Friday, 26 May 2017

Raw Dramaturgy: Daniella Isaacs @ Edfringe 2017

Áine Flanagan Productions, Lipsink and United Agents present:
Hear Me Raw

Actor and lifestyle journalist Daniella Isaacs delves into the world of clean living to find out why the fast rising health craze is making us sick
Written and performed by Daniella Isaacs
Directed by Rosy Banham
The Wee Coo, Underbelly, 
2 – 28 Aug 2017 (not 14), 14:40 (15:40)

In an autobiographical story about #empowerment and crippling insecurity, #fitspiration and fragile bones, #superfoodsmoothies and so much debt, Daniella Isaacs removes the Instagram filter to reveal the dirty truth behind clean living. 

Aged 24, Daniella joined the cult of contemporary wellness. She spiralised courgettes, saluted the sun, and came out top in spinning class. She even started her own health blog and set up a gluten-free granola brand. 

What was the inspiration for this performance?

Over the past two years, I became totally consumed by the wellness industry. My lifestyle was focused on clean eating and exercise and everything else (my career, my relationships, my finances!) very quickly fell by the wayside. It was only when my sister told me she was pregnant at the end of last year that I had a wake up call- I hadn’t had a period in 16 months, my bones were weak, my hair was thin… wellness had made me sick. 

The wellness industry is huge, and my experience is not unique. This show explores what is underneath the squeaky clean wellness facade and will reassess what wellness really means.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

Absolutely. It’s probably the only medium where the audience can’t be distracted by their phones- that’s huge. It’s an amazing opportunity to share experiences, thoughts and feelings which explore the human condition.

How did you become interested in making performance?

Having spent my teenage years working with the National Youth Theatre, I experienced the joy of making new work with inspiring peers. When I left the Oxford School of Drama, I was encouraged to not sit and wait for the phone to ring, so I got a group of friends together and we made a show called Mush and Me. 

Making my own work gives me a sense of agency and stability over my career.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

I like to start with a question. The question behind Hear Me Raw is ‘What does it mean to be well?’. I then like to talk to people who have a personal connection with the subject. I really find interviewing and recording lived experiences are one of the best ways to stay inspired and motivated to make a show rich with ideas and an underlying sense of truth.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

I like exploring work which delves ‘behind closed doors’ and I guess this character reveals what’s lurking underneath her squeaky clean facade. The show also dives somewhere quite heavy but it starts in a light-hearted, jovial place which I think is something I always enjoy creating.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
I hope the audience leave feeling joyous! I hope the audience leave feeling empowered. I hope the audience leave feeling safe in the knowledge that we are all unwell and that’s okay!

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

We wanted to find a real sense of ‘liveness’ within a one-person show. Although there have been some really inspiring monologue shows, we often feel that they all comprise of lived experiences which the performer has got over and therefore nothing feels genuinely at stake. We wanted to find a way to make the performer experience her obstacles within the 60 minutes she is on stage. That way, the audience will feel active and involved during the show. 

But it’s been two years since Daniella’s last period. Her bones are disintegrating, hairs are springing up in all the wrong places, and her anxiety is sky-rocketing. The doctors are saying her lifestyle is responsible. When did wellness start making us sick?
‘Orthorexia nervosa’ is an eating disorder characterised by an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. Recovery clinics report a dramatic increase in the number of sufferers coming through their doors, but the term – first coined in 1996 – has yet to be recognized by official medical bodies. Hear Me Raw sheds light on the illness, and the image-saturated culture that fuels it.

Hear Me Raw is from the creative team behind irreverent intermarriage comedy Mush and Me, the winner of the 2014 IdeasTap Underbelly Award & the Holden Street Adelaide Fringe Award, and the producer of 2016 Fringe hit How to Win Against History.

Daniella Isaacs is an actress and writer. She has previously performed at the Bush, Soho Theatre, the Tricycle and most recently appeared in Fleabag (BBC/Netflix). She is an alumni of The Oxford School of Drama & National Youth Theatre. Daniella has written as a lifestyle journalist for Psychologies magazine, Mayfair magazine and Women’s Health.
Daniella says:  “I felt lost and overwhelmed, and with the help of social media, I found the wellness world, which offered easy answers. I followed endless recipes promising positivity, empowerment and insta-worthy abs. But clean living couldn’t cure my anxiety. If anything, it made it so much worse. From the front line of wellness, I can tell you that a ‘flat’ stomach doesn’t bring you happiness and gluten-dairy-sugar-free bliss balls definitely don’t lead you down the path to enlightenment. I know I’m not alone in this wellness obsession, and I want this show to provide an antidote to the squeaky clean social media feeds which brush the complexities of human existence under yoga mats and crisp, white table cloths.” 
Rosy Banham is an Associate Artist at HighTide. She is currently Ian Rickson’s assistant director on In Therapy (in development, National Theatre), and was recently assistant director on the West End production of The Miser starring Lee Mack and Griff Rhys Jones. She has previously worked at the Royal Court, the RSC, Soho, Tricycle, Bristol Old Vic and Oxford Playhouse. 

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