Edinburgh Fringe 2022
Selected as one of the best shows to see by Time Out and The Times. Victoria has made a habit of embedding herself in the world of Britain's enthusiasts. Now she's trying to crack stand-up. Wearing technology that shows what happens to your body when you're funny, Victoria combines storytelling, stand up and research to lift the curtain on both the brain, and the secret world of stand-up. It's a celebration of our messy and disordered brains. Victoria has previously become a pigeon fancier, northern soul dancer, beauty queen, championship dog show handler and funeral director.
Hi Victoria thank you for talking to The New Current, how does it feel to heading to Edinburgh Fringe after everything that has happened?
It’s an absolute joy to be back.
Will there be any nerves ahead of your World Premiere at the Pleasance Courtyard?
Yes, I haven’t performed at the fringe for 7 years. This is a brand-new show that experiments with form. It is both a theatre show and a stand up show. It takes risks and also it is the most personally vulnerable I’ve been on stage. The audiences at the preview shows have been incredible, I hope that translates to Edinburgh. Here the space is scruffy, you only have 15 minutes to set up for your show. It’s not as luxurious as a theatre or an art centre. It’s quite a technical show with films and lighting cues, there is always the worry in Edinburgh that things will go wrong and you don’t have the time to fix them. Last time I was here the space flooded and we had to cancel a show.
I have been making theatre shows for 15 years but I only started stand up a few years ago. I got good during lock down because I was doing a lot of online gigs. Doing stand up has really improved my skills and craft as a performer. There is nothing like performing to a basement full of people who don’t like you to make you grow thick skin.
What has it mean to you be named as one of TimeOut’s 15 Best Theatre Shows to see at the Fringe?
This was exciting and a relief to know that I haven’t been forgotten about since I made my last show Ugly Chief in 2017.
Can you tell me a little bit about Head Set, what made you want to use documentary theatre to tell/share your story?
Head Set is a theatre show that explores amateur stand-up comedy and how to make peace with our disordered and messy brains.
After a rough tour, I decided to quit my career in theatre, and do my plan B; the thing I’ve always secretly known I’d be brilliant at…stand-up comedy. I embed myself into the amateur stand up scene, a world with its own rules, culture and behaviours. Problem is stand-up is much harder than it seems and I have always struggled with communication and words. In my mind I sound like a genius but what comes out of my mouth sounds like a baby, a baby woman.
Driven by an ambition to become a better stand-up I seeks out help from a speech and language specialist, leading to a string of diagnosis’s and finds out at the grand old age of 40 that I have ADHD. Using wearable technology and working with a neuroscientist we make a revolutionary discovery that might be a natural cure for ADHD. Head Set is a hilarious, insightful and surreal odyssey.
I work across art forms including theatre, film and stand-up, with and about Britain’s enthusiasts. Fascinated by anthropology, I immerse myself into communities and becomes an active participant in their rituals as research for my work.
"For Head Set I immersed myself into the world of amateur stand up comedy on the open mic scene. With my work I bring the outside world in and that’s why I often use film."
In the past I’ve become a pigeon racer, northern soul dancer, championship dog handler, beauty queen and a funeral director.
I document from the inside presenting contemporary voices that are rarely heard, connecting audiences with fascinating stories that might otherwise go unnoticed. Engaging with audiences “who don’t normally go to the theatre” is at the forefront of what I do. My work merges the personal with the political and although it can tackle difficult subjects such as funerals, neurodiversity and impossible beauty standards it does so with care, creativity, tons of humour and an ambition to make change.
For Head Set I immersed myself into the world of amateur stand up comedy on the open mic scene. With my work I bring the outside world in and that’s why I often use film. Reality can be so much stranger than fiction and so I like to record it. If I didn’t film it you wouldn’t believe that I got my dog to Crufts or I walked down a catwalk as a beauty queen.
How much did getting your ADHD diagnosis impact your life?
It changed everything for the better. I always thought I was stupid and lazy and not like other people. Now I know what it is so I can manage it and be kind to myself. Finding out has been one of the best events of my life. I highly recommend it!
What was the biggest challenge you faced bringing Head Set to life?
Funding is scarce at the moment. The Arts Council funded the research and development but not the final making. Organisation’s including Farnham Maltings stepped in to give me some of the money towards finishing it because they believed in the show and they were worried I would stop making theatre. The whole team worked above and beyond to make it happen.
What do you think can be done at festivals like Edinburgh Fringe to encourage and support more artists who identify with neurodivergency as well as making venues more aware of Neurodiversity?
We need more relaxed and quiet spaces. The get in’s need to be longer. More thought needs to go into making the festival less anxiety inducing for everyone. There is huge pressure on companies in the first week especially as there are so many unknowns.
What one word would best describes this show?
I haven’t got a word but I really like this quote from an audience member “Head Set is what happens when weirdos become mainstream”.
What has been the best piece of advice you have been give and do you have any advice you would offer an emerging theatre director?
“If you want to make work that pleases everyone going design for Ikea.” Franko B
And finally, what do you hope your audiences will take away from Head Set?
I want people to have been entertained, moved and to feel radical self-acceptance for the imperfect wonders that we are.