An Interview With Paula Varjack!

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On Friday 10th March we are delighted to present ‘Show Me The Money’ by Paula Varjack at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, with support from Martin O’Connor and Skye Loneragan. Here, Freddie Alexander talks to Paula about the show, and much else besides. Read on, and buy tickets to see this wonderful artist, with a show that is painfully honest about what artists do to make ends meet… Tix £10 – here.

In his review of ‘Show Me The Money,’ Dave Coates said “[you] know the power of optimism, hope and (more importantly), getting organised.’ What does it mean to be hopeful in times like these? 

It is much easier to find hope if you speak honestly with others facing the same challenges. I find strength and solidarity in opening up to and finding support from other artists.

Transparency between artists is so important. In our “you are your own brand” culture, it is easy to think that everyone is doing better than you. But when we are honest about what we post online, we often discover there is more to the story.

Tell me how training in Stage Management and Technical Production at RADA influenced your work.

My plan at the time was to train as a stage manager rather than director, which is what I really wanted to do. Stage Manager was a job I thought I could get and get paid for, while working closely with directors.

It was an incredibly hard two years. I think I was the youngest student they had admitted. I turned 18 in the first month of my studies. It was my first time away from home, and I was far too excited about everything London had to offer. It took me some months to give the course the focus it deserved.

I have carried what RADA taught me into everything I have done since. This includes craft, focus, and awareness of the roles involved in putting on a theatrical show. It translated nicely into a foundation event production and film production as well!

But I realised I had a problem. As much as I loved the craft of technical production, I was far more drawn to creative roles. This was not true of most of my peers, who often had no interest in discussing the plays we were working on. I felt very alone.

In many ways it was the wrong course for me. Yet RADA also laid the best possible foundation, because they gave me an understanding for the unseen elements of theatre.

paulavar_story

 Have you ever been in love with a piece of art?

I remember an installation in Whitechapel called ‘Take Care Of Yourself’by Sophie Calle. It had a real impact on the way I approached making work, and the interests I had in terms of themes and form. The way it hit me led to a deep interest in Sophie Calle. I went to the exhibition 3-4 times to spend more time with it. I was totally awe struck. She created it for the Venice Bienalle while representing France. Around that time her long term lover sent an email to break up with her, ending with the line “take care of yourself.”

She did the thing many would do, she sent the email to her female friends to help unpack it. Those friends included different kinds of professions, as well as other artists. Each had a different take on what was meant by the line.

Calle became fascinated with these responses. She decided to create an installation where she invited other artists and people of diverse professions, but all women, to respond to the email. The resulting work is a phenomenal onslaught of perspectives on the terms in which a relationship can end.

You have to spend a long time with it, because there is so much to take in. It is overwhelming, a complete sensory overload of images and word. I loved it because it brings together an incredible intersection of media, photography, sound, text and video.

One of my favourite reviews of your work was by Sophia Walker, who described the experience of being ‘Varjacked… [she] reintroduced me to my own genre.’ Tell me about a memorable audience reaction to your work.

One of my favourites was the night after a gig in a Berlin art space/bar called Schokoladen (translation: chocolate). A lot of my friends came out to support me, and afterwards everyone was so pumped.

Considering I was very new to things and had a lot of stage anxiety, I am still surprised at how convincingly I played a confident persona. It was only meant to be a spoken word set, but instead I gave what seemed like a 20 minute extract of a solo show exploring late night Berlin adventures.

Afterwards everyone ended up going to a bar, my friends and people in the audience. Everyone was fired up, and we had this really messy party. At one point everyone was doing jägermeister shots, and I remember getting up and saying “everyone should make out now”. And they did! There were lap-dances between all genders, it was super queer.

I haven’t had a reaction to a performance like that again since. I am ever hopeful.

What will you be doing five minutes before your show starts?

The show has a soft start, so five minutes before I will be sitting at my desk on stage. I will be listening to a mix of music related to money, and checking out who is coming in. This is a way of me establishing a connection with the audience. Letting them know I see them and we are in this together.

The show is about me and them, and I will be talking to them directly. I need them to be engaged with me, to not just sit back and be passive. It also allows me to establish a dynamic with them that is friendly and a bit flirty. I am saying hello to people I know and noticing people that I’d like to know.

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Tickets for Flint & Pitch Presents ‘Show Me The Money’ (plus support) are available from the Scottish Storytelling Centre here.

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