Ferment Fortnight Preview | Psychopomp

Ferment Fortnight kicks off its biannual explosion of work-in-progress and scratch performances from 24 Jan. Here, Co-Director Maisie Newman gives us an inside look at Fen’s upcoming production PsychopompCatch it at Bristol Old Vic on Wed 31 Jan. 


Tell us a bit about yourself…
I’m a Bristol- Based director, choreographer and digital artist. My work combines tight ensemble movement with anarchic and visceral choreography focusing on the female voice, body and the physical language of dissent.

I’m a member of Propolis Theatre, an associate director for Twisted Theatre and also currently the Bristol Old Vic’s regional associate artist for Gecko’s ‘The Wedding’ which is on this January. I’m also co-director of Fen, who are presenting Psychopomp. Fen is an emerging interdisciplinary performance company from the South West exploring the crossover between the human and the digital. Co-Driected by myself and poet and composer Rowan Evans.

What are you presenting at Ferment Fortnight?
Psychopomp, a sci-fi feminist epic inspired by Vaporwave + gaming culture. Guided to the gateway to a digital underworld, CRYSTAL must enter a place of ghosts and archival bitrot in a quest to find a cure for the destructive turn her universe has taken. Constructed in sharp, cinematic chapters and entirely sound tracked with a cyberpunk, nostalgic synth score, Psychopomp is the typical heroic sci-fi quest, cut up and redistributed with a female protagonist. The perfor-mance combines art animation, hybrid performance text and movement for an all-female cast.

Drawing on sci-fi, classic video games, the poetry of Sappho and interviews with women working in STEM and female/ LGBTQ+ gamers, Psychopomp dismantles the relationship between women and technology. Written and Directed by Maisie Newman, this is the first performance I’m making which has ties to all aspects of my work, including 3D animation, so it is really exciting to be able to present the first exploration of it to the public for feedback.

What inspired/influenced your piece?
Other than the incredible women in STEM and female gamer’s that I have interviewed for the project so far, I feel like there were different moments of inspiration, I’ve listed a few below:

  • I discovered Vaporwave and had a moment when I was watching/ listening to the music and videos where I felt completely entranced and lost in an unfamiliar world. I remember wanting to bring that feeling to a live audience in a theatre setting.
  • My love for sci-fi films and constant annoyance at female representation.
  • I read this article from a woman who used to work in tech at Uber, it really stuck with me, read the article here.
  • I read this blog post about Microsoft’s recent ad campaign targeted towards women working in STEM and realised my approach to the female STEM issue had been centred around my expectations of women, rather than reprimanding or highlighting male attitudes, read the article here.
  • I Interviewed one LGBTQ+ gamer for the project who talked about a game called ‘Gone Home’. Halfway through the game narrative you realise there is a story about a lesbian relationship. We ended up both discussing the limited representation of LGBTQ+ relationships in gaming and sci-fi. We couldn’t actually think of any others narratives at the time.

What does the work that Ferment do mean to you?
We’re a new company and the support and advice Ferment gave for our initial project WULF was essential to our progression. Ferment works really hard to support artists. A key part of Ferment is giving artists time, resources and platforms to truly experiment with new pieces of work which is so crucial for emerging practitioners and companies.

What would you say the audience can expect in three words?
Cinematic // Badass // A E S T H E T I C

Ferment Fortnight takes place at Bristol Old Vic 24-25 Jan before moving across the city to Watershed and Loco Klu from 26 Jan-3 Feb.  For more info and to book tickets, click here.

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