Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2019
Jack AG Britton: "The strangest comment I’ve had was after a work in progress sharing of Mighty in the anonymous feedback form someone basically wrote ‘There are children dying in the world and you’re making a show about this?’."
MIGHTY | Bunker One - Pleasance Courtyard
31st Jul 2019 - 26th Aug | 16:45 TICKETS
Often whimsical, sometimes woeful, Mighty delves into masculinity, body image and mental health in a documentary performance that could just about make it onto the best rides at Alton Towers.
Hi Jack, thanks for talking to TNC, how are things going?
Things are going good, just gearing up for Fringe. I’m actually moving house this weekend so getting that out of the way before I head up!
Are you looking forward to being at The Pleasance this summer?
Yes definitely, Pleasance is such a prestigious venue with a hefty Fringe history so I’m feeling pretty honoured to be programmed there. They’ve been really helpful and supportive in the run-up to the festival so I can’t wait to get started properly.
What was your first Edfringe experience like?
I crammed nine shows in 48 hours for my first fringe in 2010 (which on reflection isn’t all that many). My first visit was essentially a recce, I was part of DeMontfort Uni’s Comedy Society, we took a show up the following year and wanted to get the lay of the land. The scale of it hit me pretty hard that first time. We had a set itinerary of shows to see, so me and two other students were running around Edinburgh frantically navigating the varying levels and cobbled streets from one show to the next; it felt like we were in Die Hard with a Vengeance.
Do you still get nerves ahead of a fringe run?
I don’t generally get nervous until five minutes before any performance, to be honest. I think nerves is the wrong word, stressed would be way more accurate. Now though all the big admin jobs are done, the show is looking good after some development at Pleasance London and Curve Theatre Leicester so I'm basically just raring to get on with it.
What has been the strangest, funniest & kindest comment you've gotten for your previous shows?
Someone once described one of my comedy shows (I write and perform comedy songs and have had a couple of shows at Leicester Comedy Festival) as ‘Terrifying yet fun’ for a local blog. I found that pretty funny and wholeheartedly agreed with the description. The kindest comment I think I’ve had isn’t really a comment, a friend of mine after seeing my previous Fringe show, I Used to Hear Footsteps, brought his dad a bottle of whisky as a kind of olive branch - there’s a lot about fatherhood and reconnection throughout that work. I was just happy to inspire someone to act in that way. The strangest comment I’ve had was after a work in progress sharing of Mighty in the anonymous feedback form someone basically wrote ‘There are children dying in the world and you’re making a show about this?’. I found it strange because really you can make a show about whatever you want, on the same bill that night was a show about the Doctor Who Theme Tune.
Can you tell me a little bit about Mighty, what can we expect?
The show plays out like a Ted Talk about Heightism but uses a mix of performative devices like spoken word, storytelling, live looping and recordings from experts. I share some of my own experiences of short shaming and the disadvantages of being smaller but mostly, creatively guide the audience through my findings from researching the topic.
"Heightism seemed like a good topic to delve into, being a shorter guy I have some agency to open up the discussion."
What was your inspiration behind this new show?
My height! Well, I’m just under 5’5 and grew up very complacent about people taking me less seriously or giving me a hard time because of my height, my ex-girlfriend was slightly taller than me and at weddings and parties, taller men often found it funny to denigrate me because of it.
I started researching the show as I was interested in the culture of heightism and what effect it has had. I never expected to fall so deep into the rabbit hole. There are some shocking statistics around height, wage, relationships and mental health as well as a clear disdain of shorter men amongst online trolls. With all this discovered, I felt like the topic deserved some exploration and exposure.
How long have you been toying with the idea of creating a show that focuses on heightism?
