Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Yolanda Mercy: Quarter Life Crisis

By | Published on Wednesday 5 April 2017

You may be familiar with Yolanda Mercy if you saw her acclaimed darkly comical solo theatre piece ‘On The Edge Of Me’, and if you are, you’ll be pleased to hear that she’s back with a new show, ‘Quarter Life Crisis’.
To find out more about the show, and Yolanda herself, I scheduled a quick chat.

CM: It’s possibly kinda self-evident because of the title… but what is ‘Quarter Life Crisis’ about? What story does it tell?
YM: ‘Quarter Life Crisis’ takes you on the journey of Alicia, a 25 year old Londoner who is trying to make her way through life…

CM: What themes does the show explore?
YM: The show explores age angst, heritage and being a millennial.

CM: Is it based on your own experiences?
YM: I would say this piece takes inspiration from my life and the lives of people around me. I like it when the lines between real life and fiction are blurred.

CM: What made you want to create a show with this subject?
YM: I created this show as a response to friends having babies, getting married or buying a house… whereas I was more concerned with the problem of “how can I keep my young person’s railcard…?”

CM: I know that there’s music and audience participation involved, so it doesn’t sound like it’s traditional, set piece theatre – can you explain what it’s like, format-wise? Are all your shows like this?
YM: Without giving away too much, we wanted to create a new theatrical experience. I am obsessed with music, and seeing how my idols Lady Gaga and Beyonce create an experience during their concerts really inspired me. I saw this done in theatre by Luisa Omeilan and ‘Shopping and F***king’ at the Lyric Hammersmith…

So I thought why can’t we see how to challenge our audiences by creating an all round theatrical experience, that engages audiences in a new-exciting and memorable way. We (Jade Lewis) and I, started playing with this form of working during our first show ‘On The Edge Of Me’, but this time around with more resources and a bigger team, we have taken our production of ‘Quarter Life Crisis’ to another artistic level.

CM: What do you like about creating your own shows, as opposed to participation in other people’s?
YM: What I love about creating my own work is getting the opportunity to tell stories that involve working with a team of people: producer Gemma Lloyd, director Jade Lewis, sound/visual designer Luay Eljamal, company manager Lola Aladeshelu, dramaturg Jules Haworth, set and costume Designer Cecile Tremolieres, lighting designer Sarah Readman, stage manager Matthew Gardner, associate director Holly Gallagher, online visual content creator Rachel Moore, poster designer OBDesignz and PR Chloe Nelkin/Suzie Jacobs… Plus so many more wonderful people….

As you can see, it takes more than 1 person to make this 1 hour show ready for an audience…

I love seeing how they turn my dream into a reality which then becomes our shared piece. I always say that everyone who works with me, owns the show just as much as I do because it takes a team to make a vision happen.

After weeks of working, it’s amazing when people believe in our dream and they buy a ticket then come away saying “I really enjoyed that show” or “I really related to that”. Whenever we hear that, I’m always so in awe because it’s such an honour to have audiences who truly believe in the work we make.

CM: How did you start out working in the arts? What made you want this kind of career?
YM: I went to the Brit school and then studied at Laban. I originally entered the arts thinking that I would be dancer… hoping to join the Matthew Bourne Company.

But it was during my second year at Laban that I read Peter Brook’s ‘The Empty Space’ which really made me fall in love with theatre more. My training at Laban was very German Expressionistic – so the lines between dance and theatre joined: dance theatre… or Tanztheatre… Coming from the Tanztheatre background helped me think about theatre as an all round thing from lights, sound, body in space and words. From my second year at Laban I became obsessed and saw everything in theatre that I could.

I joined theatre quite ‘late’ – whatever that’s supposed to mean – but being ‘late’ made me sign up for every outreach programme I could, and with every outreach programme the more I learned about theatre, and myself as an artist.

I was an “actor for hire” (essentially auditioning for everyone else’s work) for over 2 years until I realised that I was stuck and that I couldn’t quite break through, which pushed me into writing my first play ‘On The Edge Of Me’. Then I guess from there magic started happening… I finally started to be seen in rooms which I struggled to be heard in before…HELLO WORLD!

CM: Where do you see yourself headed in the future?
YM: Continuing to make strong, relatable yet funny work in the UK and overseas, which is shown across a variety of platforms/mediums.

CM: What’s next for ‘Quarter Life Crisis’? Are there plans to tour it?
Well… I can’t say too much because I’m under strict instructions from my team, but we will be touring the show from August 2017. I’m super excited cause I LOVE touring and meeting all of the wonderful regional audiences. We kick it off from 4 Aug at the Edinburgh Fringe.

We will be announcing more ‘Quarter Life Crisis’ news at the end of April so please check my twitter and website for more.

CM: What’s coming up after this?
YM: I’ve told my team that I want ‘Quarter Life Crisis’ the show and workshops to tour for 12 months so I will be performing in that till August 2018.

But alongside that, Jade and I are working on two new pieces, which I will write from Autumn 2017; the first is piece for young people about racial identity and the second, an immersive murder mystery piece (which we developed with the support of Talawa Studio first)

Plus, I will be working on my 3rd show, which is set to be less theatre, and more live art…

Yolanda performs ‘Quarter Life Crisis’ at Ovalhouse from 13-15 Apr, see this page here for all the info.

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