An Interview with Caroline Horton, writer and performer of Mess


Last October Caroline Horton left us weeping and sniffing with her beautiful show You’re Not Like The Other Girls Chrissy, and now she’s coming back with her new show, Mess. We caught her to talk about the show and what she’s been up to since she left us.

What have you been up to since we last saw you here with Chrissy?
It was so lovely doing Chrissy in your studio and I’ve been fairly busy since then. I performed as Heidi in The Egg Christmas show in Bath (I had some excellent pink lederhosen). This also meant I could pop over and see the wonderful Peter Pan at Bristol Old Vic and the beautiful Hansel and Gretel at the Tobacco Factory.

Since finishing in Bath, I’ve been devising new shows with other companies: Kick with MAKE/SHIFT which we scratched at BAC and Dreams to her Father with Teasel which we performed an early stage at MAC in Birmingham. I’m also working on a podcast for Fuel’s new series of podcasts called ‘While We Wait’. And I spent a week at the National Theatre Studio developing a new idea of my own – it’s early days but I’m really excited about it – it’s a bouffon show about tax havens called Islands.

Just prior to rehearsals for the tour, the Mess team have been creating a workshop package to accompany the Mess for an autumn 2013 tour during which we hope to take the show into schools, universities and mental health institutions as well as into studio theatres.

Where did the inspiration for this show come from?
 Mess is based upon my own experiences of anorexia and recovery. Just after I’d come back from studying at Ecole Gaulier in Paris, I went to my old sixth form to talk to students about what I’d been up to – during the talk I mentioned recovering from an eating disorder and I was really amazed by how keen people were to talk about my experience and talk about their own experiences and people they knew. I was really shocked by what a taboo it seemed to have been to mention it in public and how relieved people seemed to be to have an opportunity to talk. After that I decided at some point to try to make a show about my experience in an attempt to open up more robust conversations around eating disorders.

‘Issue’ theatre can be quite a formidable genre of theatre, but we get the impression you may have subverted it here…
Mess is just a story like any other – I believe it is a beautiful theatrical experience regardless of the fact that the story is about anorexia. Above all else, I wanted to make an exciting, beautiful piece of theatre and from the beginning of the process, I was determined not to make something earnest or po-faced. It’s an irreverent, bold, moving piece that I am very proud of and excited about.

What is it like to perform this show?
It’s a real tight-rope act that needs the three performers to balance their absurd and ridiculous world view with the deep pain of the story they are telling. It’s a real pleasure and a huge challenge to perform.

Can you describe your ideal audience member?
Anyone! We had a huge mix of people watching the show at The Traverse in Edinburgh – from those interested in new theatre, those with no knowledge at all of the subject matter to eating disorder specialists and a large age range too. The only thing we recommend is that audience members should be 13 or over simply because we have been advised by medical professionals that younger audiences might not have encountered ideas around eating disorders before.

What’s next for you?
We’re planning a big autumn tour for Mess with an emphasis on taking the piece into educational establishments with a new workshop package. Then I want to get on with making the new piece Islands that I mentioned above.

Mess will be on at Bristol Old Vic from 23-27 Aprl. You can find out more about the show here.



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