Interview: Jemma McDonnell, Artistic Director of The Paper Birds Theatre Company

By August 19, 2015

Theatre & Dance. Leeds.

[Image courtesy of The Paper Birds Facebook page] 

Innovative and devising theatre company, The Paper Birds, create social and political productions that speaks with a female voice and a female perspective to evoke discussion and speak to the audience who see their productions. TSOTA sits down with Artistic Director Jemma McDonnell to find out more about this inspiring company.



[Image courtesy of The Paper Birds Facebook page] 


TSOTA: How and why did you choose the name “The Paper Birds”?

JM: The idea was based on taking a piece of paper and creating something new from it  and to be honest I think at the time I had meant origami but was not sure of the spelling so wrote ‘paper bird’.  Because we are a devising theatre company and we try to make work that is very current this felt like it would symbolically work for the company and our aims.


TSOTA: I see a lot of your pieces focus on the voices of women. What made you decide to focus on that?

JM: We believe in creating strong representations of women on the stage, in giving womens’ voices and issues the opportunity to be heard, and in creating positive role models for women both young and old alike. We believe that there is still progress to be made for women’s rights both at home and abroad; the recent #everydaysexism campaign can easily demonstrate why. Statistics relating to underrepresentation of women in the theatre, of the eternal glass ceiling within most industries, and the sheer lack of decent roles written for women are just some of the reasons that led us to actively seek to promote feminist ideologies within our lives and work.



[Image of production ‘In A Thousand Pieces’,  courtesy of The Paper Birds Facebook page] 


TSOTA: What has been your favourite production to date?

JM: That is a really tricky question. I have enjoyed different shows for very different reasons. ‘Blind’ has been amazing because we have been working with Grace who has such a wonderful skill and energy. ‘In a Thousand Pieces’ also sticks in my mind because it was our first ‘hit’ and a show that people really responded to. But then there were shows along the way like ‘Others’ that were, in my opinion anyway, challenging and brave and so I think of many of the shows fondly because they all had their place and worth at the time.


TSOTA: What have you got in the pipeline for future productions?

JM: We started a trilogy about class with a show called ‘Broke’ and so now we get to make two more shows to follow this. I am excited about making the next show as we are planning for it to be very different to anything we have ever done before! It will be called ‘Mobile’ and should be coming to life in 2016…. watch this space!



[Image credited to Richard Davenport] 


TSOTA: You deliver educational workshops for schools – what inspired you to want to do this?

JM: We have always enjoyed working with young people and communities and we like sharing our practice, exploring theatre-making with others and helping others find their own voice and own style. It’s a big part of what we do and we really enjoy it.



[Image of Leeds Inspired ‘Round Again’ project at Leeds City Museum, courtesy of The Paper Birds Facebook page]

Make sure to check out The Paper Birds on social media @ThePaperBirds and check out The Paper Birds’ website.

Angus Fisher