Caro Meets Theatre Interview

RashDash: Two Man Show

By | Published on Thursday 8 September 2016


This summer at the end of the Edinburgh Fringe, after seeing them come up with brilliant theatre pieces year after year, we decided it was about time to award producing company RashDash one of our ThreeWeeks Editors’ Awards. The accolade was aimed at honouring their entire body of work, but we’d also just given their 2016 offering ‘Two Man Show’ a highly appreciative five star review.
Said offering recently began a  run over at London’s Soho Theatre, so it seemed like an ideal opportunity to talk to Abbi Greenland and Helen Goalen, aka RashDash.

CM: Tell us about ‘Two Man Show’ – what happens in it? What story does it tell?
RD: ‘Two Man Show’ is about two brothers – John and Dan – who are struggling with how to be good at being men. John is looking after his father who has dementia and is very frail, and Dan is about to have his first baby – a boy – and is terrified about it. The show is also about Abbi and Helen – we, the makers of the show – trying to work out how to be good at being women.

CM: What’s the point of the play? What themes are you exploring?
RD: The show is about patriarchy – how it’s bad for everyone. How it creates damaging and inhibiting stereotypes. How it values only certain ways of behaving and communicating. How it is arbitrary and unnatural and needs to change.

The show is about masculinity – what does being a man mean? How can you be good at it? How is that hurting people? And masculinity isn’t just about men – lots of women have lots of masculine qualities too…

The show is about language – how can you speak against patriarchy when there aren’t the words? There are so many ideas and feelings that don’t have words and so become invisible or impossible.

“What’s the point” is a funny question because we ask ourselves that during the show – the idea of having ‘a point’ feels quite masculine – in many ways – but… without diving into that wormhole: the point is to make space for more people to be more fully themselves, and to break some ideas about how you can be ‘good’ at being a man or a woman, so you can just be.

CM: If the show is about how patriarchy is bad for everyone, does it therefore have an agenda? Do you think you can bring people round to your point of view with it?
RD: Our experience with audiences so far has been that lots of the things we explore in the show feel familiar to people, but without being something they’ve fully expressed or given time to really thinking/feeling their way through. It’s not about bringing people round to our point of view so much as bringing something into focus that’s simmering away for lots of people already.

But yes – we have an agenda – and it is to gently chip away at the patriarchy wherever possible, in as playful a way as possible. To draw attention to its flaws. And to therefore start the possibility of imagining something else. It’s an epic mission, but it’s ongoing. And we’re not thirty yet so there’s still time.

CM: What inspired you to approach your subject matter in this way? Why did you decide that playing male characters would work for this project?
RD: We think it’s really important for women to talk about masculinity. Because lots of us are masculine in lots of ways and it’s important for those qualities to be ‘ours’ as well as ‘theirs’, and because we live with and amongst men. In the show we question our right to speak on men’s behalf, we question our motives – and that’s really important. But we chose to play men because we want this to be inclusive and full of empathy, and when you get inside a character you put a lot of yourself into it. So this isn’t just about men, it’s about us, too.

CM: Is playing a man any different from playing any other kind of character?
RD: With these particular men there are some obvious things that have to change – postures and gestures are very different, and the way these men speak. We did some really interesting work around the way men and women tend to stress different parts of a sentence and the result that has on how they communicate. But I think you’re always trying to bring empathy and integrity to every role and that’s always the same. And two female characters can be as different from one another as a male and a female character.

CM: Music seems to play a significant part in the show – is it original, and who created it?
RD: All the music in the show is original and is created live on stage. Singer/songwriter Becky Wilkie performs with a loop station, electric piano, electric guitar and drum kit. She creates looped, layered soundscapes as well as a full on rock/punk number and a three part harmony a cappella song. It’s eclectic and beautiful.

CM: You just performed the show in Edinburgh, to great acclaim. How did the run go, from your perspective? How did the show develop over the course of the run?
RD: The run in Edinburgh was incredible fun. We had a fabulous time with audiences and had some really interesting conversations after the show. The show hasn’t changed massively in terms of structure or text – but we’ve really grown into it as performers, and it’s been a real pleasure to find all the nuance and play in the show, with an audience there to guide it.

CM: Can we talk a little about RashDash, now? How did you two meet and what inspired you to create your own company?
RD: We met whilst studying at The University of Hull, we were both studying drama. During our first Edinburgh Festival together we saw a piece called ‘Hangman’ by Do Theatre at what was then The Aurora Nova. It was an entirely physical show with no words, which I hadn’t seen much of at that point, and we both loved it. After the show we said to each other, “we want to do that”. So we made our first student show – ‘Strict Machine’ – which we took to NSDF, and it was there that starting a company started to feel like it was possible.

After our first show, which was entirely physical, live music and words started to come into our work, and they’re now really important parts of everything we make.

CM: What are your aims? What do you hope to achieve?
RD: At the moment we just want to keep making shows, and we want those shows to keep getting better and keep being more radical and playful. We’re interested in finding different shapes to tell stories in, we’re interested in making work that is feminist, in both form and content; we want to make work with great parts for women, and with performances that are exhilarating to watch. Sometimes those shows will be big, hopefully, and lots of people will see them and talk about them and feel about them. And sometimes they’ll be small, and fewer people will see them – but maybe they will talk and feel about them. And whatever happens next is in the hands and hearts of those people.

CM: What have been the highlights, thus far, of the work you have done? Any particularly shiny moments?
RD: We’re really proud of this show. It feels as though we’ve been hunting around for it for a while and it’s really enjoyable to have got here and found it! This Edinburgh festival was a blast – and it’s because of the audiences. We’ve had the most amazing conversations with people after the show that has made us feel ‘the point’ of making theatre.

CM: What’s next for this show, after the run at the Soho?
RD: This October we’ll be at The Cambridge Junction, Northern Stage in Newcastle, HOME in Manchester and The Derby Theatre. It’s a small tour to begin with, but I think we may do it again next year, if all goes to plan.

CM: Where do you go from here? What’s next for you both?
RD: After the tour we go straight into development for our next show, which is a show called The Darkest Corners. It’s a cabaret activist rally, for the streets of Leeds, about violence against women. It’s a very different kind of show, because it’s big and it’s outside, and there are lots of people involved. But at the heart of it is the same playful, chipping away at the bad stuff.

‘Two Man Show’ is on at Soho Theatre from 6 Sep-1 Oct. See the venue website here for info and to book tickets.

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