Q&A with Bonnie and the Bonnettes



So, what exactly is an open rehearsal and what can people expect if they drop in today?


An open rehearsal is a more formal way of saying come and have a nosey!

It is going to be us over at Thought Foundation in and amongst art exhibitions, with some microphones, and the transcriptions from interviews with our mums. We have not looked at these yet, not read them out, and have not discussed them together. We wanted to save it. This is going to be our first ever ‘rehearsal’ for our second show, AND SHE, and we have no idea what to expect. But, this is the best bit as those popping in will see and hear our direct, unrehearsed response to our mum’s words.


AND SHE is our second show, hopefully touring in Spring 2019, and is taken from interviews and conversations with our mums. We want to delve into femininity, womanhood, motherhood, and reinvention. Armed with three microphones, music, and a bottle (or two) of prosecco we will bring together their stories, memories, and feelings. We want to talk about their hopes, their regrets, and their views on the world. From women’s liberation, LGBTQ+ rights, having children, and settling down in retirement – it will be their coming-of-age story and it will be the longest cup of tea we have ever had with our mums.


With this show and this process, we want to see what else we can do, still in the realms of auto/biography, but in a totally different world – our mums. We want to explore identities/relationships/communities of a different era as we tell their stories, dance to their music, and share their views on the world. This is our motivation; how can we take our mums stories/views and put them in our world of performance and storytelling? There is also a political importance to making this show now as 2018 marks anniversaries of various milestones in the fight for women’s rights. It’s about celebrating women and it’s important to include those who paved the way and, for us, this is our mums. In this open rehearsal we will give the mic over to three women who are sometimes forgotten, hushed, and put to one side. It’s their turn to speak and, through us, they will say everything they have ever wanted to.


This is your second time as part of GIFT, can you tell us a bit about your involvement last year and why you’re taking part again this year?


Last year we put together a LIP-SYNC CABARET over at The Central alongside Mama Rhi and Melody Sproates. We wanted to create an event for GIFT audience members to come at the end of their day to have a few drinks, have fun, and indulge themselves in cabaret, drag, and lip-sync. I think we even did a Britney number!


But this year we are doing something totally different – not a show as such, but an event.


That’s the great thing about GIFT, it is so flexible to what we need depending on where we are with our project. This year GIFT is meeting us at the very start of working on our second show. It also puts us in spaces and buildings we never would have been involved with. Like this year, we are at Thought Foundation and while we are there they have an exhibition on called breastfeed and BOOM! by Leanne Pearce Billinghurst and Carolyn Jess-Cooke which looks at the relationship between breastfeeding mothers and their child/children. Talk about good timing! There will be us looking at our mums lives after we have left home amongst an exhibition looking at the very start. Will things be the same? What has changed?


For people who don’t already know who you are, can you tell us a little bit more about Bonnie and The Bonnettes and what you’re all about?


We are a theatre company based in the North East (Newcastle) and our work combines multiple genres and mediums. We like it when audiences laugh. We like it when they think. We really like it when they do both at the same time. With our work, we want to share stories, challenge perceptions, and have a good time whilst doing it. Our work is loud, fun, and unapologetic!


We are still currently touring our debut show, Drag Me to Love, and are so thrilled that we have been able to come out of studying at Northumbria University and into touring work! We are beginning to figure out what we want to say, how we want to say it, and who with. Hopefully, we will begin to know while working on this second show!


We also produce The BonBons Cabaret, housed at Alphabetti Theatre, which is a seasonal event that looks to provide a safe platform for queer, alternative, and experimental work in the North East. It’s sometimes funny. It’s sometimes political. It feels important. It’s beginning to build a network of makers and artist that want to be in control of the work they make, they want to challenge themselves, and want a space to try something out. The next ones on the 25th July – come along!


What else are you looking forward to seeing as part of the festival?


One of the best things about GIFT is that you can wake up, have a coffee and some toast, put on your best ‘I’m a serious theatre maker coat’ and head out the door and have a full day of theatre and art and cool stuff! We are particularly looking forward to Composed by Rosa Postlethwaite. We saw a scratch of this over at Live Theatre and think it’s going to be incredible. It’s brave, it’s beautiful, and Rosa looks absolutely cracking in a red suit!


Drop in on Bonnie and the Bonnettes' rehearsals today from Midday at Thought Foundation in Birtley. It's FREE to attend.

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