Physical Theatre performer Jessica Andrade speaks to Theatrefullstop about starring in the Tangled Feet production, One Million!

Jessica Andrade

During our lifetime, we’re taught that our GCSEs, A-Levels and University Degree’s will bring us that one step closer to attaining our dream job role. However, in the real world, this couldn’t be further from the truth. With the issue of youth unemployment being a divisive topic within politics and the media, what can be done to combat the situation? Ahead of the large scale Tangled Feet production One Million, which tackles the youth unemployment issue, physical theatre performer Jessica Andrade speaks to Theatrefullstop about returning to the production, why it’s important to make theatrical experiences more accessible and why she will never be defined as a conventional circus performer!

You’re currently touring with Tangled Feet in their production of One Million. Could you describe what the production is about?

One Million is a show about the unemployed youth from 16-25 (years of age). As we all have the experience of going to school, going to Uni, getting your degree; its that time where everyone thinks the world is their oyster and you find out it isn’t. Doing the show, we reflect on the emotions that you go through after graduating and you think the world is a playground. We go through a playground state where we’re just playing and seeing what it’s about. You realise how many people are applying for the same job, so we reflect that in the show by the amount of people. We’ve got 9 full cast members, 40 young people, they’re our participation lot, then we’ve got a 9 man band and a poet.

The production made it’s debut at the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival last year. How does it feel to return to the production?

It was really good actually! We’re rehearsing at the Hangar at the moment, which is a smaller venue than what we were rehearsing in last time. Last year, we were rehearsing at the One Mills Studio, which is absolutely huge so we could move the structures, which is what we need to do. Coming back to the Hangar, which is smaller, we’re just rehearsing bit by bit. Just seeing everyone again, I feel safe, I feel good, it’s a good team, it’s a good family!

Tangled Feet specialise in bold productions set in unconventional outdoor settings. How do you find working on One Million as a performer?

I really like it because I’m not really a conventional performer; I’m a physical performer. I like that we work outside and I like that it’s unconventional in that way, the settings and the people that we reach are always so different!  I think the thing about theatre now is that if you’re not a theatre person, then how are you going to go and see these productions? How is it going to reach the people that you want it to reach? What I found with performing with Tangled Feet is that we go to these different areas. We reach a different kind of audience who wouldn’t necessarily go to the theatre because sometimes they’re literally walking on the high street and we’re performing. You can’t help but stop and stare because it’s so out there! They’re people of all backgrounds, all minorities, all areas of the UK!

As the production involves an array of performers, from musicians to the local community, could you describe the rehearsal process?

We had 2 new performers, 1 Chinese Pole performer and 1 performer who was a participant last year, which I think is great. A great thing about the company is that it does use the people they have used before and the participants they have reached before. We started off with just us 9 in the rehearsal room and firstly watched the video of last year’s show, so that the Chinese Pole artist could see what it was about. Then we talked through the scenes and then we worked by them scene by scene, first physically, then we put the intentions of what we’re actually creating and why we’re creating it. We talked about it first, and then we played about with what we were doing last year. We were working with the recorded sounds from last year, which was great because last year we were creating it. That was our tough thing last year when creating the show. The music’s being created, the poet was still writing and he’s still editing it this year. When we go to Brighton this week, that’s when the live band come into it and that’s when the 40 young people get involved. That really is when we can put a full run together because we could only run certain bits of it in the Hangar because we couldn’t have the full scale set because it was too expensive to hire. The full run with the band and the young participants will be done this Wednesday and Thursday! It’s a night time show, we’re going to be rehearsing during the day and we’re only going to have 2 run throughs at night time to see what it feels like. It’s always interesting when we do the first show because we can only estimate where the audience are, we can only guide them in a certain way.

What drew you to take part in the production?

They wanted a typical performer with Aerial skills and what I’m not a fan of is conventional circus. Even though what I’m doing technicality-wise is a circus skill, I do silks and bungee in it, what they blend in together was the narrative storytelling of the physical performer and utilising the skills of the Aerialist. I’m not a conventional circus performer, I did not go to circus school, I’ve done training in it and I utilise that to the best of my ability but I’m never going to be a conventional circus performer. They worked with my skillset and it went hand in hand.

What inspired you to train in physical theatre and circus?

When I was younger, I’ve always done poetry and then I started to do the acting side of it. At GCSE, I chose drama, A-Levels I did theatre studies, and I’ve always done gymnastics alongside that as well. When I first heard about the physical theatre course, what drew me in was that it utilised most of my skills and taught me new ones. I could expand on my acrobatic skills, I could learn new skills such as circus, I could get the conventional training of voice, singing and movement and put it together creatively.

What advice would you give to performers looking to get into physical theatre and circus?

Everybody has their own path, and everybody has their own journey. You have to work with what is around you, there are so many opportunities now, part time courses to evening classes to full 3 year (University) degrees which was never available before! What I would suggest is, at GCSE stage, start to research what is available, like evening classes and then full time courses. Like I say, what works for me, is not necessarily going to work for somebody else, that’s just the way I did it. I’m teaching circus now for people who can’t afford it, for £1.50 and that was never available to me when I wanted to start learning. There are so many more opportunities now for under 25s, you just need to know what to look for whatever you’re interested in, if it’s physical theatre, circus, performing, just type it in in Google! Go down to your local theatre, your library!

Tangled Feet‘s One Million will be performed as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival on both Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th May at 9:45pm. For more information on the production, visit here…

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