Caro Meets Festivals Interview Theatre Interview

Jodie Irvine: Gobby

By | Published on Friday 24 January 2020

You may be aware that the Vault Festival begins this week. We certainly are, as we’ve been eagerly looking through all the events that are coming up. And, with that in mind, we thought we’d make sure that we interview a Vault Fest person this week.

The choice of who we should chat to was easy. ‘Gobby’, written and performed by Jodie Irvine, caught our eye when it was on at the Edinburgh Fringe and we are so glad it’s now headed for another run here in London. I spoke to Jodie to find out more about the show and her career to date.

CM: Can you start by explaining the premise of ‘Gobby’? What story does it tell?
JI: ‘Gobby’ is the story of Bri, who is newly out of a toxic relationship and struggling to readjust to a return to her previous life. The story takes place over five parties she attended over the two year period of her recovery, detailing the different people she meets along the way and how they impact her in different ways.

CM: Where does the title come from?
JI: “Gobby” is a term often used to describe loud, talkative, opinionated people – particularly women. Bri’s main conflict is knowing she is a “gobby” person, yet she still found herself being silenced, so it seemed like a fitting title for the show.

CM: What themes do you explore through the show?
JI: The idea of blame and forgiveness is a big one, as well as self awareness and the power of female friendship.

CM: It sounds like the play delves into some quite difficult and emotional issues – why did you want to tackle those with the play? What inspired you to write about this?
JI: I’ve always felt that emotionally manipulative and abusive relationships aren’t represented enough on stage, and when they are, they’re often only represented through depictions of what it’s like to be in one. I was really interested in tackling what happens after a relationship like that has finished. I think it’s a common misconception that after a break up you’re “free”, which I think is complete nonsense. That stuff stays with you and can impact your life in many unusual ways, that’s what I was keen to give voice to with Gobby.

CM: Is the play in any way autobiographical?
JI: Like all writers I definitely pull from real life experiences. Without getting into the personal details, elements of the show are based in reality, yes, but most of those elements have still been altered and fleshed out somewhat.

CM: How did you go about creating the show? Was it simply a question of sitting down and writing a script or was the process more complex?
JI: I’d known for a number of years that I wanted to create a stage piece about self awareness. When it came to beginning to write ‘Gobby’, I wasn’t sure what genre or form it would take, so initially it was a lot of long, essay-style pieces and loose ideas. I was at my wits’ end one day trying to figure out what format it should take, when suddenly the party setup came to me, and everything suddenly fell into place.

CM: What’s it like to perform your own words, compared to performing someone else’s?
JI: It’s much easier to learn the lines! I do struggle sometimes not editing my words as I’m going, but I have to trust that the script has been edited and fine tuned enough that whatever thing I think of in the adrenaline rush of a live performance will not be as good as what’s on the page.

CM: You had a successful run up at edfringe: how did that all go from your perspective?
JI: Edfringe was a great time, it was my fifth Fringe and my second with Underbelly, and I adore their whole team. I’m not sure if I’d recommend a half-run to anyone in the same position as me, as I felt it limited a lot of the opportunities that were available to me, but equally I was in my dream venue, so it worked out in the end. My Pleasance Theatre and Vault Festival shows, as well as my upcoming Australian tour, came about because of Fringe, so I’m very grateful.

CM: Can we go back a bit now? What made you decide on a career in the arts? Was it always what you wanted? What steps did you take to begin a career in the arts?
JI: I don’t really remember consciously deciding, I think I just always knew from a very young age I wanted to perform and create work. My parents tell horror stories of being forced to endure endless dance routines and puppet shows – I was obsessed with Sooty and Sweep – when I was a kid. I did do drama and theatre at school and university, but doing improv and making my own work have taught me the most about the industry by a long shot.

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future?
JI: Just to keep on creating work!

CM: What hopes do you have for ‘Gobby’ after the run at Vault Festival?
JI: We’re headed to Australia with it in March, so right now I’m focused on making sure that’s a good run. After that we’ll see, there are some wheels turning, but nothing ready to share just yet.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this? Any new projects in the pipeline?
JI: I’ve got a few new writing projects in the works that I’d love to be able to dedicate more time to once I get a little break from ‘Gobby’. I’d love to make another Fringe show eventually, but it’s about finding the right backing and theatre to make it with.

‘Gobby’ is on at Vault Festival from 4-9 Feb, see the festival’s website here for more info and to book.

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