GET TO KNOW: JOLIE BOOTH
We have a little chat to writer and actor “Jolie Booth” ……
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
My route as a performer has not been a particularly conventional one, so bear with me… I began working at an award-winning Tudor Re-enactment called Kentwell Hall aged 10 and every year since then I have spent a week each summer living as a Tudor, specifically a travelling troubadour in a mummer’s troupe called the Suffolk Howlers. We are still performing together today some 30 years later, making us somewhat specialists in our field (no pun intended). I studied theatre throughout GCSE’s & A’Levels, then in 2001 completed a degree in English at Nottingham Trent University, where I directed Equus and Alice Through the Looking Glass as part of the Nottingham Trent Drama Society. After university I set up and edited Flow Magazine – a radical feminist webzine, one of the first of its kind, which became national news when Julie Burchill wrote about it in her column for the Guardian, then she wrote for Flow Magazine itself and subsequently, a bit later on, ended up becoming my patron and paying for me to go to drama school. I dabbled in stand-up comedy for a bit and became a semi-finalist in the 2003 Channel 4’s “So you think you’re funny?” awards, performing at the Gilded Balloon in Edinburgh. Then I trained in contemporary clowning with Angela De Castro and became a member of the HaHaHarmonics choir. Off the back of this I supported John Jordon (of Reclaim the Streets fame) with setting up and training the Clandestine Rebel Clown Army (CIRCA), which became a worldwide activism movement. In 2003 I established Kriya Arts, a cutting-edge arts and production company whose aim is to make the world a more compassionate and extraordinary place. Between 2003 and 2004 I moved to a large squat in Berlin and was part of the Piratinnen Puppeteen theatre company. We would travel around squat bars putting on pirate parties and presenting videos and puppetry performances on the theme of piracy (piracy of all sorts). From 2004 to 2008 I worked as part of a new media collective in Brighton called Nothing to See Here Productions and we spent our time making websites, music promos, short films and branding for the likes of Fat Boy Slim, Alice Russell, Quantic Soul Orchestra and Juliette Lewis. It was all very Nathan Barley. I also worked with artists such as Matt Sewell and Adam James on live art events like the first ever You, Me, Bum Bum Train. During this time, we were all hands-on deck, so I learnt a myriad of production skills, as well as being the in-house actress. From 2007 to 2008 I trained in acting at the Academy of Creative Training in Brighton, paid for by the afore mentioned Julie Burchill. In 2008 I began working with the world-famous fool Jonathan Kay as his Director of Fooling (AKA Producer) and then also trained and performed with him. Together we created the Nomadic Academy for Fools. After a few years the graduates from the academy, myself included, began touring professional work under the company name Theatre of Now. I learnt all the words to Richard II, along with a cast of six other ‘Fools’, so we could improvise each performance of the show in the moment and swap parts, like an old-fashioned travelling troupe. From 2012 onwards, I produced and performed a cameo part in the award-winning Backstage in Biscuit Land by Touretteshero, performed by Jess Thom and that celebrated the spontaneity and creativity of her tics. It was selected for the British Council Showcase and iF Platform in 2015, which meant we got to travel all over the world to perform it. More recently I produced TESTOSTERONE for Rhum and Clay Theatre Company and Kit Redstone, which explored the toxicity of masculinity from the perspective of a new ‘trans’ man and this was also selected to be part of the British Council Showcase and subsequently performed all over the world and won some awards. In 2015 I began working on my first one woman show HIP, which premiered at the Brighton Fringe Festival in 2016 and then went on to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This was about a house I squatted in Brighton in 2002 and where I discovered inside that the belongings of the last inhabitant had been left behind after she had died. Her name was Anne Clark and she’d been a hippie in the 60’s and 70’s. I looked after her diaries and letters for fifteen years before deciding to make a show about her life. A year later in 2017 I turned her story into a walking tour, leading audiences around the streets of Brighton during the Fringe Festival, introducing them to where the beatniks, hippies and punks used to hang out in Brighton back in the day and sharing some stories about what they used to get up to. Then at the Brighton Fringe this year Anne’s story was reincarnated a third time, this time as a pop-up museum called the Museum of Ordinary People, which I created with friends Lucy Malone and Rose Dykins. The museum presented a selection of exhibitions created with members of the public who also had archives about an ordinary person’s life, whom we had helped through a series of workshops to turn into creative exhibits. This won the Brighton Fringe Festival Visual Arts Award… And at the same time as creating the museum, I was also creating Sisterhood. It has been a busy year!
Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
Sisterhood is a newly devised multimedia tale that introduces audiences to a sisterhood caught between two timelines: the witch trials of the 16th Century and modern-day women facing a world in political and environmental upheaval. Sisterhood transports the audience to a church cell in Wilmington, where three women, who span the ages of around 20, 40 and 60 years old, await their trial in the morning. We use soothing and passionate storytelling to interweave the tales of these three women with vestiges from our own lives as performers, to reveal an immediate and clear association. As the analogue world disappears into the mists of time Sisterhood questions what kind of world we are leaving to our daughters of the digital age? And how, like the phoenix, we can resurrect our sisterhood from the ashes of the witch trials and patriarchal rule?
When I began thinking about making Sisterhood, I began fantasising about the possibility of working with some of the women in my life who inspire me the most and I dreamt of creating a piece that used female stewardship at its very core, so I invited my long term mentor and close friend Andrea Brooks to work with me on the project… Andrea Brooks was Artistic Director of Zygo Arts, an award-winning theatre and arts company working in the UK and internationally, but most recently has been working as Head of MA Acting at E15 Drama School… And I also invited Caragh Kelson-Bailey to take part. Caragh is a young woman I met at the Tudor Re-creation over nine years ago when Caragh was about thirteen and we have been close friends ever since, and I’m also a kind of mentor to her. This idea of stewardship between generations is something I think we have lost in modern society, the idea of passing wisdom down through the generations, and I wanted this precious form of female friendship to be at the very heart of the play. Thankfully they both agreed to take part and together they helped me create the foundations of the new show.
With a team of creative women, we then headed over to Wilmington for a research and development weekend together. Before we arrived at the space there was no clear idea of what the show was going to be about. There’d been talk of it being like the Vagina Monologues, as a kind of interactive panel show, and there was a desire for it to have a strong lighting and design influence, but other than that there were no firm ideas, although I had just begun reading the works of Lisa Lister and had started thinking about the effects that the infamous witch trials had inflicted upon the female psyche over history. Andrea encouraged us to think of the play as already being in the ether, waiting to be told, something I had already felt stirring in my womb space… And slowly but surely the beauty and magic of the historical area we were staying in began working its magic on us, especially because it was Beltane, just at the start of Spring, and once we’d discovered the 1600-year-old yew tree growing in the local churchyard of Wilmington, just a few meters up the hill, we were sold. This play had to be historical in setting and had to be about witches.
How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
Sisterhood came about after several interesting conversations involving myself and many women, both online and in person, over the last year and a half. These conversations mainly centred around fertility, motherhood, gender identity and the #MeToo revelations. It became clear that something was happening… Women were waking up and I began to imagine a worldwide women’s web of community and support, who might – if we grew to feel big enough, strong enough and brave enough – be able to help turn this ship around, pulling humanity away from the precipice of environmental disaster, gross inequality and World War III.
I imagine this worldwide women’s web as being covered in dew drops, some of which are lighting up gold. These globules of golden light are individual women, waking up. Their energy then spreads through the threads of the web to the women around them, lighting them up too. This web is woven around the world and it is all starting to light up…
All those who identify as women and revere the feminine aspect need to make it safe for each other, not by calling each other out and finger pointing, but by calling each other in. In the 15th and 16th Centuries women were set against one another in the infamous European witch trials; daughters were set against mothers, younger women against older women, friends against friends, neighbours against neighbours, those who ‘fitted in’ against those seen as loners and misfits… Is it any wonder that the idea of Sisterhood has been left in ashes?
“Women don’t have to agree with each other. They don’t even have to like each other. That’s not the point… To challenge patriarchy, create change and begin to heal the wound of the witch trials, women DO have to support other women who dare to speak their truth. Even if it’s completely different to their own. It takes bloody courage to stand up as a woman owning your power. Ask Joan of Arc.” – Witches by Lisa Lister
To help her Kickstarter campaign get funded click on the link, so her play ‘Sisterhood’ can get to the Edinburgh fringe festival xx