Interview: Jess Cheetham

Jessica Cheetham is the founder and Artistic Director of Spun Glass Theatre, their show STAMP was hugely successful at Vault Festival last year and is returning to Clapham Omnibus this February. Female Arts' Amie Taylor caught up with Jess to find out a little more of what she's been up to.

AT: Hi Jess, thanks so much for speaking with Female Arts today. Firstly, tell us a little about you and how you came to work in the arts and become the Artistic Director of Spun Glass Theatre...

JC: Hi, no problem! I like to unpick narratives and ideas and put them back together again which is why I devise theatre. I have naturally created work from a female perspective, pulling famous female characters out of classic texts and shifting the whole fictional world to revolve around them. My work has developed over the years from personal reflections on messy love to more political ideas.

I studied Drama at the University of Kent and when I graduated I was desperate to tell Laura Wingfields story from The Glass Menagerie so I created Laura with my long term collaborator Marie Rabe and have literally been learning to create and produce on the job ever since.

AT: You're currently running The Spark Factory at Brighton Fringe - what is it?

JC: The Spark Factory is a new initiative for Brighton Fringe 2017 and will bring together a cutting edge group of artists to showcase the most ground breaking and bold performance ideas out there. Audiences will have the chance to see seven experimental ideas over the duration of Brighton Fringe and artists will have access to networking events and mentoring as part of The Spark Factory.

AT: Why did you decide to do it?

JC: Fringe Festivals like Brighton and Edinburgh Fringe are amazing places to experiment with your artistic ideas, but the financial risk to artists is high. We want to create a safe space to experiment with performance and share some really risky and exciting ideas within a cooperative model, so the financial risk is much much lower.

We are currently accepting applications, check out our blog for more info: http://spunglasstheatre.blogspot.co.uk

AT: And you've also directed STAMP! Which is coming to Clapham Omnibus soon. What's it about?

JC: Stamp is a live game show where you make the rules. We split the audience into Team Men and Team Women and compete to see which team comes out on top! It's very interactive and works as a mirror to see what the audience think about gender roles in our society.

Our host Helen White, she's like the love child of Sandi Toksvig and Frank N Further, is extremely funny and works with her two henchmen to bring each audience member into the game. In the style of tacky 1990s game shows - it's fun house meets blind date!

AT: Why is it important for 2017?

JC: As an artist I think that performance still has a big role to play in our lives and our understanding of the world, and Stamp embraces new forms of theatre that include the audience member in the experience. Each show is totally different and comes to different conclusions as any good experiment does, but a pattern we've found is that we lack a good vocabulary for masculinity and I think it's really important to explore that in 2017.

AT: What audience are you targeting and what do you hope they'll take away from watching?

JC: If you like cabaret and comedy you'll love STAMP - it's like their darker cousin. We're targeting people who enjoy seeing performance that makes them laugh and gets them involved with the added extra that Stamp also makes you think about your experience of gender and some of the sexist stereotypes that hold men and women back.

AT: What's your next project?

JC: I'm actually planning a children's show in collaboration with a fantastic team headed by Amy Draper - Princess Charming, you've guessed it, also about gender, it's sort of Stamp for kids! That will be premiering later this year.

AT: Thanks so much for chatting to us today Jess.

If you would like to see STAMP on 9th or 10th February at Clapham Omnibus, book here: http://www.spunglasstheatre.com/stamp.html

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