Interview: 9 Grams of Moon

9 Grams of Moon direct and design original urban fairy tales fusing live performance and hand drawn animation, this week Female Arts' Amie Taylor caught up with Jess and Emi who have been working on their new show 'Strawberry Vale' - a coming of age tale, in which Gin battles between wanting to stay young, but at the same time not wanting to seem childish.

Amie: Hello Jess and Emi, first, please can you start by telling us a little about you two and how you came to work in the arts...

Emi: I am a London based animator & performance maker focused on creating new original multimedia performances along with the multi-talented 'Moonsters' - the 9 Grams of Moon (9GM) team! I spent my childhood drawing, painting, watching animation, and I later took up an interest in theatre performances. I went on to study Performance Design at Central Saint Martins and I saw a unique angle in combining hand drawn illustrations, animation and other multimedia with live performance, and I decided to pursue this further.

Jess: I grew up deeply enchanted by stories and excited by the prospect of writing or performing my own, but whilst I have always hoped to work in the arts in some ways I'm still working out how. I studied BA Theatre Arts at Goldsmiths, processed any issues with confidence I had early on, and began working on as many creative projects as I could afford to. I'm still enchanted by stories, and am increasingly excited by the new possibilities we are now given as creatives working in a digital age - which brings me to making interdisciplinary work with 9GM.

Amie: And tell us about 9 Grams of Moon, how you came to exist and what you do?

Emi: 9GM directs and designs original work featuring detailed hand-drawn animations, original music and much more. We create urban fairy tales that aim to address relevant modern issues that are suitable for all ages (check out our website http://cargocollective.com/9gramsofmoon) Several of us met through 'Strawberry Vale 1.0' which was originally my MA graduation project at CSM. We started the project with a zero budget and have grown and developed it since. We also hope to have more stories to tell going forward in a similar format.

Jess: I actually met Emi at the initial audition for Gin in 'Strawberry Vale 1.0' and early on in the process I felt an affinity with the project and became increasingly involved with the company. The joy of working as part of 9GM is that we have a highly collaborative and non-judgmental team; we have a safe space to explore the way new media helps us to tell fairytales in a contemporary, pertinent way.

Amie: Why is this work important to you?

Emi: 9GM was inspired to break down art and theatre elitism by using a fun, childlike and easily accessible narrative style which is simple, light on text and relies heavily on visuals and sound design. The idea is that you don't need prior theatre experience or extensive language to understand and relate to our stories, and yet it can be an exercise for those who want to consider the messages our work explores further. We believe this is important because art should be accessible to everyone as it represents a diverse voice in our society. We also see this as a unique interdisciplinary angle that fills in a gap that the general public might be currently unaware of.

Jess: Yes, absolutely. 'Strawberry Vale' partly serves as a friendly reminder that imagination is not something you ever have to leave behind - no one should be left out of enjoying stories to begin with.

Amie: Your show Strawberry Vale is on at Oval House from 30th June- tell us about it...

Jess: Currently a work-in-progress, our performance at Ovalhouse also provides a platform to showcase our work and hopefully garner the support necessary for us to create the ambitious full-length show we have in mind. Thankfully, since gaining ACE funding it has been possible to finance the project thus far, and Ovalhouse’s own advice has been frankly invaluable. We also have an informal 'Meet the Artists' after the show on Thursday 30th June, giving us a great opportunity to hear back directly from our audience and talk about the project. And the show itself? 'Strawberry Vale’ follows Gin, a teenager who is torn between not wanting to grow up (she thinks that passing a boring Maths GCSE is a necessary gateway to adulthood!) but also feels too mature to partake in activities she worries epitomise childishness. Gin wrongly mixes up 'childhood' with 'imagination' and enters Strawberry Vale in the hope of abandoning both in order to fast track herself into adulthood. What makes Strawberry Vale special is that it is hand drawn by our team of animators, and Gin is the only live performer on stage.

Amie:What inspired it?

Emi: Strawberry Vale is an original story inspired by my humbling trip to crisis stricken Greece. I heard several personal stories from locals who spoke of abandonment, despair and leaving behind their homes to seek work. I wanted to reimagine these experiences through experimentation with form and media, as well as telling a universal story about the struggles we all face in order to become a typical grown up.

Amie: Who is it for?

Emi: I would say Strawberry Vale is accessible for all, but probably the late Generation X through to Generation Y/Millennials -it is a mini outlet for your inner art and creative desires, and the whole experience may be more intimate compared to what people have seen before.

Jess: Anyone who has ever been mocked for being a big kid, just because they still play video games or read comics - being a grown-up and enjoying stories (in any form) are not mutually exclusive and you can be a responsible, functioning adult and enjoy gaming or writing a journal, or whatever your thing is. Furthermore when we expand this project into a full-length production, it is important our show remains accessible to audiences who perhaps are less likely to go to the theatre, and we have yet to test it with families as well.

Amie: What do you hope people will take away from watching?

Emi: Strawberry Vale is an honest piece that aims to warm the hearts of a modest audience and to lead you back to your childhood to realise lost and faded limitless imagination. The experience is meant to remind our audience that as we grow older, we don’t and shouldn’t necessarily need to leave our imaginations behind. Other themes we seek to investigate in the piece are how urbanisation and rural abandonment have impacted kinship and society.

Jess: I hope people take away a sense of ‘Was that it?’ But in a good way! In the sense that people will leave wanting to find out what happens next - I hope people are excited to see the full-length show!

Amie: Any plans for future projects?

Jess: Expanding ‘Strawberry Vale’ into a full-length show is our first priority, after which we will continue to explore how magic and media can help illustrate the complexity of human fears and desires, and always remain true to the accessible storytelling which is integral to our company’s ethos.

Emi: After Strawberry Vale, our next production will be an original story loosely based on a Japanese folk tale to address environmentalism. It's about a spirit losing its powers due to excessive pollution, and faces environmental destruction in a powerless child form residing in a busy city like London. The piece would be completely expressed in movement, animation and music.

Catch Strawberry Vale as part of First Show Bites, at Oval House, 30th June - 2nd July
http://www.ovalhouse.com/whatson/detail/strawberry-vale-by-9-grams-of-moon

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