By Livi Player, Arts Editor
In celebration of International Women’s Day, Epigram Arts talks to theatre-maker and theatre school manager Imogen Palmer about the celebration of women in theatre and her upcoming feminist show If These Walls Could Talk.
We first ask Imogen how she was encouraged into the theatre industry. She mentions the ‘kind artists’ who encouraged and supported her - Katherine Weaver of Impro Melbourne, Tom Brennan and Sam Potter, Caitlin Campbell, who Imogen says had faith in her when she was a 19-year-old stand-up comedian, and who invited her to be a regular compère of the comedy night she produced. ‘If it wasn’t for these people encouraging me, I would not have gotten far,’ Imogen asserts, before stressing that ‘kindness and encouragement is everything in this industry.’
Making the voices of women and of other oppressed genders loud and heard through projects like this - which celebrates them in all of their humanity - is so important, visibility is one of the antidotes for inequality
Imogen’s upcoming show If These Walls Could Talk involves a diverse group of women from across Bristol who are sharing their stories and improvising these stories in scenes inspired by the true lives of women. Each tale is set in the same location but across different time periods - 1920, 1980 and 2020. The show, which will be performed on International Women’s Day, is very much a celebration of women in theatre. We ask Imogen what drove her to celebrate women in her production: she explains that ‘sometimes we focus a lot on the negative or dark sides of patriarchy and sexism, which is of course really important. But what I believe is equally, if not more important, is making the voices of women and of other oppressed genders loud and heard through projects like this which celebrate them in all of their humanity.’ In Imogen’s own words, ‘visibility is one of the antidotes for inequality;’ her primary motivation for If These Walls Could Talk.
Imogen’s show If These Walls Could Talk celebrates its female roles in diverse and encouraging ways. She explains how the using a cast of 12 women from various ages and backgrounds focuses on bringing authenticity and honesty into the storytelling; the diversity produces something very moving and often hilarious as the cast weave together powerful stories inspired by real women they know or women who were alive in the past 100 years.
The chance to help queer teenagers have conversations with their parents about identity and consent through live entertainment is next level badass for me
As a woman in theatre, Imogen goes on to reflect on her achievements in her career thus far in celebration of International Women’s Day. She mentions ‘writing and delivering numerous well-received courses for The Bristol Improv Theatre [and] putting together and directing comedy show ‘The Bish Bosh Bash,’ as two of her greatest achievements. She also mentions that she was very proud of the feedback she received as a teacher and director, with students and cast members noting the supportive and safe environment she engendered which empowered them to take creative risks. ‘I’ve experienced a range of different teaching styles over my own training and something I seek to practice in my own fascination is kindness and sensitivity whilst in pursuit of artistic excellence - something which I believe is much more possible than we think.’
We ask Imogen one final question - in true celebration of women’s achievements - what is the most badass thing she has ever done in theatre? ‘Oh damn,’ she replies. ‘It has to be my solo show - where I am a loud and proud queer character committed to smashing the patriarchy,’ she says, referring to her production IMOGENÉ. Imogen then offers a more personal story in response to our question. ‘This week in Bristol,’ she explains, ‘I was chatting to a woman in the audience about her sex life, when she revealed she was sat next to her teenage daughter…this became hilarious for the crowd. I asked her if she had a nickname for her ‘little Imogene’ and her daughter chipped in with ‘Helen,’ which inspired the next song. They came up to me afterwards to thank me and take a photo which was when I noticed the daughter was wearing a rainbow/pride t-shirt. The chance to help queer teenagers have conversations with their parents about identity and consent through live entertainment is next level badass for me.’
Imogen Palmer’s latest show from If These Walls Could Talk from The Delight Collective is being performed at Bristol Improv Theatre on the 7th March. It is an evening of exploration, sharing and discovery as a group of female identifying performers share the lives of the women in their families and improvise scenes from these stories. An exhibition of inspirational women will be on display in the bar from 18:30 and the show starts at 19:30.
Featured image credit: Bristol Improv Theatre / International Women's Day
What are your plans for International Women's Day? Are you going to see If These Walls Could Talk?