Edinburgh Fringe 2022
When Raina arrives at her spoken word gig to see her exes in the audience, all the questions she's had about her past sexual experiences begin to surface. Through poetry, comedy and one very awkward encounter with a cheese string, she begins to explore questions about bad sex, drunk sex and the grey areas of consent. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking, Manic is a solo show that combines poetry, puppetry and theatre to ask whether it is possible to say you were violated without implicating a partner.
Hi Raina thank you for taking the time to talk with The New Current, how does it feel to be heading to Edinburgh Fringe and ZOO Playground this year?
It feels like I am about to go skinny dipping in like a really sweaty creek and although it's gonna look really good on instagram I might also come out with a rash. I’m like overwhelmingly psyched to be around so many people beautiful talented people who are saying annoyingly good things onstage. But also just thinking about how many flyers I have to order is giving my bank account the stomach flu.
Are there any nerves ahead of your Fringe run?
Nearly every time I tell someone I am doing a full run at Fringe they look both concerned and also like I have lipstick smeared all over my teeth. I am sharing a small double room with my technician (the brilliant Erin Green) and am quite nervous about not falling asleep to reruns of Below Deck. Imposter syndrome has already kicked into full gear but in an effort to be a normal person who feels vaguely fine about themselves, I’ve started yelling in the mirror every morning that I am overwhelmingly talented and sexy. My horoscope app thinks the festival will go well so I’m sure its all gonna be wonderful.
Can you tell me how Manic came about, where did you inspiration come from for your new show?
I started working on MANIC in a puppetry course I took at uni (quirky!). I was dealing with the aftermath of being sexually assaulted and spent an overwhelming amount of time thinking about my sexual experiences and how most of them had left me feeling really unworthy of being liked. It took such extreme circumstances for me to recognise that the models of consent I had been taught weren’t protecting me from harm. It feels really humiliating to admit that you have only had really crap sex. So obviously, I really wanted to share those experiences with various rooms of strangers.
Puppetry felt like the perfect mode to talk about bad sex and violation. The way puppets cannot respond unless you are giving them voice feels very relevant to ideas about memory and trauma. But at the end of the day you are onstage talking very earnestly to a balloon with googly eyes, I think that captures the absurdity and silliness that conversations about sex can hold.
What have been the biggest challenge you have faced bringing this show to life?
Feeling like the work you are making is important and matters is exhausting! Someone, please buy me an iced latte! My poor director (shoutout to the gorgeous gorgeous girl Pippa Thornton) spends an absurd amount of time watching me question every single bit of writing and performance. There are too many talented people in the world and it's simply unrealistic not to compare yourself to a handful of them.
"...also so much stuff happening s you can put yourself out there and if it goes wrong any potential humiliation will just be diluted by the millions of other things taking peoples attention."
In the creative process how much flexibility do you allow yourself and once a show is running do you prefer to stick to what you’ve planned or do you like to go off book?
Apparently, I’m like horny for going off book. I never notice myself doing it but my director is constantly telling me that I do loads of ad libbing (fancy actors term for chatting!). We are tight for time at Fringe so I have to limit my usual flexibility but I really like hanging out and being present with an audience. I am telling them all about my sex life, I feel like I need to get to know them a bit too.
How important is it for you to be able to use your platform to explore the themes of femininity, sex and consent in your work?
This show would not exist if we were already properly platforming diverse, complex stories about sex and consent. I have never seen a tv show, movie, play, anything, where a person gives active verbal consent to sex. Yet, we are being taught that affirmative verbal consent is the only way to properly consent to sex! WTF! Greys Anatomy says otherwise. Consent looks vastly different for different people, yet we have no language for those nuances. As a person with lived experiences of assault, talking openly about sex has been wildly liberating and filled me with a lot of hope.
How did you get into theatre and performance?
I was really cool as a kid and a part of the infamous Lumina Studio Theatres youth Shakespeare program in the iconic suburb of Silver Spring, Maryland. I remember going onstage multiple times not knowing a single one of my lines. But I was worried that if I quit my mom would think I was being bullied (being 12 is super stressful!). I stuck with it until I graduated high school and then studied theatre making at uni.
Has your creative approach to your shows changed much since you started out?
This is my first full length solo show where I have a team working with me. I would like to think that I’ve become more trusting with giving my writing to other artists for direction and edits but I think I’ve just gotten really tired of being in charge. Louise Orwin talks about remember what you have in your back pocket that is true to everything you make. Perceiving myself and my skills is kind of uncomfy and weird but I think leaning into my poetic voice, my comedy, and my willingness to be vulnerable has become really important to how I make work. It feels really self indulgent to say that my approach has changed because I’ve just become okay with being overwhelmingly myself but it is what it is.
Do you have any advice, tips or suggestions for anyone making their Fringe debut this year?
This is my fringe debut so you tell me. In theory, I would probably say set small realistic goals and choose to be proud of yourself for just doing fringe in the first place. There's also so much stuff happening s you can put yourself out there and if it goes wrong any potential humiliation will just be diluted by the millions of other things taking peoples attention. Do your first comedy open mic! Talk to that scary producer! Ask someone out on a date (ask me out on a date)!
And finally, what do you want your fringe audiences to take away from Manic?
I would love for audiences to reflect on the societal structures that normalise sexual violations. And maybe to consider how their sex life has been affected by them. It's okay to feel really ugly and shit after being ghosted! Drunk sex is tricky and messy and might not be safe for you personally! All those things are okay because sex is allowed to look different for different people! I would also really love for audiences to take away a feeling of hope for sex. Despite the fact that the show hold room for pain, it is also largely about knowing that there is an alternative to bad sex and trying really hard to find it.