“Skeletons, peas, lentils, selkies, snail gods, giants, terrible kings, terrible fathers, murder, cunning old women…” Lizzie Milton’s list of what to expect from her new play Heroine is an extensive, intriguing and fantastical shopping list of fun. Read what she told us about her play, her love of folklore and a very special fish, then book your tickets!
The world premiere production comes to VAULT Festival from 4 to 8 March 2020.
Heroine is a storytelling play that takes a journey though global folklore seeking an answer to some important questions, like:
Where can you find love when you’re a skeleton who lives under the sea?
How can you fight giants and achieve financial security?
What if you literally became the sun?
Oh, and… what even is a Heroine anyway?
To create Heroine, Milton drew on a wealth of stories from around the world, including the English story of a girl taking on giant, Molly Whuppie, the Scottish myth of Selkies, Inuit story of love, Skeleton Woman, the Aztec story of the Goddess of the Sun and West African upending of Bluebeard, Keep Your Secrets.
Founder of both Snatchback and Joyous Gard, Beth Eyre, stars in Heroine alongside Kudzanayi Chiwawa and Henri Merriam.
The production is directed by Asia Osborne, who returns to VAULT Festival where she previously directed Call Me Fury in 2019 and Valkyrie in 2017, which won the Origin Award for Outstanding New Work. The creative team is completed by Odinn Orn Hilmarsson (sound and music), Rajiv Pattani (lighting) and Hazel Owen (costume).
Heroine runs at The Crypt, The Vaults, Leake Street LONDON SE1 7NN from 4 to 8 March 2020, with performances Wednesday to Saturday 8.40pm, matinee Sunday 4.30pm. Tickets are priced £14. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!!
Lizzie Milton on creating Heroine
What inspired you to write Heroine?
Unless you go looking for it, most folk stories we hear are about brave knights slaying monsters and saving helpless women. Recently, it seems we’ve been bringing women back into the foreground simply by saying “you could be a knight too”, but if our model of heroism is still based on patriarchal structures, is it much better?
We have this rich history of fascinating folk stories, many of which places women in the centre of the narrative, that’s all but forgotten by most people. I wrote Heroine
as a way of sharing this wonderful folklore and hopefully offering an alternative to what being a strong woman can mean.
How much research did you do for the show?
Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales
It’s difficult to quantify exactly. I’ve been researching folklore for a few years before I decided to make this show, and some of that has fed into this show. Two of the books that really helped me make this show were Angela Carter‘s Book of Fairytales and Women who Run with Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. There are so many different versions of folk tales, so researching them can become a rabbit hole that is difficult to find your way out of. Whilst finding different versions of the same story is definitely very interesting and sometimes helpful, part of the fun of folklore is putting your own spin on it.
Have you always been interested in folklore?
I loved fairy tales as a child as much as I think any child does, but I grew particularly interested in folklore a few years back when I became more interested in my Irish heritage. Reading Ireland’s rich folklore was my way into Irish culture and then my love of folklore really spread from there.
There’s something very primal about folklore for me: it brings storytelling right back to its roots. Our stories, whether they be family anecdotes or huge epics spanning centuries, are what binds us together. It is a way of understanding the world and each other. I find it incredible how poignant some folklore is even today. Many of these stories are, at their hearts, metaphors for important rights of passage we go through in our lives.
What’s your favourite folktale?
Salmon of Knowledge
My favourite folktale is the Irish legend of the Salmon of Knowledge. Legend has it, there was a salmon who ate hazelnuts that had fallen into the well of wisdom and gained all of the world’s knowledge. A poet and druid, named Finnegas, made it his life’s work to catch this salmon and eat it, so he could gain all the world’s knowledge. He finally caught it, but through an unfortunate mishap, his apprentice (Fionn Mac Cumhaill) ate a bit of the salmon and gained all the world’s knowledge instead of Finnegas.
For me, the joy of this story is the salmon. I have so many questions about what his life was like before his untimely demise. Did he have salmon friends? Presumably its difficult to emotionally connect with other salmon when you are literally the most intelligent being in the universe and they are…a salmon. There’s something intrinsically quite funny about having all of this knowledge, but being totally incapable of using it in any useful way because you’re just a salmon.
How are you feeling about staging Heroine at VAULT Festival?
I’m very excited about it – the cavernous underground of Vaults is an ideal setting for stories about mythical creatures and magical beings.
Are there any other VAULT Festival shows you’re excited about seeing?
Invisibles (17-22 March)
Glitch (7-15 March)
Red Peter (6-8 March)
Tiger Mum (13-15 March)
Kraken (3-8 March)
WORK.txt (3-8 march)
What can audiences expect from a trip to see Heroine?
It’s a fun and playful storytelling show, putting women’s narratives centre stage. You can expect: skeletons, peas, lentils, selkies, snail gods, giants, terrible kings, terrible fathers, murder, cunning old women, shapeshifters, goddesses, cannibalism (sort of), really great mothers, meditation, magic, the sea, bloodthirsty maidens.
But also, it is a storytelling show, so it will just be three women on stage telling you some cracking stories.
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