Gender-bending solo performance

Rebecca Vaughan. Photo: Supplied
Rebecca Vaughan. Photo: Supplied
English writer/performer Rebecca Vaughan will be in Dunedin next weekend as part of the Dunedin Writers & Readers Festival. It will be Vaughan's third time at the festival. She is bringing the solo play Orlando to the stage.

Q You founded the Dyad theatre company in 2009. What were you wanting to achieve and how has your vision played out?

I really wanted to explore the ways in which modern solo work can interact with an audience and really encourage catharsis. I wanted to create something that felt like a full theatrical experience but was also really intimate and akin to story-telling, but where we ignite an audience's imagination. I'm really excited with where it's all going.

Q You first performed in Dunedin in 2015 with Dalloway. Then in 2017 you toured with Jane Eyre: An Autobiography. What have you been working on since your last visit?

In 2017, I commissioned and produced The Time Machine, which premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe and has been touring throughout the UK and also to the US. We created Orlando last August, but I have also been touring Jane Eyre: An Autobiography and Christmas Gothic in between all these other shows!

Q Can you describe the story of Orlando? How has playwright/director Elton Townend Jones adapted Virginia Woolf's novel into a solo play?

Orlando is a wonderful romp through 400 years of history seen through the eyes of the everyman/woman character - Orlando. It's a satire on the notion of biography (in that Orlando just keeps on living) and a real exploration about how we can find our place in the world while remaining true to ourselves.

Elton has done an amazing job - really distilling the novel to its essence and bringing out so many of its modern themes. It's uplifting and poignant and such a joy to perform.

Q You've described this play as ''a beast''. What do you mean by this?

It's a wonderful beast. It's a genuine challenge to say 10,000 words in the right order, while performing something very physical, with costume changes on stage and keeping the audience fully engaged, and trying to create something genuinely cathartic. But I love it. I could perform it forever.

Q What are the challenges of performing on your own?

Only being able to rely on yourself on stage can be quite a pressure, but once the show is really in your bones and you know how to get the audience to be truly part of it - it's a breeze - I absolutely love performing solo work. Although I do also relish performing alongside other actors when the chance comes along.

Q How do the show's themes connect with us today?

There's certainly the gender and sexuality themes, which run so fully through the piece, but also our issues with who we are and how we fit into the world. And the pressure to be just one thing - when we are so complex. It really speaks to a modern world fully of social media and mobile phones and a pressure to be perfect and on top of everything. It certainly deals with elements of mental health in that regard.

Q What's next for you and Dyad?

We're currently working on a few new projects - some adaptations and new writing. Watch this space!

To see

Orlando, Dunedin Writers & Readers Festival, the Mayfair Theatre, May 10 from 4pm-5.30pm, and May 11 from 2pm-3.30pm.
 

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