Ideastap Underbelly Award winner Izzy Tennyson speaks to Theatrefullstop about her latest piece, Brute!

imageIt’s just a matter of weeks until Edinburgh witnesses the largest celebration of theatre in the world. As artists, creatives and theatre lovers prepare to make their way to the theatrical hub, it can become very easy to forget that bringing a performance from page to stage can be a lengthy process. Ideastap Underbelly Award winner Izzy Tennyson is set to perform her latest work, Brute at the Udderbelly Cowgate throughout the festival. Ahead of her Edinburgh run, Izzy speaks to Theatrefullstop about being an award winner, the lack of female roles within theatre and being mentored by the multi talented Penny Woolcock. ‘Brute’ is the winner of the Ideastap Underbelly Award.

How does it feel to have won?

It feels a bit like being handed a bomb. It’s absolutely terrifying but also really wonderful. Bomb probably isn’t the right word – it’s more like a seed in a pot and you don’t know what it’s going to grow into. I’ll stop with the metaphors now. It’s amazing to be given such a fantastic opportunity. It really, really is and I’m so grateful.

Brute places a young female lead at its crux. Do you believe that there are enough performance opportunities for young females?

No absolutely not! Female roles in theatre are frankly awful. There’s not enough of them for one. At university I never got cast for anything because I wasn’t pretty enough and I wasn’t romantic lead material. Which is, quite frankly, rubbish. That’s why I wrote Brute – to have an actual real depiction of the female perspective. That and revenge… for not being cast in any university plays…

Brute presents a harsher, more darker side to the teenage experience. Why approach Brute from this angle?

Because it’s true. There’s a stereotype how girls behave that’s completely misrepresented. Women in general are actually not written very well. Brute is harsh because it was like that; I was horrible at that age and I did do some dark and terrible things. Being a woman doesn’t lessen what I did – the piece is autobiographical.

The production is mainly written as a monologue. How do you find performing on your own onstage? It was really intimidating at first. Even though I do perform a lot, I see myself mainly as a writer so it was a massive challenge. It can get a bit lonely! But there’s no one who can perform that character more authentically than me. I don’t lie to you in the performance – it’s 100% honest.

This process has seen you being mentored by award winning writer, director and documentary maker, Penny Woolcock and producer Vicky Graham. How was it to work with them?

Brilliant. Penny is a massive inspiration to me. I’m actually really, really, lucky she gave me a second chance. I used to do a course of hers a while back but I dropped out. I was going through a younger, more rebellious phase! But she chased me up and it’s really lovely to have someone so established and successful see potential in you. Same goes for Vicky Graham who has also been vital to the project. I’m really inspired by both of them and have learned a lot.

Who else are you looking forward to seeing at this year’s Festival?

Obviously all the other Ideastap winners! It was really lovely to take this journey with them. I’ve always been a fan of Luke Barnes‘ work so I’ll be seeing his play Weekend Rockstars. Also Camilia Whitehill’s Where Do Little Birds Go? – I’m buzzing to see that. What advice would you give to aspiring writers and performers? Oh no! This question is difficult because throughout my career I have made lots of mistakes! I wouldn’t listen to me if I gave myself advice. But I would say, there has to be a point when you grow up. I want everyone to like me, I try really hard in networking events and I’ve recently realised that I don’t have to do that. I should be working for peoples’ respect not to be their friend. Put on good work. Then people will come to you. But I’m not saying that you should be horrible at networking events!

Interview by Lucy Basaba.

Brute will be shown at Underbelly Cowgate (Iron Belly), 56 Cowgate, Edinburgh, EH1 1EG from Thursday 6th – Monday 31st August 2015, 4.10pm. For more information on the production, visit here…

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