Interview: Amy Fleming

Amy Fleming is an actress and theatre maker, whose autobiographical show 'One Under' is on at The Vault Festival next week. Though now working in the arts, she originally studied science, and brings elements of that to her theatre work now. This week I found out a little more about her and her show 'One Under'.

1. Tell us a little about you, your training and how you became an artist...

I'm not sure I can pinpoint the moment when I became an artist because I don't feel I am one yet! I still very much consider myself an actress who dabbles in making theatre every now again when the job calls for it. In saying that, with the development of this show, I feel I am I starting to find my voice as an artist. I've never trained as an actress formally, opting for a degree in Molecular Medicine instead, and I have kept those two strands of my life very separate. However, more and more, I'm seeing how theatre is a great medium for sharing scientific ideas and research and also offering scientists a different way to view there work and the way they communicate it. So now my two worlds are merging and within that I'm finding my voice as an artist.

2. What compelled you to make your solo show, 'One Under'?

When I was four years old my father committed suicide by jumping in front of a train and one of the things I've always wondered about is what happened to the train driver. So 'One Under' first started as a play about them but after our first stage of development and our first scratch people were more interested in me and my story so we decided to make it autobiographical. Then we questioned why I hadn't wanted to do that from the beginning and we started to explore why people don't talk about their feelings, experiences, their mental health. I've always been a big advocate of people talking about their mental health but when it comes to my own personal mental health I haven't been so great. Through this show I have discovered the benefits of talking right down to the genetic level and it's been very empowering. It now feels more important then ever to share my experience in the hope that it will encourage more people to talk about their mental health and seek help.

3. What can we expect if we come to watch?

You can expect a lot of embarrassing childhood photos, to learn about some new areas of scientific research, some chats with the audience and an awesome gameshow. I'm very competitive so the audience are really going to have to go all out and do some hardcore gameplaying to win.

4. What are the implications / benefits of making autobiographical work?

Personally, this project has been extremely beneficial for me. It's opened up avenues with my family that we've never gone down before which is bringing us closer together. It's been a great for my mental health and for my own self-discovery. On the other hand I've had to got through a lot of difficult moments and explore a lot of things I've ignored for a long time so it's been a very emotional process. It's also quite scary to know that everyone who comes to see the show will know all these quite private things about you and the fear is it may change people's opinion of you for the worse but let's hope not eh?

5. What has been your process for making the show? Do you have other people in the room with you?

The whole process has just been me and my director, Natalie, In a room together with her not only helping shape the piece, playing every single audience member but also dealing with me crying every two minutes!. When making an autobiographical piece you have to bring up a lot of stories an details that probably won't make it into the final piece, whether that be because they are too personal, might incriminate someone else or are just not theatrically interesting, but they are necessary to help us find what we do like and need. However, this can be quite emotional so we had a safe word throughout the process so that if we ever got into territory that was making us uncomfortable we could use that and not go down that road. That was extremely comforting.

We used a whole host of different devising techniques, including text frames, visual stimuli and games. We discovered the framework of the whole show quite early on so then it was about filling that framework with content that was engaging and dynamic. The science sections, in particular, we wanted to make sure were presented in a very clear and inclusive way and Natalie was a great test subject as she has no background in science could tell me when I was being long-winded, too complicated or just making absolutely no sense. We make a really great team and I loved the entire process including the difficult bits!

6. Where can we find out more about you and your work?

Lots of places! I'm a social media addict! Please do feel free to follow the project @_oneunder where we are hoping to continue the dialogue about what the piece explores and also information about our next stage of development will all be updated there. You can also follow The Lab Collective, which is the wonderful company that Natalie is co-artstic director of and who made this the project possible. Their twitter handle is @labcollective and their website is www.thelabcollective.co.uk And finally you can follow my personal twitter @ladyflemington for mainly re-tweets of harry potter related articles!

Thank you so much Amy and the best of luck with your run at Vault Fest.

'One Under' runs from the 17th-21st Feb. You can book tickets here: http://www.vaultfestival.com/event/one-under/2016-02-17/

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