Next up in our Spotlight feature is Elsa, which plays Edinburgh Festival from 3 – 27 August 2017. I caught up with writer and actor Isobel Rogers:
Describe your show in three words.
Fun, feminist, satirical.
Is this your first Edinburgh Fringe performance experience?
I came up four years ago as an actress but never with my own writing or show so this feels quite new…
Who else are you most looking forward to seeing while at the Fringe
I’m looking forward to seeing Camille O Sullivan‘s new show as she is such a huge inspiration and I was lucky enough to support her at The Roundhouse last year. Milly Thomas’s Dustand Brutal Cessation, Barrel Organ’s Anyone’s Guess How We Got Here, Yolanda Mercy’s Quarter Life Crisis, Jack Rooke’s Happy Hour.
How do you feel to be performing at Assembly Hall?
So excited. It’s always been my dream venue to perform in as they have such an eclectic mix of comedy, theatre and music and I’ve heard such great things about the team there.
Who or what are your inspirations?
I’m interested in what it takes to be an artist in this climate and the complications that come from wanting to make work and make a living. A lot of the songs are inspired from living in London and the effects that a very competitive city can have on the jobs and relationships we pursue. They cover slut shaming, aspirations for success and fame, and the idea that turning “THIRTY” is basically the same as death.
All these emotions are often based on norms and outdated ideals so it’s fun to parody them by playing guitar; a pursuit that feels very soothing and sits in complete opposition to the themes I’m discussing! I love writers like John Morton who wrote Twenty Twelve and W1A and programmes like Girls so they’ve all been great inspirations.
What is your secret to surviving the intense, fast pace of the fringe?
I’m playing guitar in two shows so that will be instantly calming. When they’re not happening I’ll unsuccessfully attempt to have a ‘healthy mindset’ and ‘sense of perspective.’
What are the future plans for your show?
I’d love to take Elsa to London and then tour the show. My ultimate dream would be to keep her growing as a character and strengthening her voice until we match that strength with a band. I can’t think of anything funner than singing /talking about female sexuality with a full on band… I’d want to make sure I still played an instrument though or I’d like to play with that idea of Elsa being this ‘outspoken’ female performer against a backdrop of mysterious capable male session musicians in hats.
What is the best production you have seen this year – can be any genre, style, in any theatre or performance space?
Richard Gadd’s show Monkey See Monkey Do was incredible. Jessie Cave’s I Loved Her because it’s so honest and Lolly Adefope’s show was genius.
I also really loved A Deep Blue Sea at the National Theatre. I think Hester is such an interesting character because after giving her whole self to a man who doesn’t love her enough it looks like she might focus on herself and her talent as an artist at the end of the play. Whenever I see stories where women have experienced heartache and then build themselves up again with their art rather than a new man I think that’s really exciting.
Is there anything else you want to highlight about your show/ theatre company/ production?
I’ve tried to do something different with language in this show; combine recognisable cliches and ‘types’ of female characters and their conversations with songs that have a sense of mystery and otherness to them. I wanted to show how women can internalise masculine ideals and that these expectations can come out in the most throwaway coffee morning chats.
A coffee shop felt like a perfect metaphor for showing a sense of liminality. Both in terms of identity and a lack of women feeling ‘whole’ and more literally in the sense that we live in a ‘gig culture’ of jobs where people work in coffee shops all the time and people and work comes and goes.
Sara Joyce has been so amazing at interrogating when the parts in the show should be left as songs and when they can be used to play with character. I’m so excited by directors like her as she really cares about bringing new work and voices into life and it’s felt like a very empowering experience working with her.