By Noah Robinson, First Year Law
“Ultimately our job is to take the subject in front of us and really honestly express it in the only way that we as individuals know how to”.
The Bristol-born, London-based theatre-maker, Chloe Young on cultivating new writing, starting out in the arts and surviving as a creative professional.
I spoke to Chloe Young at the start of the run for ‘The Mother Sh*t’. There was a mix of energy and anticipation in her voice; it was just a few hours before Stumble Trip’s next performance at the Pleasance Theatre.
As an “unconventional love letter”, ‘The Mother Sh*t’ is a comedic and emotional examination of the theme of motherhood in all its complexity and nuance. “It’s ready to be shared and be in front of an audience”, Chloe tells me.
The show began to be developed in 2020 after the end of the first national lockdown, allowing it to be “mould[ed]” and developed amongst many stops and starts.
“Ultimately our job is to take the subject in front of us and really honestly express it in the only way that we as individuals know how to”, Chloe says. Compared to the classical depictions of the mother figure, Stumble Trip provides a refreshingly authentic examination. It “recognise[s] that she and you are only human…and strip[s] that all away and bring[s] it back down to…[the] human being”.
At the core of ‘The Mother Sh*t’ is this essence of humanity, with the material drawn from 50-odd interviews they conducted. Chloe acknowledges there was a sense of responsibility in handling it. It wasn’t right to “take on” those narratives and voices, without bringing the audience in on the experiences directly. Recalling the range of stories they heard, Chloe tells me that “the more personal you got, the more universal” encapsulating the show’s reflective tone became, encouraging them to think about their own memories and experiences.
Stumble Trip Theatre was formed by Chloe Young and Grace Church in 2017, who met at Jacques Lecoq School, Paris. The optimism in the theatre company’s creation (two young female theatre-makers straight out of training) is outwardly deceptive. “When it all started…Brexit had just happened, Trump had just been elected…we thought rock bottom had happened…what we found in each other was huge amounts of joy and fun”, Chloe says.
Like many in the industry, the pair have had their fair share of hardships and challenges, but have been held together by their shared passion. “That’s been the main thing…being able to have that trust and friendship and bond, because it’s us at the end of the day who are trawling through Arts Council’s applications until God’s knows what time at night, bouncing between jobs”.
Chloe confesses that Stumble Trip was very much a gamble, telling me that at the time, “it’s difficult to say if it was the right decision…we didn’t have very much money and we were constantly eating crackers and hummus”. It is a sheer testament to the pair’s determination and grit, particularly given the inherent unreliability of funding and current Conservative outlook on the value of the arts and culture sector; as Chloe tells me, it remains “a mountain” to climb.
In an age of grim austerity, Stumble Trip Theatre allows the audience to “leave the world behind” with a much-needed sense of escapism. Their creative practise combines clowning, movement and classic humour, pushing the edge of so-called ‘conventional theatre’, drawing on the physicality and experimental freedom from their training at Lecoq.
However, there is an accessibility in their work. As Chloe tells me, “it’s playful…it’s not at all like, ‘try and wrap your head around the language’, this, that and the other. It goes beyond that… sit back and absorb and just let the experience happen and don’t try to overthink it too much”. There is something of Joan Littlewood in their work, an ethos of populism, building on British theatrical traditions of cabaret and vaudeville to create a challenging yet entertaining performance.
There is no doubt that there is a dynamism in the pair’s work and an underlying political and feminist thread. Their show, ‘Frills & Spills’ was an absurd and eccentric exploration of privilege and power; ‘Heather and Harry’ explored themes of morality and gender politics. “We’re naturally political beings living in the world we’re living in”, Chloe tells me; the politics attaches itself to their work.
Outside of her work at Stumble Trip, Chloe is also a facilitator for Rambert’s ‘Future Movement’, a programme for young people to help them discover what creativity means for them as well as provide opportunities to meet industry professionals. She tells me that she’s observed a shift in the space available for young creatives in the industry, moving from directorial to dialogical.
The programme helps “empower young people to take the space” and “break down barriers” for many to access creative opportunities, which she found was absent when beginning her training and work in the industry. However, in reality for many of the young people that Chloe works with, a creative career remains a “luxury”.
Stumble Trip Theatre’s own outreach work is a clear indication that creativity must remain a vital part of the classroom. The pair not only lead workshops on physical comedy but also body image and confidence. “It naturally falls into the category” of drama therapy, Chloe comments, it’s “a difficult thing to clock into…let go of any inhibitions or thoughts from your brain…to try and open up into that world of play”.
I’m left with one thought, what’s next for Stumble Trip Theatre? A possible tour for ‘The Mother Sh*t’, a return to their starting point at the Edinburgh Fringe? Chloe assures me whatever the future holds, a continued commitment to “make bad-ass female-led productions” will always be at the heart of their work.
Featured Image: Grace Church (left) and Chloe Young (right), courtesy of Richard Lakos
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