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Is This Thing On: Feminist theatre with a twist comes to Contact

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Featured image: So La Flair Theatre


Ellie Campbell and Megan Keaveney graduated last year from Manchester Theatre School. The pair met at a house party in their first year, where Ellie was standing on a table singing her heart out to Florence and the Machine. Megan locked eyes with her and knew they would be “instant best friends”.

The duo have come a long way from singing together on tables – now presenting their debut show Is This Thing On as part of their own production company MissMatch in collaboration with So La Flair theatre company.

The show follows flatmates Mary and Liz whose friendship reaches boiling point, leading them to confront each other during an open mic night. The “two-hander dramedy” opens at Contact theatre on Thursday 17th April and runs until Saturday 20th April. The show will then hit the road, with dates in Wigan, Leeds, Liverpool, and Wakefield. 

We caught up with Ellie and Megan during their rehearsals to find out the ins and outs of Is This Thing On.


Can you a tell us about the idea behind Is This Thing On?

Ellie: Is This Thing On was originally our dissertation last year. The idea was inspired by a crowd of theatergoers that perhaps turned their noses up at the idea of feminist theatre and go, ‘Why do we need that anymore?’ There’s a generation of people that say ‘Oh, well, it’s better than it was 20 years ago. Why would you create theatre about it?’

We wanted to make a show that showed characters who voice that opinion because we think it’s important for people to see. There’s a character that has a feminist stigma, and then one that is very loud and proud about feminism. We wanted to show those two political viewpoints as actual human beings. But really, the show is just about two mates. It’s their conversations with political themes undercut. 

Megan: Their friendship is definitely at the core of the show, and seeing how they’re still friends despite their different opinions. We show the tensions, but then also why they are so close. You see the characters trying to work through it and experimenting with their opinions.


How did the collaboration with So La Flair start?

Megan: During our degree, we did a Fringe Festival where you can create your own piece, and we invited So La Flair, and they enjoyed it. They wanted to help us do something further. It wouldn’t have been possible without So La Flair, they’ve been great with guidance, organising and learning how to produce a show.

Ellie: It’s been an incredible platform and way for us to learn. So La Flair said they want to be about collaborating with emerging artists. Our director and producer are from So La Flair, and we love working with them!


What do you want people to take away from the show?

Megan: It’s something we’ve spoken about a lot, we want people to leave feeling quite uplifted and happy after it. Although we delve into these hard-hitting themes, we’re trying to keep the joy throughout.

Ellie: We want people to come out having experienced some difficult moments but also having seen an empowering and uplifting show. We want to inspire conversation, which is why it’s a good show to see with your mates. We encourage people to come to the show who would almost be too scared to call themselves feminists and have them leave with even a slightly different outlook.


Has it been difficult for you to portray these themes?

Ellie: I think because we know each other so well, we know that we have each other’s back. In the rehearsal room, we’ve got a lovely working environment with our director and our producer. It feels safe. This story has been in our heads for over a year and sometimes you forget what you’ve written. When other people come and see the show, it’s a reminder that these things do hit close to home. We had our sound designer come in last week for the first time and she had such a visceral reaction to it, and we were like, ‘Oh God, I forget that people don’t know what’s going to happen’. It’s an important and special story to tell.


What can people expect when coming to see the show? 

Megan: We’ve got a lot of different styles in it. It’s multidisciplinary. Expect music, rap, spoken word, and more!

Ellie: We delve into the mediums that the two characters use on the open mic night. We see them performing at the open mic night in different mediums. That’s the way they tell their story. My favourite pieces of theatre are stuff that makes me cry with laughter and then sob my eyes out at the same. That’s what we want people to do, people might be expecting one or the other, a comedy or drama, but we want people to feel like they’ve seen both.


What may surprise people?

Megan: I think the style of it will be surprising, I think it’s going to throw people off in a good way. Especially the storytelling style.

Ellie: We were keen on it being sparse and simple, but having a sense that there’s a blurred line between their life on stage and their personal lives at home. There’s a stage, but it also doubles up as a bedroom drawer. There are definitely some surprises in the drawers. 


How does it feel putting on the show down the road from Manchester theatre school? 

Megan: We were doing rehearsals in our building in the studios. It’s so special because we were lucky to have that time after graduating. It’s hard to do your work on top of earning money. So having the space to rehearse at the end of drama school was amazing. It is kind of full circle, rehearsing there. One of our lecturers helped us too. 

Ellie: They’ve been supportive with the show. We’ve both worked in Contact theatre for three years as well, so that’s also a full-circle moment. It’s really special to come in as artists. 


Photography: So La Flair Theatre

Ellie and Megan are also hosting workshops alongside their performances at Contact surrounding the themes of their show. Megan describes the workshops as “creating work in a low-pressure environment, without the pressure of a performance or sharing your story at the end”.

It is advised to check the trigger warnings of the performance before attending, which can be found here.

Tickets for Is This Thing On are available at contactmcr.com.

About the author / 

Amber Bermingham

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