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.

An Interview with Edward Rapley, The Self Trilogy

Edward Rapley is a Bristol-based performer who has trained in Paris with Phillippe Gaulier (the French Master clown), is a member of local artist collective Residence and has toured to audiences all over the UK. This September he opens our Autumn season in the studio with The Self Trilogy: 10 Ways to Die on Stage, The Middle Bit, and Who Know Where. His work defies expectation and offers his audiences a new fresh take on the big (death) and the small (atoms). Intrigued, we interviewed him via long-distance-electronic-internet-based-communication (email) to find out what it’s like to perform your own life on stage by yourself. 

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Tell us about the trilogy.
The trilogy is this sprawling piece of work which I’ve been making for the last seven years. Very simply it is three solo shows I have been inspired to make by events or times in my own life as a way to communicate with other people, to share what are perhaps common mistakes and joys.

Describe them in three words (three words for all of them!)
Ridiculous, touching, hopeful.

What’s it like performing autobiographical work?
It makes me laugh at myself which I like. When you use your life as the source for a performance it’s important that you do it for the audience and not yourself. That avoids a lot of potential problems. That’s why it’s great working with Holly Stoppit on the shows, she’s got a great eye for the audience and the ability to get me to where I need to be.

Is much of your work a solo performance? What’s it like always performing by yourself?
Almost all my own work is as a solo performer: on stage, with installations, or one to one games. It is both terrifying and exhilarating. Before the performance I get so nervous, even now with a month until the shows I’m scared. Then when I step on stage everything falls into place and it’s just so much fun. I also work as an actor for other companies and it is great to have other people to play with on stage and to share the experience with.

What is your favourite moment in the trilogy?
It’s the bit between stepping on stage and the bow. Cop out! I really like the balloon bit in 10 Ways, the start of The Middle Bit and the path of all my atoms in Who Knows Where. As a solo performer I get to make the show out of all my favourite moments, that’s one of the perks.

What is the most challenging moment in the trilogy?
For me that’s now, the bit before I start. For the audience perhaps it’s the chair sequence in second show. Those who have seen it will understand.

Describe your ideal audience member.
Anyone who enjoys taking a risk in good company.

What’s next for you?
Directly next will be The Self Trilogy at MAC in Birmingham on the 28th of September. Then I’m working on a new (solo) show and hopefully a tour of the trilogy.

 The Self Trilogy is on in Bristol Old Vic Studio 11-14 Sep. You can watch the trilogy on Sat 14 Sep from 6pm. Find out more here.