Co-Artistic Director of Antler Theatre, Jaz Woodcock Stewart speaks to Theatrefullstop about performing at this year’s Soho Rising Festival

Soho Theatre is known as being a comical powerhouse, championing the freshest voices in the comedy circuit. It is also known for championing new and exciting voices theatrically, and continues to contribute to the much welcomed tradition by introducing the Soho Rising Festival. Bringing together 6 influential theatrical minds of tomorrow, the festival promises to bring audiences a diverse programme of poetry, drama, physical theatre, music and most of all creativity. Theatrefullstop were lucky enough to speak to Antler Theatre’s Co-Artistic Director Jaz Woodcock Stewart who will be presenting their latest work, If I Were Me from Tuesday 22nd until Saturday 26th March.

Hi Jaz, Antler Theatre will be performing their latest piece, If I Were Me at Soho Theatre’s ‘Soho Rising Festival’. How are you feeling ahead of the event?

Hi Lucy. We’re feeling really excited about this one. We’ve been making If I Were Me for 2 years, and there’s been quite a few different versions of it. We’ve recently made some big changes and we’re really happy with (what we think is!) the final show. We’ve always thought our work would fit well within the Soho programme, so it’s great to be there.

Soho Rising will be showcasing 6 ‘bold and brilliant brand new artists from Tuesday 15th March until Saturday 9th April.’ Will you be watching any of your fellow artists perform? If so, what shows are you looking forward to watching?

We heard amazing things about Brute and Good Grief in Edinburgh. But also IDIOTS by Caligula’s Alibi. We all trained on the Contemporary Theatre course at East 15, so there’s a special bit of pride about being in the Soho Rising line-up together. And it’s very good. Sophie Rose was also in the year above us at East 15 and I’ve been wanting to catch Quiet Violence for ages. Call me greedy, but yeah, all of them.

If I Were Me is a piece looking at the day to day life of Phillip, a copywriter programmed to write, edit, proofread however questions his own identity. Why draw on these themes in the piece?

The kind of tasks you might get as a copywriter in the product marketing industry aren’t too dissimilar from the conscious or unconscious tasks we give ourselves as people- working out how to be in the world, whether that’s constructing a post on social media, or talking to someone and choosing what you say or don’t say. It also led us to thinking about how an audience, in whatever form, shapes the ‘self’. I don’t want to say too much… but come and see the show and talk to us about it after.

As co-Artistic Director of Antler Theatre, what would you say the theatre company’s mission statement is?

We don’t actually have an official mission statement. The one we have is quite vague, but that allows an openness. We’re not ready to pin ourselves down to making a certain type of work, or only devising, or only making work with live music. We’re still working it out.  It can feel like there’s a pressure as a company, or as artists, to have a brand, or a USP, and this show is in some ways hitting out against that.

Antler Theatre are also proud winners of the 2013 IdeasTap Underbelly Award, an initiative started up by the influential arts charity before its closure last year. How did that award help you to realise the company’s ambitions?

IdeasTap was the start of everything for us. They were the first people to take a chance on us, and or that we’ll be forever grateful. They supported the creation of our last show, Where The White Stops, and took it to Edinburgh in 2013. That led to a transfer to Bush’s RADAR Festival, a UK Tour, a spot at INCOMING Festival at New Diorama, ACE Funding, and interest for the new show. We’re still riding off that momentum now.

What advice would you give to companies looking to take their work to theatre festivals?

Plan well in advance, do your research, take time to think why you want to take the work to a festival. Don’t expect to make money or break even (if it’s Edinburgh). Ask for help when you need it. Look after each other!

Questions by Lucy Basaba.

If I Were Me will be showing at the Soho Theatre from Tuesday 22nd until Saturday 26th March as part of this year’s Soho Rising Festival. For more information on the production, visit here…

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