aside The Lover, The Worker and The Mother – Imogen Hudson-Clayton Uses Theatre to Subvert Female Stereotypes

Imogen Hudson Clayton
Imogen Hudson Clayton

 

Imogen, at 24,  is a passionate actress and a tour de force.  Originally from Devon and now living and working in London, this artist is one to watch. ASLI asked Imogen how she got into acting:

“At the age of 19, after a couple of rounds auditioning for Drama School, I finally succeeded and went on to study a Foundation in Acting at RADA, followed by a BA (Hons) in Acting at Rose Bruford.

My art background is influenced by every place I have lived in and every person I have met along the way.  I hold my grandfather responsible for making me want to be an Actor – he always performed in the local Am Dram Society, and he always did so with complete charm.  I remember watching him as a child and thinking that he was the most exciting person in the world when he was on that stage! (He’s also pretty exciting off stage).

I taught myself guitar at the age of 15 and began writing songs and poetry, much influenced by my Mum’s love for poetry.  My Dad passed away when I was 6 which of course has affected me deeply, but I have also been really blessed to have had, since the age of 8, a ‘step’ dad who loves me unconditionally – both of these men having and passing on a wonderful passion for music is something I for which I am ever grateful. Though none of my family are professional ‘artists’, I consider most of them to be artists in their own right and know that I certainly wouldn’t have as much love for art – in all its forms – if it weren’t for them.”

Imogen is still developing her one woman show – Lava Lamps – which she has written and performs.  This dramatic piece looks at three characters; The Lover, The Worker and The Mother.  All three roles are stereotypical representations of women. Imogen was inspired by three one woman shows which she saw whilst performing at the Edinburgh Fringe festival 2013.

“Fleabag performed and written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Dark Vanilla Jungle written by Phillip Ridley and performed by Gemma Whelan, and Inside performed and written by Rosie Macpherson.

I watched these shows and felt they beautifully captured what it meant to be female in the 21st century. The writing and performances in each moved me to laughter and to tears, helping me to process a lot of my own inner emotions, fears or doubts.”

 

Imogen Hudson Clayton - Photography by by Sipke
Imogen Hudson Clayton – Photography by by Sipke

 

These three performances compelled and motivated Imogen to create a piece which would show the experiences of women. Imogen explains:

“My endeavour with the project is to present the audience with three ‘stereotypical’ women and to make them human, real and honest.”

The piece reflects on the idea and feelings that surround being a “type” such as the roles of Mother, Worker or of a Lover.  Opening them up to be explored, critiqued and experienced.

The Mother, The Worker and The Lover - Imogen Hudson Clayton - Photography by Samuel Black Photography
The Mother, The Worker and The Lover – Imogen Hudson Clayton – Photography by Samuel Black Photography

 

“How it can be exhilarating and fun but equally restricting and a pain in the arse.  It is a play with 3 women, with 3 separate lives. They are women who you may love or despise, who are as caring and giving as they are cold and greedy. They each have wants, needs, desires….a lot of lustful desires, and growing addictions to the things that might not be good for them.  Most importantly they each have fears they need to face; powerful and intimate fears.”

Imogen has performed Lava Lamps for three one night only performances.  The first was at Rose Bruford Symposium Festival, the second at The Etcetera Theatre as part of the Camden Fringe, and the third at The Churchill Theatre in Bromley.

“In truth I think Lava Lamps deals with the subjects of human struggle and addiction. However, it is through the exploration and expression of three separate characters – The Lover, The Worker and The Mother – that I aim to subvert female stereotypes and the connotations, demands and expectations that come with those stereotypes.  It sounds intense, but the play is also full of wit and humour.”

The Mother - Imogen Hudson Clayton - Photography by Samuel Black Photography
The Mother – Imogen Hudson Clayton – Photography by Samuel Black Photography

 

Lava Lamps was created and informed by much of Imogen’s personal experiences.  During 2013 Imogen found herself questioning her identity and where she “fitted in” for her acting career – analysing both her personal and professional attributes. She feels this led to a possible self discovery which then drew her towards the subject matter of the piece:

“I was considering what it meant to be a ‘feminist’ and whether I could call myself one. I was mainly incredibly frustrated at the need for people to be categorised into ‘types’.

