dressed. is about the power clothes have to define us, to liberate us, to hide us and to embellish us.
25 – 28 February & 1 – 2 March // Battersea Arts Centre, London
www.bac.org.uk | 020 7223 2223
14 – 16 March // Tron Theatre, Glasgow
www.tron.co.uk | 0141 552 426
26 – 30 March & 1 – 5 April // Shoreditch Town Hall, London
www.shoreditchtownhall.com | 020 7739 6176
11 – 13 Apr // Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
www.traverse.co.uk | 0131 228 1404
21 – 23 May // Tobacco Factory Theatre, Bristol
www.tobaccofactorytheatres.com | 0117 902 0344
24 – 26 May // The Garage, Norwich
www.nnfestival.org.uk | 01603 283382
4 – 8 June // HOME, Manchester
www.homemcr.org | 0161 200 1500
Back in August 2018 my three best friends, Josie, Nobahar, Liv and I took a show we had created up to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. They thought the show was about me. I thought the show was about them. We agreed above all, the show was about female friendship. We had hoped to make a show for women whose lives have been shattered by rape and sexual assault and the friends who have tenderly helped rebuild those lives in to something which can be believed in. During our first week of rehearsal the Harvey Weinstein allegations broke across the media. That changed everything and nothing. We carried on making the show that felt true to us. During the devising process some days I would feel like the #metoo movement was a supportive rally cry for us to make the show faster, louder, stronger. I would obsessively read every news article on the subject and be inspired by the women who were speaking out. On other days I would want to curl up and be very quiet and small. I wouldn’t want to create anything, I wouldn’t want to stand up and speak out or share any more emotion from my own well.
As I oscillated between these states, my saving grace was I was making this show with my three best friends. The more we created together, the more I felt like they were taking on joint ownership of what had happened to me. It was no longer ‘my story’, through creating dressed. it became ‘our story’ and we could express it however felt right that day. If you would like to know more about the creative process, you can have a read of what Josie and I wrote for The Independent here.
Despite my trust in our friendship and my trust in Josie, Nobahar and Liv as artists in there own right, I felt a deep lack of confidence in the work before going up to Edinburgh. I had no idea if it would connect with audiences. Or if we would even have an audience? The 2018 Edinburgh Fringe spanned 25 days and featured more than 55,000 performances of 3,548 different shows in 317 venues. I had never performed anything before and I didn’t know where dressed. would fit.
I had said to the girls I didn’t want to know how the show was reviewed, it felt too close to the bone, but when the first review came in, I couldn’t help but read it. Ava Davies wrote about dressed. for Exeunt Magazine in a way that blew my mind. I felt like she understood the show better than I had:
‘I loved dressed. I loved it for its openness, its kindness, its ambition, its flat-out fucking weirdness. It feels so deep and rich and jagged and fluid and 3D that I can’t hold it all in my hands at once or it’ll slip out of my fingers. I loved the clumsiness, the clunkiness, the fact that it was so openly, comfortably imperfect – unfinished in some way too…And then it shifts again, into something far less recognisable – not a typical autobiographical show, not an unpicking of trauma in the way you might expect. dressed. acknowledges it – “is it too abstract?” they ponder at the show’s close, before flinging themselves with wild abandon into a final dance. To me, it feels perfectly lucid. The four women climb into ornate costumes sewn by Lydia and it’s like they’ve climbed out of her head, these mutated, distorted versions of femininity that have been twisted out of shape in the shockwaves following her assault. It’s this warped cabaret which plays out like a fever dream, a sudden, deliberately distancing evocation of pain.
And then it comes back to the body, because it always has to come back to the body. The show is filled with moments of touch and support – they carry each other across the stage, brush each other’s shoulders in solidarity, squeeze hands, lay heads in laps, sweep strands of hair off each other’s faces. They shift from four bodies to one and back again, liquid in their movements.’
Reading her words I couldn’t help but find some comfort knowing that our work had at least connected with someone out there.
The show ended up selling out for the entire month, being nominated for a Total Theatre Award and winning a Fringe First from The Scotsman. Beyond those accolades, I was deeply touched by the way individual audience members responded to our work and the conversations we shared as a result. Performing dressed. could have made me feel incredibly vulnerable and exposed, instead it restored my faith that we want to listen to the chaotic nuances of female experience. We do not give men an easy ride as audience members yet in equal measures it was men tweeting to their friends after the show that they should go and see it.
I’m excited to be taking the show on tour in 2019 and hope to see you in one of the cities along the way. I recommend coming with your best friend, you may want to hold them tight. A lot of people who saw the show said they wished they hadn’t scheduled in anything for afterwards, so maybe keep the rest of the evening free to be gentle with yourself. We explore themes of violent rape and sexual assault, but have done our best to do this in a way, which I hope survivors wont find triggering. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have sat watching theatre and film, being forced to traumatically relive my own experiences because of the way (largely male) directors have dramatised rape and sexual assault. To oppose this, we hope you feel the love and care we have taken to hold each other as a cast on this journey, and through that you feel safe watching dressed.
We are standing on the shoulders of the women who have gone before us, hoping our shoulders will support the women who come after us.
★★★★ The Scotsman ★★★★ The Independent ★★★★ The Sunday Times ★★★★ The Stage ★★★★ WhatsOnStage ★★★★ Fest ★★★★ The List ★★★★ EdFestMag ★★★★ Broadway Baby ★★★★ Theatre Weekly ★★★★
"A show that fashions something rich, brocaded and gossamer beautiful out of dark shadows… watching it I though my heart might burst” Lyn Gardner, The Independent
“beautiful, searching, painful… with joy, compassion and a rich flow of energy” Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman
Fringe First Award 2018
New Diorama Theatre & Underbelly’s UNTAPPED award 2018
Nominated for Emerging Company Total Theatre Award 2018
Presented by: ThisEgg in collaboration with Made My Wardrobe
Co-created and performed by: Josie Dale-Jones, Lydia Higginson, Nobahar Mahdavi & Olivia Norris
Producer: Josie Dale-Jones
Dramaturg: Laurence Cook
Lighting Designer and Technician: Lucy Adams
Costume Designer: Lydia Higginson
Choreography by: Olivia Norris
Composition by: Alex Paton & Nobahar (Imogen) Mahdavi
Stage Design: Stefanie Mueller
Publicity Design: Joe Boylan
Trailer Filming and Editing: Beej Harris
Photography: Lidia Crisafulli & Camilla Greenwell
Our thanks to Isabel Della-Porta, Abbi Greenland, Helen Goalen, James Newton, Sophie Vaughan & Jaz Woodcock-Stewart.
dressed. was funded by public funding through the Arts Council England and National Lottery.
dressed. was developed at Shoreditch Town Hall & Battersea Arts Centre with additional support from Cambridge Junction.