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London Horror Festival 2021
INTERVIEW

Rachael Bellis
Revenge: The Horror Cabaret
October 21 
pleasance.co.uk

Rachael and her guests sing their way from Sweeney Todd to Carrie as Rachael discovers just how wonderful horror as a genre can really be. But what happens when it goes wrong and her special guests end up both dead AND in jail?

Hi Rachael thank you for talking to The New Current, how have you been holding up during these very strange times?


Hi there! Happy to be talking about shows (and making them) again! Yes it has been up and down for most of us hasn't it? I have done a few zoom plays (and two zoom cabarets) and I hope they stick around because the accessibility we have found is incredible and I do hope we keep it going. That said, I do miss live theatre and I'm so happy to be back on a real stage! I feel a bit like it's the first day of school really.

Has this time provided you with any new creative inspiration or opportunities?


I have done some zoom Shakespeare with The Show Must Go Online and my own company, Worldwide Shakespeare, and some work on zoom with Hog in the Limelight, a company created in the pandemic. It has been incredible learning new ways of working and discovering innovative styles. And I've learned a lot more about tech (which means I feel more confident on that side of things now that we are in person again too!) 

 

What does it mean to you to be bringing your new show Revenge: The Horror Cabaret to the London Horror Festival 2021, are there be any nerves ahead of your run? 


This is my first sort of solo cabaret (solo with guests) and so yes, I would say I am nervous! But also it means everything to me. I have been in other people's cabarets before and in a few musical workshops as well, but this is my piece, created with my own experiences with horror.

 

Can you tell me a little bit about Revenge: The Horror Cabaret, did you have any apprehensions about creating a show based on your own experiences? 


Well I would say it's my own experiences with horror -- watching the genre and listening to it. With horror, it can't only be your own experiences because for instance (spoiler), people die in this show and end up in jail and I've never died or been in jail! But I was afraid of watching slasher films or anything horror related as a child, so my only experience with the genre was in singing songs from musicals. They were never as scary somehow. Of course, the idea of horror stories set in high schools relates to my life growing up in America and attending those schools (without the horror side of it) and the songs I have chosen, particularly as my solos relate to my life in various ways -- mostly about not fitting into the world I grew up in. So it is a little apprehensive to put yourself out there so heavily and say "this is my experience" when someone might think being a vampire or a zombie can't be my experience.

 

But the emotional narrative in the songs is there for me and hopefully will come through in the performance. And I think that portion of things is so important. And I imagine vampires and zombies are pretty lonely!

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What were the biggest challenges you faced bringing Revenge: The Horror Cabaret to the stage?


Well self-producing is not easy, but I think the biggest challenge is producing something you are performing in. You have to wear both hats, get your admin together, and raise money. And send a lot of emails! I'm not very good at getting admin together in life, but for a show, you have to. So I'm doing it! And I learned a lot about this in the pandemic when doing zoom shows, because we are all capable of putting our own work out there. If you're reading this and wondering about making your own work -- I tend to jump right in. Although sometimes it can be difficult to find the money so maybe fundraise first!

 

What has it been like working with your director Fergus Rattigan?


Fergus is incredible. Firstly he has much more experience in horror than I do and so with my experience in cabaret and music, it makes for a good team. He also directed me in one of my zoom plays and I loved working with him. He's understanding and nurturing as a director and he throws ideas at you fast (and makes sure you catch them!) He has a great eye and a lot of stage combat experience so that part is incredibly fun.

 

Have you always had a passion for performing and cabaret? 


Yes. You used to find me on the playground rounding up all the kids and creating theatre with them. Once we created our own circus, using the swings as a trapeze. (I wore a swimsuit and a skirt to look just like the trapeze artists.) I sold tickets and snacks to my parents (sold is a strong word) and then sang them a song from The Little Mermaid. That transitioned into actual work as a teenager and young adult.

How much has your approach to your shows changed since your first time out on stage?


Well I started off in my teens performing in community theatre and the (very) occasional professional show back in Pennsylvania. I think my approach at that time was just to do whatever I was told to do and be on a stage somewhere. After I went to Tisch, I learned how creative you can be as an actor and I continued to sing and perform. And then when I left drama school and began to work, it was difficult enough to find a job that I started making my own. That's what I had learned to do if you weren't getting work. So I've been making my own work ever since and here I am deciding to do that again after creating on zoom for almost two years.

"Don't wait for someone else to call. Not only will you make opportunities for yourself, you might also make them for other people."

What's the best piece of advice you would offer fellow theatre-makers?


I might have hinted at it above but make your own stuff. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there. If you know you can do something and you're proud of your work, just put it out there. Don't wait for someone else to call. Not only will you make opportunities for yourself, you might also make them for other people. And yes, while you should probably fundraise first, you can do a lot on a shoestring and create great quality on small budgets. Don't let that be an obstacle. Especially now that we have zoom, you can really do a lot. Work within your limits (don't burn yourself out) but you can fulfil your own dreams.

And, finally, what do you hope your audiences will take away from Revenge: The Horror Cabaret?


Without giving too much away, I hope they see that revenge is not always the best choice (it might land you in jail). But also I hope they have a fun and spooky time. There's a bit of everything: comedy, horror tropes, singing, puppets, drag. Whatever you want on a night out before Halloween, we probably have it in our show!