An Interview with Tess Seddon of The Fanny Hill Project v2.0 & TheatreState
[Image:Fanny Hill v2.0]
Tess Seddon is one half of TheatreState, a unique theatre company supported by Escalator Performing Arts and Arts Council England. She works alongside her creative partner Cheryl Gallacher and together they create shows that celebrate the “weird and alienating” aspects of life in the 21st century. Their performances question both social conventions and the conventions of performance, encouraging audience participation.
Although the pair are based in Essex and London they recently took their show ‘The Fanny Hill Project v2.0’ on tour and stopped off in God’s own country to perform at Bradford’s Theatre in the Mill. ‘The Fanny Hill Project v2.0’ parallels the stories of two women-one living in the 18th century (Fanny) and the other in the 21st (Tess) who end up selling their bodies to earn their way. The show was an exhilarating rollercoaster ride where on arrival the audience were handed a glass of vodka and lemonade and invited to join the duo in a drinking game. On leaving the theatre the taste in the audience’s mouth was resoundingly bitter, not from the vodka I hasten to add, but from the troubling portrayal of a society dictated by a misogynist culture.
TSOTA talked to Tess after TheatreState’s performance of ‘The Fanny Hill Project v2.0’ at the Theatre in the Mill to reflect upon the show and discuss what lies ahead for TheatreState…
TSOTA: For TSOTA readers who didn’t get the chance to see The Fanny Hill Project v2.0-how would you sum it up in three words?
TSOTA: How did the idea for The Fanny Hill Project v2.0 come about?
TS: Hmm well it came out of about 5 different ideas – I (Tess) got a job in a foot fetish club, which we thought was a great show in itself, then we read Fanny Hill which is about a young woman in the eighteenth century working in a brothel and absolutely loving it. The two stories had similar plots but the way Fanny is written, disturbed and amused us. It gets its kicks through Fanny being innocent, young and willing to suffer to please any man. It also had terrible innuendos so we knew that would be fun.
TSOTA: You received Arts Council funding to take the Fanny Hill project v2.0 on tour. (congrats!) Can you tell us a bit about how you gained this funding?
TS: We made a rough version of the show – it took as ages to decide exactly how the stories should be told side by side to explore not the narrative but how they are told and what that says about society’s expectations of female sexuality. This helped us write our application as we had a really clear understanding of what we wanted to do and where we wanted to take it. We had also been selected for Escalator East, a programme of support for Eastern based artists, through them we had mentoring and help on our application.
TSOTA: It’s clear that you and Cheryl (Tess’ creative partner and the other half of TheatreState) have a lot of fun performing together. What have you enjoyed most about taking The Fanny Hill Project v2.0 on tour?
TS: Oh god. It’s a really boozy show and we wanted to capture the energy of a night out gone bad. We both really enjoy the competition in the show, winding each other up and distracting each other making it as hard as possible for each other to tell their story.
TSOTA: How did it feel returning to Yorkshire where it all began for your performance this month at Bradford’s Theatre in the Mill?
TS: Ha. It was great. We loved Theatre In The Mill. They are a great venue, really supportive and have a brilliant technical team. The audience were also fantastic – we got a real mix of people who gave some really interesting feedback. I did spend most of the day reminiscing about when I used to sell chopping boards on industrial estates in Bradford though…
TSOTA: What advice would you give to young people in Yorkshire looking to pursue a career in theatre or the arts?
TS: Well I think there’s a great ecology of people making their own work and creating their own spaces. Just 5 years ago I couldn’t figure out how to do that. I suppose I wasn’t brave enough just to write to the people who were making great work. I felt like I had to leave to get access to opportunities but I think you can to a greater extent make your own now.
TSOTA: Will there be any further opportunities for Yorkshire folk to see The Fanny Hill Project?
TS: We might have something lined up for the Spring but I can’t tell you anymore right now – you could always sign up to our mailer… www.theatrestate.co.uk/newsletter
TSOTA: What is next for TheatreState?
TS: We’re developing a new show to take to Edinburgh next year at Arc Stockton and Cambridge Junction and Camden People’s Theatre. So far it’s about wanting to escape reality.
For more about TheatreState visit theatrestate.co.uk or alternatively follow their blog or social media pages: