Dandelions and Stones: Death Goes to Therapy
Little Kitten01/18/2018 05:38:37
Lady Death herself (a fabulous drag queen) goes to therapy to deal with her issues. The play is witty, moving, surprising, and a visual extravaganza.
Many people don't know what to say about death, but what if Death had something to say about us?
This was the question that Jessica McCarthy and local drag sensation Lady Aria Grey asked each other as they sat down to write a script together... and what came out was Dandelions and Stones, a play about death and therapy... and Death going to therapy.... with a healthy dose of comedy and drag deliciousness thrown in for good measure, of course. The play promises to be witty, moving, visually delicious, surprising, thought-provoking, and above all, fabulous!
In Dandelions and Stones the embodiment of Death, collector of souls (who also happens to be a fabulous drag queen), decides to go to therapy to work through her feelings surrounding her job, her relationship with humankind, and her sense of self-worth. Through the conversations between Death and her therapist, the audience are invited to explore the connections between life, death and time, as well as see mortality from a completely different angle... that of Death herself.
The play is to a large extent the brainchild of actress and writer Jessica McCarthy. It was born out of a combination of her fascination with the drag art form, an existential longing to connect with other humans about the difficult subject of our mortality, and a dark and silly sense of humour. "Death is the one thing we all have in common,” says Jessica, "and yet for many people it is taboo to discuss it. Having faced death in a number of ways in my own life, I had a real need to open up this conversation with people around me – and I thought we might as well do it in as fun and compelling a way as possible! If we all have to die one day, why not have a good laugh while we chat about it?”
Jessica was always a helping hand in the wings when Callum Tilbury was creating his drag character of Lady Aria Grey. With their history and Callum’s knowledge of the drag art form, his broad experience writing plays, and of course his sense of humour, Lady Aria Grey was Jessica’s obvious choice of collaborator in developing the script. With this partnership, the Little Kitten production company was born.
Dandelions and Stones is directed by Beren Belknap, the former creative director of acclaimed theatre company The Space Behind The Couch. Jessica says, "Beren's experience with puppetry, visual theatre and comedy made him the perfect addition to the Little Kitten production team." The play stars highly acclaimed actor Claire Watling as the therapist (Claire should need no introduction, Little Kitten are amazed at their luck to have her!), and Jessica herself, debuting her new drag character Lady Anjelica MacDeath. Not only does Lady Anjelica wow us with her fabulous costumes and insights about death, she even performs a new musical number by the cabaret superstar Godfrey Johnson.
Jessica is very aware that the idea of a woman performing as a drag queen may be a bit of a foreign concept for some people. "I was very inspired by the Broadly video, Can't Drag Us Down: Meet London's Female Drag Queens," she says, "in which I first heard the term ‘gender clowning’. The argument is that we are all performing our gender on a daily basis anyway. Women performing a hyper-exaggerated form of femininity is just as legitimate a form of drag performance as any other." She adds that drag performance has potential to open up conversations about even more topics than gender alone.
Jessica is fascinated with the way drag works as an art form. She describes how puppetry and mask work are often used in theatre to explore difficult subject matter that may be too much to cope with if it was expressed by a normal human actor. "Similar to puppets or masks,” she says, “a drag persona gives the performer license to tackle really challenging subjects in a way that encourages the audience to engage with, rather than shy away from, them. As I wanted to look at the difficult subject of death, the drag medium seemed the perfect way to make this a digestible and even entertaining endeavour for the audience."
Dandelions and Stones will be on at the Alexander Bar Upstairs, 76 Strand St, Cape Town City Centre. It will run from 29 January to 3 February at 7pm, with additional 4pm matinees on 3 and 4 of February. Tickets are R110, or R100 if booked online. Bookings are now open, either by phone on 021 300 1088, or online at this link: https://alexanderbar.co.za/show/Dandelions_and_Stones/
Another aspect of the production is Jessica's dedication to making changes to some age-old wrongs of the theatre industry. She feels that, "the fact that artists are constantly expected to work for free or for 'exposure' is a painful insult that I really don’t want to reinforce." For this reason, she is adamant that her creative team will get a salary, even though they are producing an independent piece of theatre. The team launched a crowdfunding campaign through Thundafund and were overwhelmed by the initial outpouring of support. Although things have slowed down, Jessica is hopeful that more backers will help her see her dream through (the dream of paying artists what they are worth, that is) and they have some lovely rewards available for their backers - every little bit helps!
For more information on the show or female drag queens, please contact Jessica at email@example.com, or follow @ladyanjelicamacdeath on Instagram. There is also a Lady Anjelica MacDeath Facebook page, and feel free to follow #ladyanjelicamacdeath and #dandelionsandstones!
Alexander Upstairs, 76 Strand Street (corner of Strand and Loop) Cape Town Western Cape South Africa