Edinburgh Fringe 2022
WILD ONION brings three queer best friends together in this riotous, compassionate hour, finding that in the support of chosen family we're all able to grow. As Daisy loses sense of herself in hidden family history, we also meet Rach, who's managing her fear of men by expressing violence towards onions, and Adam, who's trying to make himself cry (while on a cyr wheel).
Hi Daisy, thank you for taking the time to talk with The New Current, how does it feel to be heading to Edinburgh Fringe and Assembly Bijou this year?
It feels like a homecoming! We are delighted that the festival is back in full swing, and we are overjoyed to be part of such an incredible programme at Assembly. We haven’t been up to Edinburgh since 2018, so we cannot wait to share our show to new audiences, see and be inspired by so many other shows, and meet loads of lovely creatives!
Does being shortlisted for the New Diorama and Underbelly Edinburgh Untapped Award in 2022 add any addition pressure on you?
Haha not at all! We are so proud of WILD ONION, and being shortlisted for the award really gave us a firmer belief that we’ve made something really special.
The reviews for your new show have been really amazing, does it ever surprise you (in the nicest possible way) getting such great notices for the type of theatre you create?
We are always delighted! Mainly because we are so humbled that so many people, audiences and reviewers alike, are so open to the whacky show we’ve made and are affected so much by the story. WILD ONION busts through traditional theatrical and cabaret forms making it bit difficult to describe in words, but when audiences watch it, it just feels right. So we have been ecstatic that reviewers have really gotten onboard with what we are doing and can find a way to put the WILD ONION vibes into words!
Are there any nerves ahead for your return to Edinburgh Fringe with Wild Onion?
There’s always the nerves around whether the show will do as well as we hope it will - but we counter that with working as hard as we can in the run up. Then it’s all about making sure we pace ourselves when we’re up there, eat well and remember to stretch post show. (I do a lot of squats in the show so stretching is KEY) Looking forward to having power thighs at the end of the run.
Can you tell me how Wild Onion came about, what was the inspiration behind your new show?
I knew I wanted to make a show that celebrated friendship after a big life event knocked me for six and my friends really showed up for me. Culturally we undervalue friendships, putting romantic relationships above platonic ones, but some of the most impactful relationships we can have in life are with friends. They form us and we grow together; friendships are ecosystems!
So I knew I wanted to make a show about that. The title came first inspired by a quote about young people being weeds, and eventually we thought ‘hold on… the show needs real onions in it’ - and that’s when we discovered how excellent onions are as a metaphor for friendship, as they are great companion plants, supporting the other plants around them to grow better. Plus we love that we make the stage really really smelly.
When creating a new show how essential is it for you to draw from your own experiences as a company?
We talk about this a lot, and it’s vital and specific. We draw on our own emotional experiences to bring a truth to the stories we tell and to our performances. We play ourselves in WILD ONION, and there’s emotional truth in each of our storylines, but the expression of those stories we’ve fictionalised.
I also personally really hold to the fact that the more specific you are with an emotion or an experience that you share with an audience, the more they will find space in it to relate to and feel something with you. That’s why the main arc in WILD ONION is told in real detail.
Do you allow yourself much flexibility once a show is running or do you prefer to stick to the show as written?
The show has elements of audience participation so we always have to leave room for change and adaptability. A lot of the actions in the show are task based too, so we have room to do them differently - for example beating up a leak. There’s a lot of ways to do that let me tell ya!
We also use real onions as props, and sometimes you get a smellier onion, a more peel-able onion, onions with variable juiciness, and that changes how we do what we’re doing.
We love live performance because it only happens in the moment, so there’s a lot that can change in WILD ONION show to show.
How important is the collaborative nature between performer and director?
We created this show entirely collaboratively - myself, Adam Fullick and Rachel Elizabeth Coleman. So for us collaboration is essential as we were all performing, directing, dramaturging sometimes all at once. This is why our work can be so interdisciplinary and looks like nothing you’ve probably seen before. We all have areas we take more ownership of; Adam focusses on circus and character arcs, Rachel on movement direction and technical design, and myself on dramaturgy and the big story.
So in short - it’s everything.
Have you always had a passion for theatre and how did Orange Skies Theatre come about?
I’ve always had a passion for live performance and that started out with theatre and dance. I used to do gymnastics and would bound about the house in a leotard singing to Elvis. Honestly I don’t know how I could have ended up doing anything else??
I founded Orange Skies in Norwich at the end of my undergraduate degree because I knew I wanted to be a theatre maker and to forge my own creative voice. I’m now joined by my co-Artistic Director Rachel Elizabeth Coleman and together we’ve shaped a particular way of making and a style of work that speaks to both of our longstanding passions for theatre, dance, circus, and cabaret.
Has your approach to your shows you create as a company changed much since your debut production?
It has changed so much. Most notably we’ve moved away from a model of writer, director, performer, and we now work with a flat structure devising our shows together in a room. In that way liveness has become much more important and integral to our work - we don’t make shows with a fourth wall anymore for example. Our mission to make audiences want to hold the person next to them hasn’t changed throughout - if anything it’s just become stronger.
We also made a lot of people sad cry with our debut show and this time we only want tears of joy or from onions.
"...the most valuable lesson I’ve had for making live performance is that you can’t underestimate how much it can mean to people."
What has been the most valuable lesson you have taken from this experience?
For me it’s that you never know who needs to see your work. Our debut show we thought would resonate most with twenty-somethings, but we had a lot of middle aged parents of twenty-somethings in the audience and the show hit different for them, in ways we couldn’t have expected but were especially powerful. One parent at the end of the show called their grown up kid, and said they hadn’t spoken for months. We couldn’t have expected that kind of a response. Recently when we introduced WILD ONION and welcomed ‘ladies, gentlemen and non-binary nobles’ a parent leant across to their non-binary teen and said ‘that’s you!’ which made us smile so much. That young person then came to see the show again in a completely different city!
So the most valuable lesson I’ve had for making live performance is that you can’t underestimate how much it can mean to people.
Do you have any advice, tips or suggestions you would offer fellow theatre makers heading the fringe this year?
Bring a lunchbox. Honestly it sounds silly but it’s cost efficient and keeps you fed well! More generally; see as much as you can and if you loved someone’s show tell them, and then tell everyone else. Word of mouth is so powerful at the fringe, and feedback is always valuable.
And finally, what do you want your fringe audiences to take away from Wild Onion?
That growth is messy and that we should celebrate the roles our friends play in our lives. Plus if they could take some smashed onions away with them to compost that would be great (please there’s loads of them…).