Next up in our Spotlight feature is When The Going Gets Duff which plays Edinburgh Festival from 2 – 27 August 2017. I caught up with writer and actor Helen Duff:
Describe your show in three words.
Cheeky, touching tapestry.
Is this your first Edinburgh Fringe performance experience?
Last year I did a show all about the fact that I’d never had an orgasm. I dressed as a sperm and we built towards a huge collective climax based on a survey I’d done of over 500 people. My dad came to watch as a surprise and walked out half way through. This show is the fall out.
Who else are you most looking forward to seeing while at the Fringe?
Jordan Brookes (Body of Work) holds the stage with such bravery and disturbing humour, Marny Godden is my top cheeky chappy, and for a mixed bill night that’s really pushing the range of work on show, Bedtime Stories at the Voodoo Rooms.
How do you feel to be performing at Assembly Roxy?
This is my first time at Assemblyand so far they’ve been super supportive. It’s really up to you to bring the best show you can and then the venue ideally just keeps you sane and dry (neither can be banked upon).
Who or what are your inspirations?
I have just gotten out of a river in Exeter, which I cycled out to after my final preview – two days before the train up to Edinburgh. This year’s show has a lot about wild swimming, because I’m tying to get to grips with my body – the solid, physical form of it, as well as the flow of thoughts and feelings surging around inside.
I love to swim in free flowing water because it reminds me that those two things – fierce physical power and untameable fluidity can co-exist. I don’t have to understand it to let myself float free.
What is your secret to surviving the intense, fast pace of the fringe?
Other than making regular trips down to the sea, I am really lucky to know some fantastic performers, artists, comedians, venue staff – just good, solid people who hold a treasure box of interesting insights inside. It can be overwhelming at times, but when I leave, I immediately miss being able to bump into people at random every few minutes.
What are the future plans for your show?
I would love to tour the show to regional theatres as I did with my past two shows, Vanity Bites Back and Come With Me. It’s always delightful to see how differently people respond to the work – I interact a lot and shift the tone depending on audience response. This show has a lot about re-programming the synapses in your brain that might be stuck in an old story, and coming to terms with past trauma that your body remembers even if your brain has moved on. So, heaps for people to get their head around.
What is the best production you have seen this year – can be any genre, style, in any theatre or performance space?
Anatomy of a Suicide at the Royal Court by Alice Birch, directed by Katie Mitchell. It was impeccably staged – with three narratives happening simultaneously, all interconnected but across three different generations of one family. As well as the risks that it took with form, the play broached the depth of sadness into which a woman can sink without patronising the characters as ‘mad’ or ‘selfish’. I found it profoundly troubling in a way that made my mind spin for weeks.
Is there anything else you want to highlight about your show/ theatre company/ production?
Yes, it involves a small amount of very sensual country dancing plus a magnificently poor impression of Ursula Andres with which I am unjustifiably delighted.