Interview: Emma Baskeyfield on her work-in-progress show 'Go Figure'
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"While I’ve got blades, you’ve got nerve to call me fucking ‘sweet’": theatre maker, practitioner and puppeteer Emma Baskeyfield finishes her work-in-progress show Go Figure with defiance. Music, audio-recordings of Emma’s voice, mime, puppetry and a spoken-word performance at the end combine to paint the picture of her and her sister’s experience of growing up. This experience was one of confusion bordering on disgust at bodily changes. The show illustrates the difficulty of trying to navigate these emotions in a landscape composed of the unyielding traditional rules of figure-skating.
Lead image credit: Manfred Richter via Pixabay
Image credit: Manfred Richter via Pixabay
A passion, impaired Go Figure certainly doesn't feel ‘in-progress’ but has a magical home-made quality to it, which defines a show where skate-bags become tiny bedrooms at the flick of a (remote-control) switch; where Emma moves the set’s furniture around on roller-skates; and where she undresses and dresses again… on roller-skates, wheels catching in the leg-holes of her leotard. At one point she’s applying make-up so frantically that she looks like she’s going to injure herself. These are perfect representations of the analogy she makes in our interview after the show: "It’s like eating your favourite meal, but you’re only allowed to eat it if its covered in salt. Far too much salt. Someone’s poured a bucket of salt over your favourite meal and suddenly its disgusting and you can’t eat it. There’s this thing you really love, flying round the ice, but you can only do it if you’re wearing a dress and skating with a boy and if you put all this make-up on your face. You can only skate to the sort of music they tell you is appropriate, and suddenly you’re thinking 'I don’t think I really like this anymore, but I do want to like this, I’m really good at this’ and suddenly you’re compromised." Theatre as a coping mechanism Figure-skating rules appear on the back wall at various moments throughout the show, towering over her as she affectionately moves two puppets that look like artist’s mannequins - her and her sister gliding across the ice. These rules don’t cover periods-on-ice, and the skating trainer is "used to first aid with no blood. He is not used to blood with first aid." Today, Emma can down a menstrual cup of (fake) blood with no qualms. I ask her if she had needed to gain that acceptance and distance from the experience in order to write a show about it, or if theatre could work as a tool for coping with difficult experiences whilst one’s in the midst of them: "Theatre can really help people work through things if handled well," she tells me. "My last show was particularly sensitive, it was about mental health and sexual violence and autobiographical. Things were straight-up and laid-bare but it was sassy too, not doom and gloom. It was me reclaiming my voice and being fabulous, and that show came out of a time that was really tough for me. Making that show was probably the best thing I could have done at that point, but it wouldn’t be the best thing for everyone." Her process of making Glitter in the Wound was "an art of mind-vomiting. I made lots of notes and recordings of how I felt. When I’d get really angry or upset I would just write things down, and then I’d format them into a show. That process of curating something was a really great way of working through my emotions, as I’d start thinking about what they meant and what I wanted the audience to take away from them. [Go Figure] is certainly not as raw and bare for me". Body positivity Yet although Emma is no longer struggling with the things she talks about in this show, she has learnt more about herself whilst making it. "I told myself I would never weigh myself, told myself ‘right, I’m not going to care about how I look, I’m going to be wonderfully comfortable in my own skin la la la," and I had thought that was where I was at. But weirdly, in making this show I had a bit of a body wobble - for the first time in years. I put some jeans on and they didn't fit and I had a crisis over it. That’s never happened to me. I thought I was this great, big, strong, immovable pillar of body positivity, to the point where I would preach a little bit, thinking, and sometimes saying things like, 'stop talking about diets, you're better than that'. But I’ve realised that I’m just as vulnerable, susceptible to thinking those things about myself. No one is immune to it, and you can hardly be annoyed at other people for not being at the same stage as you."
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Lead image credit: Manfred Richter via Pixabay