Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Fanny Whittington: why we need your help


Posted by Orlando and Galatea

Our editorial blog post is coming out a little early this week, but it’s for a very good reason: we need your help.

As you hopefully already know, we’re trying to raise the money to take our panto Fanny Whittington to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year. To make this happen, we need you.

I [Orlando] am still a relatively new Lasher, but I’m a long-time fan. I first saw a Lashings show at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2010 - and I loved it so much I came back the next night. It was one of the first times I’d ever seen people talking on stage, in real life about things like consensual kink, heteronormativity, fat-shaming, and the stereotyping of queer women. It grabbed me by the gut and pulled me in. Lashings spoke to me in ways nothing else had. And I know for sure that I wasn’t the only one. At Lashings we get so much feedback saying how much what we do matters to you - how important it is for you to see people like you on stage, and remind you that you’re not alone. How important it is that we’re bringing our politics to people who haven’t thought about this stuff before, or haven’t been able to find the words for it. How important it is that we’re representing queer people, poly people, trans people, ace people, kinky people - and representing them as real and human, not just ciphers for an issue. Reading the reviews of our last pantomime still makes us a little teary-eyed.

Illustration by Marguerite; design by D. Gopal
And this time around, the show's concerns don't stop at sexuality and gender. By inverting the traditional story of 'Dick Whittington', by making our heroes the rats of London - the creatures that we're always told are dirty, dangerous and deviant - we've hit on some powerful ways of talking about what's going on in this country at the moment; about the ways in which some of us are scapegoated, exploited and blamed. The only problem we ran into while writing the show was that whenever we thought of something particularly egregious for the villainous Mayor to do, it usually turned out that the current government had already done it. Making jokes about anti-immigrant policies, bedroom taxes and DLA cuts is hard, but it's important too: as Max and Terry the pun-making, joke-cracking, 'Les-Mis'-filk singing rats point out to one another, if you don't laugh about this stuff, you just end up crying about it.

But to be able to keep doing this - we need your help. Everything that Sebastienne wrote last year is still true - more true than it ever was. Keeping Lashings going is really important, and keeping Lashings going is really hard. We’ve gone from being a tiny Oxford-based troupe doing shows in Oxford to an expanding collective with over 20 members, doing shows across the country. Almost every single show we do leaves us out of pocket, both as a collective and as individual members - charity gigs, student gigs, and academic gigs are never venues we make money. (Even with shows where the organisers are able to contribute to our travel expenses, we don’t turn a profit.) The two recent exceptions have been Lashings of Afternoon Tea Time in Oxford and Pirate Cabaret in London - both shows put together with the express aim of raising money for our Edinburgh run. This isn’t a complaint: we voluntarily do gigs in far-off cities for little-to-no expenses, because it’s important, and wonderful, and we love performing, and we love reaching new people. But also? It is hard, and draining, and it skews our shows towards being put together by those of us who can afford the time and money to travel all over.

Edinburgh is a different beast from all these shows. It’s somewhere where we can reach hundreds of new people - we can and do gain scores of fans, friends, and eventual collective members with every Edinburgh run. We rent a flat, and as many of us as possible spend a few weeks living in a blissful-yet-stressful queer-feminist bubble of singing and acting and flyering. The cost of Edinburgh is significantly higher than anything else we do, and it involves serious financial outlay. Currently, most of this is money that a few of us have been able to lend to the collective - there are Lashers who have put in several hundred pounds, such is their faith in the show. The only funding we have is us, and you.

We know times are hard, and money is tighter than ever with the government’s cuts that push marginalised people into further desperation. But now is the also the time that unapologetically angry, intersectional, feminist, queer, and left-wing voices need to be heard. We want to take vital political theatre to the Fringe this year. We want to skewer the austerity programme, make a show with real queer characters played by real queer people, and we want to make terrible puns while doing it. We hope you want us to do that too.

So - if Lashings' work has ever given you hope, or helped you feel less alone, or been there for you in whatever way - here is how you can be here for us: share this post, share the link to our IndieGogo, and donate if you can.

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