To be frank – it pissed me off. It still pisses me off.

I wanted to create a piece of Art that I hoped could give others the same feelings I had after seeing the three shows in Edinburgh, and that was a feeling of being an individual and being understood.”

The Worker - Imogen Hudson Clayton - Photography by Samuel Black Photography
The Worker – Imogen Hudson Clayton – Photography by Samuel Black Photography

 

We wanted to know why Imogen has chosen the medium of theatre and what her process is when creating:

“Because I love nothing more than Theatre – OK, maybe I love my younger brother more, in fact I definitely do – but, I feel that other than real life itself, nothing is more real, breathing, visceral, scary and exciting as Theatre can be.  It can also be dull.

But, I want to create and be part of Theatre of the first description.

I don’t know if I have fully developed and decided upon my creative process yet.  It changes and adapts to each new project.”

Imogen is inspired by everyone she meets, obviously some more than others, however there are some heroes within the arts which are admired such as Caitlin Moran, Kate Tempest, William Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, Declan Donnellan , Simon McBurney, Mark Rylance, Cate Blanchett….

 

As this edition of ASLI’s E-magazine is all about women we wanted to ask Imogen her opinions and what her thoughts are on certain issues affecting women all over the world:

 

What does feminism mean to you and do you consider yourself to be a feminist?

“My academic response to this question would be:  I am of the belief that feminism is for the betterment of both men and women, in that it seeks to challenge ideologies of assigned roles due to gender.

My slightly less well constructed or thought out answer, the more personal one, would be:

What does feminism mean to me? – treating people like human beings.

Do I consider myself to be a feminist? – Of course”

 

Do you feel women have to conform to social norms and stereotypes to be taken seriously? Do you have any experiences of this?

“Yes they do and yes I have.

Though Lava Lamps is not autobiographical I have drawn from my own personal experiences for a lot of it, and so many of these examples can be found within the play itself.”

 

Do you think that women and men are equal in today’s societies around the world? Have you any experience of this?

“I think I am fortunate enough to live in the Western World where we are getting closer to gender equality on a political scale.  We are getting closer – we are not there yet.

I have had experience of inequality in a professional sense, but what has shocked and upset me most is when I have experienced it in a personal and intimate sense.

When I think of other parts in the world in reference to this question I can only say that two words come to my mind.  Child Marriage.  I want to be able to elaborate and express myself better but I don’t think I can without the risk of turning into the stereotype of an overly emotional woman, or (heaven forbid) an angry feminist.
Ironic, considering what the last question was!”

 

What causes and world issues are you passionate about?

“I hope this interview has in some way shown that I am passionate about feminism, I am passionate about gender equality, I am passionate about human beings being given the right to have and use their free will and freedom of speech.  I am incredibly passionate about passion…and love.
I am passionate about education:  I work sometimes for a company called Oxford World Theatre – travelling to Russia and Tunisia, with the aim to educate and enable children through the Art of Drama and English Language. Wonderful.”

 

How can your art be used to create change and is this something you want for your art?

“I hope people come away from my play Lava Lamps and they feel angered or relieved or happy or amused, and that these feelings provoke them to take action.  Whether that action is small or large, I don’t mind.  Yes, of course I would like my art to create change.  I think every Artist does, otherwise why would we bother?  Change can be as simple as making someone giggle that day!”

 

What does the statement ART SAVES LIVES mean to you and has art in anyway “saved” your life in any way?

“Again, this is a difficult question for me to answer in a coherent way.  I want to be witty and light-hearted because that is my natural disposition. I like to connect with people, to “share sparkle” with them, and I think Art allows me (and many others) to do that.
Yes I believe Art does save lives.  I thoroughly believe that without Art as a means of expression, interrogation, understanding, provocation and much more, that people would begin to forget how to connect.

