Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Dominique Lavine Wood-Whyte: The Trials And Passions Of Unfamous Women

By | Published on Friday 7 June 2024

We are always interested in the work of Clean Break, and their latest show ‘The Trials And Passions Of Unfamous Women’ – beginning its run this week at Brixton House as part of LIFT – is no exception. 

It has been created by Clean Break member artists – women with experience of the criminal justice system or at risk of entering it – in partnership with boundary-breaking Brazilian theatre artists Janaina Leite and Lara Duarte, who are known for their documentary approach, with acclaimed creative Rachel Valentine Smith as dramaturg. 

It’s a devised piece that looks at the experiences of women who have been labelled transgressive throughout time. I spoke to member artist Dominique Lavine Wood-Whyte about her role in creating and performing in the play.

CM: Can you start by telling us a bit about the content of ‘The Trials And Passions Of Unfamous Women’ – does it tell a story or stories?
DLW-W: ‘The Trials And Passions Of Unfamous Women’ is a bold story.

It’s about the common history of justice, rituals and women, and the thought provoking question threaded through it is about who really has the power to decide your fate.

It sits in a powerful space between theatre and justice, and also the trials of women. And from the rituals, trials and passions of those past women’s stories, we connect to women’s stories today, opening the space for ideas and action for a reformed future.

CM: What themes are explored through the play?
DLW-W: We explore a lot of themes within the play, primarily death, power, art, music, trials and passions, women, rituals and justice. 

CM: What was the inspiration for the show? What made you want to focus on this topic?
DLW-W: The inspiration for the show came from our first workshop with Janaina and Lara, deriving from Jana’s amazing performance ‘Stabat Mater’, which showed living testimonies and the realities of life.

Our show is based on our past histories and present realities with regard to the justice system. Basically, I’m all about thought provoking change. 

CM: A number of Clean Break member artists worked on the show – can you tell us a bit about you and them?
DLW-W: We are a group of beautiful, brazen women, with different backgrounds and paths and stories, yet we all hold a common grounded bond of sisterhood, which has built up from our work with Clean Break. 

CM: Can you tell us a bit about Janaina Leite and Lara Duarte and their work on this?
DLW-W: In my opinion, Janaina and Lara are two amazing women to work with. They are amazing talents and have incredible vision, especially with regard to the realities of the world.

Their performance of their own trials and passions offered great inspiration to me and the other team members, bringing us to where we are today. They are truly amazing directors and really helped us through the creative process.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about that creative process? How did you all work together to come up with the content of the show?
DLW-W: Our creative process included a lot of movement, a lot of playfulness, a lot of games, body work, body movement, breathing exercises, yoga.

We developed a lot of confidence in each other and ourselves, which helped when creating the play. 

CM: Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What do you like about performing? Have you always wanted to perform?
DLW-W: Well my name is Dominique, also known as Gemzlavine.

I’m the mother of a beautiful girl. I’m also a support worker within the care industry. And I feel performance always lives in me, I have always wanted to perform and entertain – it’s a great passion of mine.

I like performing because you can be whoever you want to be, and captivate and cause change, for the audience you are performing for. I just enjoy those moments.

I have attended many acting schools, workshops and sessions and arts organisations, and for me it’s a matter of just keeping on with the acting, keeping the artist in me alive. 

CM: What have been the highlights of your performing life? What would you like to do in the future?
DLW-W: I’ve had too many great opportunities to even start working out what the highlights are, to be honest: everything I have done has been somewhat life changing or thought provoking.

In the future I would like to continue working within the theatre and performance world, perhaps even in TV, film and music, but most importantly to keep developing myself further as an artist. 

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
DLW-W: I’m not quite sure what’s going to be happening next, although I would like to try to write a one woman show, with the help of all the wonderful performing organisations I have been working with.

I would also like to do more workshops, etc, to really build my skills, and hopefully you will see me on the big screen in due course. 

‘The Trials And Passions Of Unfamous Women’ is on at Brixton House from 14-22 Jun. For more information and to book tickets head to the venue website here

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