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CATS Interview: Cora Bissett


Interview

Two pairs of tickets to give away for this year’s CATS

Image of CATS Interview: Cora Bissett

Our competition has now ended. Congratulations to the winners Nicole McGowan & Minja Hynynen who have bagged themselves tickets to the award ceremony as well as some fizz to celebrate!

Showing @ Festival Theatre, Edinburgh Sun 12 June @ 15:00

After the emphatic success of Cora Bissett’s 2010 production RoadKill, a site-specific investigation and magnification of sex trafficking in Scotland, we caught up with Cora as she tours the show in Paris ahead of this year’s Critics’ Award for Theatre in Scotland.

How and why did you first come to do RoadKill?

Well it’s based on a true story after I met a girl who had been trafficked from Africa to Glasgow. Originally she was down in England but had since been moved up to Scotland, and it was something I was aware of and wanted to do (this would have been 5 years ago now). I had a kind of active role in human rights to begin with and the girl was really the catalyst for the show and it provided RoadKill with more of a reason to be made – that it was in Scotland right here and now. Often you hear about girls trafficked from Eastern Europe and so I wanted to look at sexual politics and culture, female oppression and those kinds of themes from learning about this girl. And I think this is why it needs to be taken across the world really and gain the support of people because it isn’t necessary performed very often.

Though every artist is worried of how their work will be perceived, were you more concerned with RoadKill due to its subject matter, location etc?

Yes absolutely, I think I was worried that it could have been taken the wrong way, or even worse, look exploitative. I really wanted the show to punch people in the gut and for people to be deeply affected by it as I was. But with its success I think you could see the impact it had on people you know, newspapers were writing about it, people were talking to others about it. And we also had direct action linked with the production itself and groups like the SRC were inundated with calls after the show with people who wanted to get involved and help.

How has RoadKill differed from your other productions? Has it perhaps been more emotional?

It has been but I think it was a chance for me to get my vision and message across. With Amada I was purely trying to find my directorial voice and didn’t have as much of a socio-political agenda as with RoadKill. In Amada I was asking myself: what is my language? When people came to see RoadKill I think they expected it to just be a straight-up naturalistic piece because it’s site-specific, and while some scenes are quite gritty, is was always more than that. Every decision I made with the show revolved around whether it would give us an insight into this girl’s life because that’s what it was all about.

And you know in the recession it’s funny that people actually agree that this show is worth putting on, which is especially surprising considering how limited the audience capacity is for the performance. But maybe people want it on because they do go away after it and talk, have discussions, share opinions, and unlike plays which are performed as they are originally written, RoadKill was about planting it right into a culture and to show how it was relevant in France as well. There’s a scene in the original where there’s a projected screen image of the girl running through the streets of Glasgow, and now that we’re doing it in Paris, it made sense to film new scenes of running through French streets. And there’s another scene where a policeman enters, and since it wouldn’t make much sense to have a Scottish actor doing a French accent or whatever, we hired a French actor – and so the cast then had to learn some French to reinvent the performance for French audiences.

RoadKill debuted last year under your new company Pachamama. How important would these awards be for your company as they are for you as a director?

Well you know the company was purely set up to put RoadKill on, it didn’t have any other reason for being created. Yet with the success of the show, Pachamama is a living company now and everything is growing and happening so quickly with the company it’s hard to keep up y’know? I’m trying to get an administrator in place to sort out all of the paperwork and set up press and shows on top of the company so there’s a lot of work to be done. But I think because it’s growing so quickly it would be nice to have them there as the company progresses.

The rise of your professional career has been a slow, blossoming one. Do you feel the various awards you’re up for this year recognise the journey here as much as the final show itself?

Yeah I think it’s nice to think of it like that. I have been sort of slogging away for years now and throughout my career there have lots of miniature peaks and now I feel that I’m at a position when everything is sort of coming together and meshing into one. After I got a record deal when I was 17 it was a chance for some big opportunities you know and I suppose it’s nice that these award nominations are like an acknowledge of the process, because it’s been long, not overnight!

What’s next in the pipeline?

Well I’m planning a production called The Glasgow Girls, based on a true story, which is set around a group of female asylum seekers. As the girls were living here five years ago, one of their friends was forcefully removed from her home during a raid where she was taken to a detention centre. The girls mounted a huge campaign and took it to parliament and got the support of others, and really sort of galvanised the society. In the end they managed to secure the release of their friend and I’ve been spending time meeting with the girls to help write the piece – and really it’s a celebratory piece of triumph and about the success of these girls.

The other project is something I wanted to do after receiving the Vital Spark Award which features ten bands and ten writers in collaboration with The Arches called (working title) We All Feel Better in the Dark. With this project we hope to release an album and will be working with bands such as the Scottish-founded Swimmer One.

