As part of our Camden Fringe Featured Shows, we’re counting down to the #MeToo premiere of Pomegranate Season, running at London’s Cockpit Theatre from 20 to 22 August 2018. In our interview, author-actor-activist Victoria Cano tells us about the real-life rape that ‘forced’ her debut play out of her, why London is better than New York and how travelling restores her faith in humanity. Time to get booking!
Cora was raped. She thinks.
After being assaulted at a birthday party by her best friend Dan, Cora stumbles to understand what comes next. What does this mean for her friendships? Her career? Her sex life?
In the wake of #TimesUp and #MeToo, actor-writer Victoria Cano’s blisteringly funny, raw and honest debut play Pomegranate Season explores the boundary lines between friendship and flirtation, sex and assault, yes and no, and what happens in the aftermath of rape.
Cano stars as Cora in a cast that also features Shalia Alvarez (as Demi), Ben MacKenzie (Dan), Nicola Amory (Harriet) and Cherry Walters (The Woman). The play is directed by Marylynne Anderson-Cooper and designed by Fenella Corrin, with costumes by Hannah Hodge. It’s produced by Lauren King.
Talking to… Victoria Cano
A Brooklyn native and LAMDA graduate, Victoria Cano describes herself as “an actor and a global citizen, a playwright and an advocate”. In addition to her theatre-making, she blogs about travel and activism at Wandering on Course: Tales of a Traveling Artist.
What do you think of London as a place to make theatre?
About three years ago I made the move here in order to continue my studies – I came over to get my MA in Classical Acting from LAMDA. For years and years, London sort of existed in my mind as an artistic El Dorado, this great bright brimming theatrical mecca. I’ve travelled across my fair share of the world, and there are few cities to which theatre is such a deeply enmeshed part of its identity.
London has a voracious artistic appetite, and for a playwright, it’s teeming with opportunities. I think some of the best theatre in the world is crafted in this city and I think, in comparison to my beloved New York, it’s economically much more accessible. I came to London because I am fortunate enough to have that ability (god freakin’ bless the European Union) and because art pulsates in every corner of this city. Also for the healthcare (god freakin’ bless the NHS.)
What was the initial inspiration for Pomegranate Season?
I wrote Pomegranate Season because three years ago I was raped by my friend and coworker. This play is my reckoning. It’s my reckoning with my parents, with my friends, myself. It’s the reckoning with him I’ll never get to have. It’s my reckoning with the world. My play wasn’t inspired, it was forced into me. Literally.
Do you think #MeToo will be a positive, pivotal point for real change?
Any movement that works to dismantle and oust well-known sexual predators is a positive, pivotal point for real change. But it’s not a new movement. Women have always been saying “me too”. We’ve whispered it to each other in the corners of parties, across private Facebook messages, opening up old wounds to try and stop yet another woman from getting hurt. Women have always been saying “me too”. People have just decided to start listening. Now it’s time for them to believe us.
Rapists are not strangers, men jumping out from behind dark corners. They are men we know: our bosses, our colleagues, our friends, our partners. They are men who are respected and admired. They are men we might even love.
When I heard about Harvey Weinstein, I thought, “Good. Let him rot in the hell he’s made for himself.” Then I thought, “And let at all the men who suspected and said nothing, who did nothing, rot right there next to him.’
Rape culture is perpetuated by a culture of silence. Of looking the other way, of not wanting to make waves. I want to cause a tsunami.
You play the protagonist Cora in the play. Tell us about her as a character?
It’s quite strange to play a character, crafted by you, based on yourself. Obviously, for many reasons, we’re incredibly similar. We’re both very loyal to the people we choose to love, occasionally to our detriment when it turns out those people weren’t as worthy of love as we thought. Cora’s got a better sense of self-awareness, but then again, she’s got the benefit of my insight, doesn’t she? I’m kinder, more careful in my treatment of Cora and what she goes through than how I really was with myself.
It’s actually been kind of lovely to approach Cora as an actor instead of as a playwright. Rather than creating, I get to inhabit and in doing so, I’ve come to understand the ways in which she is both a part of me and a character in her own right. She’s a version of me from another version of my life.
We love your globetrotting. What gives you the travel bug?
There’s nothing that’ll challenge your perception of a place like travelling there. In travelling, I have found the very best of humanity. Because it reminds me of my immense privilege and my responsibility to use that privilege for those who lack it. That as a cis white woman, it’s my duty to stand aside and use the power given to me by an imbalanced society to create a space for others, so they can speak their truth.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Black lives matter. Trans lives matter. Flint still doesn’t have clean water. Calais has no supplies.
Victoria’s #MeToo moment
Rape doesn’t just affect the victim. It has an impact on family, friends and communities. Victoria Cano wrote a harrowing open letter about her experience, to which her father, from the US, posted a heart-breakingly, supportive reply – and also a plea to support Pomegranate Season.