Interview: Katie Cooper (Aka Mrs McMoon)

Katie Cooper will be spending the summer in Edinburgh, playing the role of Mrs McMoon in her one woman show for children. She's already had great success in the UK, if you are up at the Fringe with little ones - be sure to add this to your list. This week I caught up with her to ask a few questions about her work.

1. Tell us a little about your training and your journey in to working in theatre…

At the age of 5 I was given the role of Burlington Bertie from Bow, a middle aged man with a moustache and top hat. With glue in one hand and a lump of fake fur in the other, I rose to the occasion and loved every minute of it. After years of drama clubs, stage schools, talent shows I decided to to take the leap and go to drama school. I trained at WAC, a drama school that offers non western training. Teachers included incredible singer song writer Kevin Mark-Trail from the Streets, to classic actress and Eastenders star Anne Mitchell. They taught us how to be authentic, not what the industry wanted (skinny and beautiful).

I experienced The cattle market environment of auditions, where you sit amongst 30 woman who all look like you. Competing for a role in which you have no creative input or ownership. Naaaaaah. Instead I have found my feet in creating my own work, writing my own one woman show and making work with my 'grown up' theatre company Wildheart & Lyric.

2. What inspired your decision to make children's theatre?

Making a show for children, not what the world thinks children theatre should be. I wanted to devise a character that children could relate to, that taps into their imagination and create an environment where they could have uninhibited fun. I didn't want to impose rules, I just wanted to create a show where kids can be kids in their purest form.

My little sister and I spent most of our childhood impersonating movie stars, my favourite memory was that of stuffing pillows down my top, wearing red lipstick all over my face, leaping around the room impersonating Dolly Parton.

But for me it wasn’t just silly games, it was a way of connecting with the world and the strange people in it. It was a way of belonging, communicating and bonding. Because that is where I could be myself, where I made friends, that's where I was happiest.

I feel Its our duty to realise how important art and creativity is for children. Let's face it children are happiest when they are having fun, they learn more. They find confidence in themselves when creativity is applied.

3. What are the challenges that come with making children's theatre?

Making sure it appeals to girls and boys. Children are our harshest critics, if they don’t like it they will let you know, out loud. Which can be quite embarrassing, you have to be quick on your feet to recover from that. I want to make sure that both sexes feel connected to it in some way. As Susan Elkin says 'Theatre is for everyone. All theatre. There’s no such thing as boy’s stuff and girl’s stuff any more than there is in books, paintings or music. Art is art.'

This show is for adults too, so for me the challenge is finding the balance between children's humour and adult humour. In-between those two worlds is a special place and that is where this show belongs.

4. And what do you hope your young audiences will take away from watching your show?

During my last tour a mum wrote to me and told me her daughter now thinks Mrs McMoon is a friend she can visit when ever she likes. She said she found it very difficult to explain that she is a character in a play, so she gave up and said yeh sure! let’s go visit Mrs McMoon! This is more than I could ever hope for.

5. And the not so young audiences? (Mums and Dads and carers)

I hope they leave chuckling and and sniggering at all the sneaky jokes that are there just for them.

6. Who are your inspirations?

It is my dad, he passed away 4 years ago. When I’m performing, I feel like all I’m channeling him and all his goofiness. When I was 6 he took me and my little sister to see the local pantomime. Garish costumes, wild characters, predictable story line. I loved it! After the show my dad and I would replay the show, remembering all our favourite parts and characters. We would roar with laughter at dads terrible pirate impressions, eye patch and all.

Funnily enough, other funny men inspired me, Rick Mayal and Robin Williams. I wanted to show the world that woman could play men (and women) and be funny just the same.

7. Do you think that you've been affected by gender disparity whist working in theatre?

One of the reasons I went into writing my own work was because I found it impossible to find roles that suited my stereo type and gender. There was a plethora of roles for men, not for woman. Plus there seemed to be more woman looking than men so the odds were against me. In my show ‘Mrs McMoon’s Tea Party’ I get to play Gilbert the farmer, I have a humongous beard made of an afro wig. Now who’s laughing!

8. How are your preparations going for the Fringe? Is it your first year there?

This is my first year up at the Fringe with a one woman show, so at first I felt like a terrified purple spotted elephant staring into the head lights of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet.Then I read Paul Levy’s book ‘The Filthy Guide to the Edinburgh Fringe’. It basically says 'LET IT GO!' You can plan all you like, you can be as meticulous and organised as you wish but at the end of it all you just gotta let it go, let be what will be. The Fringe is a savage Beast so stay calm, be open and positive.

9. Where will audiences find you at the Fringe?

The Green in The Pleasance Courtyard. It’s a fantastic venue for families, a buzzing hubub of fun activities.

10. And where can we stalk you on social media? ;)

Aha! You have lot’s to choose from

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/MrsMcmoon

Twitter - @MrsMcmoon

Website - www.mrsmcmoon.com

Interview (C) Amie Taylor @spoonsparkle

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