts going for them? When can they see it? Then venues got interested. Could they commission it? When will it be touring? We’ll definitely book that, our audiences will love it, it’s an easy sell.

We couldn’t just ignore the excitement, or turn down the offers of support. Suddenly our joke became a reality and the slow realisation that we would have to do American accents onstage in front of people began to sink in. So we did the only thing we knew how. We booked in some more rehearsal space at Queen Mary University of London.

Fast forward to now. And here I am on a train writing an article to promote a show that was never meant to be made. But we have made it… nearly. And I’m still wondering what I am doing with my life, and who I am doing it for. But I think I’m starting to understand that no one ever really knows. The feeling of being clueless never really goes away, and admitting your ignorance is the first step to enlightenment. We are all just blobs, blobbing through the universe which is just a very big blob. So why should you, a blob, come and see Figs in Wigs, five blobs, perform Little Wimmin? And the truth is I don’t know. And neither do you, because we are all ignorant, and the sooner you can admit that, the sooner you’ll reach enlightenment.

But seriously if you do fancy it, it’s on 6th-9th Nov at Pleasance Islington 7:30pm. With an interval.

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Figs in Wigs
Little Wimmin
06 - 09 Nov
Pleasance Theatre
Info and tickets: www.pleasance.co.uk

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