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Interview: Feminist collective 'Paprichoo' on their Fringe show Number, Please.

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Paprichoo is a brand new female-led amateur theatre company based in Edinburgh, with a clear feminist ethos. This year, they are bringing their production Number, Please. to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

I spoke to Becca Chadder, writer and director for Number, Please., with Georgie Rodgers, who plays Sheila Chadwick, and Fergus Head, who plays Charles Briand.

 
Credit: Sophie Sood

What prompted you to set up Paprichoo, and make it so clearly female-led and feminist-oriented?

Becca: We knew we wanted to take Number to Fringe after its successful run in October last year. A group of us, some of whom had worked on Number, Please. before, slowly decided to form Paprichoo and things lead from there! Our core team members all identify as women and have all had bad experiences in theatre based on their gender and gendered norms. At the centre of our ethos sits our innate passion for creating more inclusive stories and more meaningful roles for women. This goal hugely influenced the way we have worked as a production team and thus how we have created Paprichoo.

 

How much of the team involved in creating Number, Please. is female and why is this important in theatre?

Georgie: There as so many fantastic women involved in our team (and a few equally brilliant men!). I’m currently a student at the University of Edinburgh and whilst there, I’ve directed and produced term-time plays. It’s astonishing how many more girls audition for university productions and yet there are often barely any female parts available. That’s one of the reasons why I’m so excited to be playing Sheila in Number, Please., a play that’s dominated by strong, passionate and funny women.

Becca: Most of the cast and crew are female - the play itself has a 50/50 male/female ratio but the production team are predominately women. It’s lovely to have an equal split in our cast because we’re not trying to exclude men from our stories but create better roles for women.

Fergus: Such a strong female presence is a change to the norm that can promote and perpetuate greater equality in the arts. Everyone has the capability to bring something new to the table and to imaginatively engage with the boundlessness of creative arts. Diversity in the arts is vital.

 

In your experience, how male-dominated is the Fringe festival in particular, and how do you think that Number, Please. will challenge this?

Fergus: In my experience, the Fringe has had a bias towards male performers. There needs to be changed but to suggest they are not yet doing so would be to undermine much of the already inspirational and inimitable female acts that have taken to the stage in recent years.

Georgie: I’ve worked with a lot of women at Fringe during the three years I’ve participated. Becca is my first female director but my two previous productions both boasted female-heavy casts and production teams. My Fringe experiences have always been wonderfully full of brilliant women and it’s always exciting for more female-led productions to be here.

Becca: I think theatre more broadly is dominated by male stories and perspectives, though I increasingly see female solo actors at the Fringe while all progress is fantastic, I think we unfortunately still have to normalise everything that is female-led as if female-identifying people are an unseen minority rather than half the population. At the Fringe in particular, where the audience must make a snap decision about which show to see, often the reaction is to go with what is familiar and safe – in this case, shows written by men, for men and performed by men. We want to challenge this by putting a woman in the main role of a genre where you’d expect a brooding white man and deliver a show as equally funny, equally thrilling and equally enjoyable.

 

Since this is your Fringe debut, how are you feeling about it? Any particular worries or things you're looking forward to?

Becca: I’m most excited to see what everyone thinks and of course, to see the show 21 times! The cast are doing an amazing job in rehearsals, so it will be great to see how their endurance pays off. I think the pre-show worries are the same as for any show, but I have absolute faith in our cast.

Georgie: I’m thrilled to be a part of Paprichoo’s Fringe debut! The team is so much fun and so capable. I’m a bit worried about a three-week run but I enjoy a challenge!

Fergus: I feel great. I think with this team, we don’t have much to worry about.

 

If you could have anyone from the arts and theatre world come and see your show this year, who would it be?

Fergus: Do they have to be alive? If not, probably Wilde. If yes, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie.

Becca: I’d absolutely love for the Guilty Feminist presenter Deborah Francis-White to come see us! We’re all huge fans of the show and the three-dimensional women and non-binary people she interviews are the characters we want to create. I’m also a huge fan of Mischief Theatre’s works. Their farce ‘A Comedy about a Bank Robbery’ is a firm favourite of mine.

Georgie: Jessica Swale. She is one of my favourite current playwrights. She’s written such funny plays about brilliant women from history like Nell Gwyn and the first women allowed at Oxford. I actually put on her play ‘Blue Stockings’ in 2017 because I was so desperate to direct something with such good female parts. She would make a perfect audience-member for Number, Please.!


Number, Please. will run at theSpace on North Bridge from 3rd-25th August (not 12th/19th) at 8.05pm. For tickets and more info click here.

This article is part of our coverage of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Click here to read other articles written by our contributors. 
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