I actually first shared ten minutes of the show back in 2015. After my last work I Used to Hear Footsteps a documentary theatre show that explored the story of my haunted childhood home, I really felt I wanted to continue on this path of mixing theatre and journalism. I’m heavily inspired by narrative journalism podcasts like This American Life, Serial and Radiolab, they explore real-life stories, modern science and subcultures in such creative and beautiful ways I wanted to attempt something similar on stage. Heightism seemed like a good topic to delve into, being a shorter guy I have some agency to open up the discussion.
During your research for Mighty what have been some of the surprising facts, you've discovered about heightism?
I don’t want to give too much away because there are some really shocking ones in the show, but here’s a couple of interesting ones:
In Russia it is illegal to drive if you are under 5ft.
The taller you are the more likely you are to go on to higher education.
For men in the UK, there is a 1.8% increase in wages for every additional inch of height.
How different is this show compared to your previous fringe shows?
Compared to I Used to Hear Footsteps this show is certainly a lot funnier, both shows fall into the realm of performance lecture/documentary theatre but with drastically different topics. Mighty is louder, more direct in its approach whereas ...Footsteps was accurately described by The List as ‘Quietly powerful’, that show was far more narrative-driven, it’s essentially a ghost story that collapses time to provide a blur between fact and speculation, whereas this show uses beatboxing, spoken word and comedy to present a variety of facts and discussions throughout.
"When I was younger I did parkour and I’d get such a kick out of editing videos to music and plonking them on the internet, making shows scratches a similar itch."
What has been the most challenging part of putting this show together?
This has been the most challenging work I’ve made, I’m constantly wrestling with the fact that I am a straight white man who’s created a show about prejudice, which makes for a very hard line to tread. I make it clear in the show that I don’t believe heightism is the worst the problem our world is currently facing because it really isn't, I just feel with what I’ve discovered, whilst researching for the work the topic, certainly deserves some more thought and consideration.
How important is the collaborative nature of theatre-making?
Gosh, that sounds like one of my undergrad essay questions! Obviously, it’s really important, although Mighty is a one-man show I’ve had a real variety of people in the room with me helping me to realise the performance and maximise its potential. You can spend weeks in a space alone making something, but it's invaluable to have people on the outside making sure the work is coherent and coming across the way you want it to. I worked with a mix of poets, lighting designers, loopers, writers and directors in the course of making this work and every single one of them has had really useful input.
Have you always had a passion for performing?
I think my passion for performing and my passion for making go hand in hand. I love creating interesting imagery and soundscapes for the stage as much as I love performing comedy or spoken word. My passion for making one-man shows is more akin to the satisfaction you’d get from creating and finishing something. When I was younger I did parkour and I’d get such a kick out of editing videos to music and plonking them on the internet, making shows scratches a similar itch. As for performing generally, I’ve always enjoyed telling stories or jokes to a room full of people so I suppose it’s evolved from that. I used to do school plays etc and that collaborative process of working with other performers is also something I really enjoy today.
What was our first time like out on stage?
I was around 7 years old, I was dressed as a fairy and telling parents of our year group how we were reading the Iron Giant. Bizarre directional choices from the teachers there but overall I think it was a pleasant experience.
What 3 words best describe this show?
Bold, Enlightening, Funny
Do you have any advice for those who might have experienced heightism?
I think the effects of heightism are subtle and hard to grasp in some ways, but ultimately it can result in a lack of confidence for shorter people (men mainly). I’d say not to stand for any stupid short jokes if you're not comfortable being called a hobbit then say so, and ask why someone is relying on such a tired and hack joke. Heightism seems like a really big issue in the dating world, girls with height restrictions on Tinder etc. I think it’s interesting to challenge these things, why are we complacent with such an overt prejudice against a genetic physical trait? My advice would be don’t let your height define you, you aren’t your height you are your achievements, personality and thoughts. Not to put too fine a point on it, but you are Mighty!
And finally, what do you want your audiences to take away from Mighty?
Really I just want people to think about the topic in a different light, to take height into account when talking about things like body image representation. The show clearly demonstrates the negative effects it’s having. If people walk away thinking ‘Height is a body image issue’ I’ll be happy.