In this blog, artistic director of The Delight Collective Imogen Palmer talkes about the upcoming all-women show, why the BIT decided to put it on and how to apply.
Why put on a women’s show? My gut answer to this question is … why on earth not? There has been enough men only shows or spaces for the last millennia, so why do we need to even ask or answer this question?
But that is quite dismissive, and comes from an angry place. So I’m going to write about why I want to make the show I want to make.
I love stories.
The mission of my theatre company ’The Delight Collective’ is to ‘Delight and inspire the performers on stage, and in doing so delight and inspire the audience’. So the first thing I ask when I’m conceiving a new project is, what would delight or inspire me?
Listening to other peoples’ stories. Stories of humans who inspire them. Humans who were brave when things were difficult, humans who found ways to survive when people were trying to fit them into boxes which confined them, humans who are in the process of becoming.
I feel blessed, grateful and privileged to be living as a white woman, brought up by kind middle class parents and encouraged and supported through University. I have had freedoms and opportunities which are denied to a lot of people and I know I get by without a lot of daily micro-aggressions or discrimination because of my skin colour, the sound of my voice and passing for cis and heterosexual. I know I am living in a world where people who look like women have greater freedoms than ever before and, by gum, I am doing my best to make the most of that and build ladders for others when I can.
I have known great pain and anger. In the same way I have know great joy and love. They all exist on the same coin, which can be flipped and changed in a second. Most things (as I understand it) are a complicated blend.
I know I’ve angered people, because I had strong opinions and looked like a small woman. I know a lot of things would have been different had I looked like a man.
Stories help me to be brave.
My mum came from a big Irish-Catholic family, and grew up in rural Lancashire. She failed her A-levels the first time round, and worked her bum off to pass them and become the first member of the family to go to University to study medicine. She struggled in her first term. Her Mum and Dad had made the bold move to sell the family home and take her younger siblings to New Zealand. She felt displaced. She visited her family doctor to see if she could get help for her low mood. He wrote her a letter to give to the Dean of the University. She opened the letter and read the words ‘Eileen Palmer does not come from the sort of family which produces good medical material’.
She burnt the letter and threw herself into her studies.
About fifteen years later, life found her working as a palliative consultant in West Cumbria and raising three kids on her own in the 90’s. When she went to buy a new fridge for the family, the salesperson looked at her chequebook and asked: ‘Does Dr Palmer know that you’re making such a big purchase?’
She replied: ‘Yes. I am Dr Palmer, and I’d rather buy the fridge somewhere else actually, thank you.’
In 2020, my Mum inspires me everyday, as she works hard to live a rich and rewarding life alongside a chronic condition which means her mobility, health and energy fluctuates and she is often wheelchair or home-bound. She paints, learns multiple languages and phoned me the other week to tell me she’d started learning archery and had gone along to her first ever improv class with my stepdad: ‘it was scary but really fun and the people were so nice. I see why you do it!’ was the review.
She hasn’t had an easy ride, and something I love about my Mum is that she can often be honest about when it’s been hard, or she’s been anxious and scared. The coin has many sides and it can all change in a moment.
It would take several essays to write up all the stories of all the women who’ve inspired me, so I’m just sharing these short ones about my Mum, who I’m dedicating this project and show to, for her 65th Birthday (I got her a present as well don’t worry – I’m not a cheap skate…).
I want to spend this International Women’s day in the company of a diverse group of women, as we share the stories of women who inspire us.
No performance or improvisation training is needed, and you don’t need to be funny. I’m looking for open-minded and playful people who want to share stories in the way I do, and celebrate the lives of women.
If this sounds like you, please apply, or please share this opportunity with someone you think would relish it. Maybe someone who doesn’t see themselves as a performer but who you know has some wonderful stories up their sleeves.
Apply to be in the International Women’s Day Show “If These Walls Could talk” by reading the casting call