On Monday 06 and Tuesday 07 March we welcome local theatre company, Beyond Face Performance Company, to The Lab with their new touring show Mixed Grill. We managed to ask Alix Harris (Writer & Performer) a few questions about the show and how it all began. Check out her blog post below.
In 2015 I started to develop an idea for a piece around what it means to be a mixture of ethnicity. I have constantly debated with myself around which term to use, mixed race or mixed heritage, but at the moment have found myself to identify as brown. Many people will disagree with that terminology and happily debate with me about it, but for now that’s where I am.
From here, I created a one woman show Mixed up Me, which began its life as a 10 minute scratch at New Model Theatre’s Beta. After talking to local artist Ruth Mitchell, I was given the encouragement and support to take my ideas and stories further. The next stage of development was a longer scratch version at the Plymouth Fringe Festival and that gave me the opportunity to see whether it was worth pursing this further.
Within that time I had set up the company Beyond Face with the aim of encouraging young BAME in Plymouth to access the arts in Plymouth and across the South West. I applied to Arts Council England to develop Mixed up Me into a two hander. I wanted to see what working with another performer would bring to the subject matter and to bring another perspective, but I also wanted to introduce another art form as well as another gender, so I went on to look for a male dancer to collaborate with.
I was successful in gaining Arts Council Funding to develop my ideas. During this time I was approached by Mandy Precious Head of Creative learning at the Theatre Royal Plymouth to develop Mixed up Me into a solo show, which would be performed in The Lab. I took this opportunity up and performed 3 sell out nights at the Lab in 2015 and then was programmed at the Bike Shed in Exeter for the From Devon with Love Festival 2016.
When it came to begin the creation of Mixed Grill it was a huge challenge, because Mixed up Me now existed as its own show, so to think of new material and have a different angle so that people weren’t watching the same show was a barrier that we needed to overcome. Being the director, writer and performer was challenging as well as not knowing or worked with dancer Lewis Bramble before. It was a huge challenge for us both, I know for Lewis introducing text to him was a massive challenge and the way in which he communicates his through dancing.
We were fortunate to have support from Jules Laville with choreographic input and to help us start that conversation about how we can work together and explore the relationship between text and movement. Mark Laville came in and helped us draw out a narrative. We performed a first go at Stoke Damerel Community College for students and then to an audience at the Barbican Theatre, March 2016. One of the most challenging things to do is definitely the cooking of the curry. People say don’t work with children and animals, well definitely add cooking to that list! I do think it gives something special to the piece though particularly with how the smells change throughout the performance, but who knew there would be so much health and safety barriers to face with it!
I then re-applied for funding to develop the piece of work with a Director so that I could purely focus on being a performer and so that Lewis and I could connect better as performers and develop a stronger narrative with the piece. So this year, Luke Rigg came on board having just left 2faced Dance Company, we had a conversation about the frustrations of the piece and where it needed development. It was quite daunting the idea of handing it over to let someone else have an artistic view on it but it was definitely the right thing to do.
What you will see now is a redeveloped version of Mixed Grill. I’ve been on such a journey since 2015 but I hope you will enjoy and that the performance gives you food for thought.