I’ll quote my favourite spoken word poet, Kate Tempest;

“It’s always the way – when you’re alone and feeling like you could jump off the edge of the world, that’s when they find you and tell you that they all went through the same thing.
And it makes you feel special because you feel like of all the people in the world, these yearsdead writers wrote whatever it was that made the blood run in your veins again, just for you.
And you say their names out loud when you walk in the city in the middle of the night, and you feel close to something timeless; you feel like someone just lay you down on your back and showed you the sky.”
Hold Your Own – The Old Dogs Who Fought So Well – Kate Tempest

 

Imogen would like – Lava Lamps – to be seen by a wider audience and for a longer period than one night performances. Having applied this year for the Buxton Fringe and The Free Fringe in Edinburgh, and eagerly waiting to hear back, Imogen also dreams of performing – Lava Lamps – at The Soho Theatre or at The Shed.

 

The next creation on the horizon for Imogen is a fictional play which she is in the early stages of writing, focussing on mental health and the relation between it and abusive behaviour. Inspired by her mothers work in a children’s secure unit, and Imogen’s house-mate who is a Mental Health Social Worker, it will seek to highlight how inspiring these roles are and how they go under appreciated.

 

 

Here is a poem which Imogen wrote for one of her characters in – Lava Lamps –

 

The Lover - Imogen Hudson Clayton - Photography by Samuel Black Photography
The Lover – Imogen Hudson Clayton – Photography by Samuel Black Photography

 

A Poem for The Lover. By Imogen Hudson – Clayton

She is raw from sex with Strangers.

Not physically or literally

But emotionally and intellectually.

She is raw from exhaustion

Of the men who fumble through the folds of her body Without caution.

Red and purple and blue The love bite stains of you,

That have no love in them just selfish satisfaction And first time base attraction.

Wear a scarf to cover the shame, Find somewhere to place the blame.

She says; “You, No, Me. Me. Me.And always me.”

She is fake and fucked and filthy Filling the room with sexy sighs that are empty.

Yes, yes, yes! Climactic and controlled. No, no, no! Entangled and exposed.

Unable to break free from limbs that cling,

And sweat that sticks and smells And tastes like something she does not know and does not want.

Want to feel needed. Need to feel wanted.

Giver to her, take from her Bend her to your will And She will always spill and pour herself out and into you,

Please kiss Her on the forehead when you’re through.

But do not hold Her hand. Stranger. Dive in deep but do not see Her,

You can not hear the voice That tells you She’s not moist For intimate invasion.

She has a strong right hand And can use Her left if needs be,

She can make you forget yourself in thirty three… Seconds.

Times suspends. Breathless silence. You are not in the room,

Stranger And She is surrounded by objects She does not know,

But She will do her best not to show the self doubt and willing guilt That She has spilt all over the bed sheets.

Tissue?

She sneaks out of doorways and into cabs with drivers that are cattle in a market of survival men and women who are having sex with strangers.

Who are staring into phone screens swiping left and right,

She has forgotten how to write with a pen and how to spell She can’t remember the last time She fell Into an innocent kiss.

Laugh loud Walk proud Smile wide Big strides Cry quiet Always diet Fuck freely Love as though you are scared of being loved.

Cards held closely to our chests.

There is no drum beneath her breast, the blood in her veins is not blue,

the air in her lungs is not new, And She knows the name of every Stranger.

Tom and Dick and Harry. George. She has flirted with deliberate danger.

She is Dark. She is Light. She has a laugh inside her that is infectious That wants to catch people in its palm She wants so very hard to remain calm And beautiful.

She has no fury to be judged by the jury She keeps inside her. She is Peace. Yeah right.

And Her heart is the moon that glows through the blackness of the night.

“Swim with me Stranger?” She asks.

“Let’s run and skip and dance And lose ourselves in a trance Of words that engulf us.

Let’s forget that we have teeth and that we bite And rip And tear Ourselves and each other.

Instead let’s have breath that we breathe Out and into each other Filling each other up like hot air balloons Let’s fly.

Envelop me with your secret wishes Of near hits,

and near misses, Tickle me, Whisper and shout into the crevices of my mind Look!

Look at me, See and seek and you will find that I am raw from sex with Strangers.”

If you would like to know more about Imogen and Lava Lamps please follow her on 

Twitter

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