CRITICS’ AWARDS FOR THEATRE IN SCOTLAND
2010-11 Shortlist

On May 12, 2011, following an all-day meeting at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, the CATS judges announced the following shortlists for the ten categories of the 2010–11 awards. There is a link to each company’s website. The winners will be announced at the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, on Sunday 12 June. Book tickets here.

Twitter hashtag for the CATS 2011 is #CATS11
BEST MALE PERFORMANCE:

David Birrell as Sweeney Todd, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Dundee Rep Theatre

Alex Ferns as Johnny Byrne, The Hard Man, Scottish Theatres Consortium

Peter Forbes as Arnolphe, Educating Agnes, Royal Lyceum Theatre Company

Ian Smith, My Hands Are Dancing But My Heart Is Cold, Ian Smith/Dance Base

BEST FEMALE PERFORMANCE:

Kate Dickie as Jackie, Any Given Day, Traverse Theatre Company

Blythe Duff as Helen, Good With People, A Play, a Pie and a Pint/Paines Plough

Gemma McElhinney as Duck, The Monster in the Hall, TAG

Mercy Ojelade as Mary, Roadkill, Ankur Productions/Pachamama Productions

BEST ENSEMBLE:

Age of Arousal, Stellar Quines Theatre Company/Royal Lyceum Theatre Company

Nothing to See Here, National Theatre of Scotland/Aberdeen City Council

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, National Theatre of Scotland

The Three Musketeers and the Princess of Spain, Traverse Theatre Company/Belgrade Theatre, Coventry/English Touring Theatre

BEST DIRECTOR:

Cora Bissett, Roadkill, Ankur Productions/Pachamama Productions

James Brining, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Dundee Rep Theatre

Muriel Romanes, Age of Arousal, Stellar Quines Theatre Company/Royal Lyceum Theatre Company

Mark Thomson, The Importance of Being Earnest, Royal Lyceum Theatre Company

BEST DESIGN:

Janet Bird (set and costumes) and Jeanine Davies (lighting), Age of Arousal, Stellar Quines Theatre Company/Royal Lyceum Theatre Company

Candice Edmonds and Jamie Harrison (set), The Not-So-Fatal Death of Grandpa Fredo, Vox Motus

Shona Reppe (set and costumes) and Craig Fleming (lighting), White, Catherine Wheels Theatre Company

Colin Richmond (set) and Chris Davey (lighting), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Dundee Rep Theatre

BEST USE OF MUSIC AND SOUND:

Hilary Brooks, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Dundee Rep Theatre

Nikola Kodjabashia, The Three Musketeers and the Princess of Spain, Traverse Theatre Company/Belgrade Theatre, Coventry/English Touring Theatre

Alasdair Macrae, The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, National Theatre of Scotland

Michael John McCarthy, The Not-So-Fatal Death of Grandpa Fredo, Vox Motus

BEST TECHNICAL PRESENTATION:

The Not-So-Fatal Death of Grandpa Fredo, Vox Motus

Orlando, Cryptic

Roadkill, Ankur Productions/Pachamama Productions

White, Catherine Wheels Theatre Company

BEST PRODUCTION FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE:

Beauty and the Beast, Citizens Theatre

Caged, Catherine Wheels Theatre Company

The Three Musketeers and the Princess of Spain, Traverse Theatre Company/Belgrade Theatre, Coventry/English Touring Theatre

White, Catherine Wheels Theatre Company

BEST NEW PLAY:

David Greig, The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, National Theatre of Scotland

Chris Hannan, The Three Musketeers and the Princess of Spain, Traverse Theatre Company/Belgrade Theatre, Coventry/English Touring Theatre

Conceived by Cora Bissett, text by Stef Smith, Roadkill, Ankur Productions/Pachamama Productions

Molly Taylor, Love Letters to the Public Transport System, National Theatre of Scotland

BEST PRODUCTION:

Age of Arousal, Stellar Quines Theatre Company/Royal Lyceum Theatre Company

Roadkill, Ankur Productions/Pachamama Productions

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, National Theatre of Scotland

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Dundee Rep Theatre

The CATS judging panel for 2011 was made up of: Mary Brennan (The Herald), Mark Brown (The Sunday Herald and the Daily Telegraph), Neil Cooper (The Herald), Michael Cox (onstagescotland.co.uk), Robert Dawson Scott (The Times), Thom Dibdin (Edinburgh Evening News and The Stage), Mark Fisher (The Guardian), Joyce McMillan (The Scotsman), Gareth K Vile (The Skinny) and Joy Watters (The Courier).