Writer, poet and theatre maker Imogen Stirling is bringing her spoken word show #Hypocrisy to Edinburgh (Traverse Theatre, Wed 23 Jan) and Glasgow (CCA, Sat 2 Feb). We caught up with Imogen to hear how #Hypocrisy has evolved since a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe 2018 and what plans she has for the future.
Can you tell us about your show #Hypocrisy?
#Hypocrisy is my debut show which premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, transferred to London and is now beginning its tour. The show blends spoken word with theatre and music to disrupt the traditional concept of a “poetry” show, instead offering a piece that is bold, immersive and carries a strong narrative. #Hypocrisy interrogates Western privilege within our increasingly racist world, and the growth of subjective compassion that is emerging alongside it. Its intention is to unsettle in order to inspire change, yet always being sure to promote hope over despair to end on a note that empowers the individual.
#Hypocrisy features original music. How was the experience of collaborating with musicians for a spoken word show?
#Hypocrisy really is what it is because of the music within it – it lifts the piece, enhances the dynamics and brings so much emotion to the words. The collaboration throughout has been a complete joy – Ross Somerville has been my main partner, with him composing the score and performing it live. When I first brought the rough script to him, he just seemed to get it and began putting together an underscore that was clever and poignant. During the Fringe run, Jack Hinks stepped in to cover for Ross with his own unique style and polish. For these upcoming shows, I’ve enlisted Finnie Welsh to join as a percussionist which has taken #Hypocrisy to a whole new level.
Each musician has been intelligent and creative with their accompaniment. We feed off each other in a way that makes the live shows so exciting, with an inimitable energy.
Has #Hypocrisy evolved any since the successful Edinburgh Fringe run in August 2018?
#Hypocrisy is undoubtedly more solid and accomplished now which naturally comes from more performances. I’ve had plenty opportunities to observe audience reactions and better understand the show’s emotional journey for a viewer which has allowed me to enhance the moments that are particularly funny, thought-provoking or moving. I’ve come to see how readily the show is accepted as a piece of theatre (a boundary I was unsure, although hopeful, that I’d be able to break) and so I’ve worked on the staging in order to move away from a static poetry presentation and into a fluid performance. The script is always being altered in order to accommodate our shifting politics. But overall I think it’s the inclusion of the third musician/percussion that has encouraged the show to evolve. Finnie’s accompaniment brings a depth and gravity that didn’t exist before, which comes across both in performance and story.
For the upcoming Edinburgh and Glasgow performances you have a support act. Can you tell us about the support for the shows?
Both of the dates have two support acts – in Edinburgh we have Kevin McLean from Loud Poets and also musician Josephine Sillars, while the Glasgow show will include Victoria McNulty and The Narcissist Cookbook. They’re such dynamite artists whose work I’ve long admired, so having them open the evening will be a real pleasure. I’ve tried to keep a balance of poets and musicians to reflect the format of #Hypocrisy, as well as performers whose themes and delivery complement those of the show’s.
What are your plans for #Hypocrisy in the future?
2019 is shaping up to be a big year for #Hypocrisy. We’ll be recording an album once these initial shows are done and the script is being published by Speculative Books in March. After that, I’m touring the show to Paris and Berlin before showcasing it at the Prague Fringe Festival in May. There’s a theatre run lined up in the summer but details are still hush hush for now. Ross, the current guitarist, is moving abroad in the next couple of months so there will be new musicians brought on board – bittersweet, but exciting.