Literature and music connect the three shows in this roundup of some of the LGBTQ+ shows playing in the sixth week of the VAULT Festival. The letters of Virginia Woolf inspires V&V, poetry plays a main part in Too Pretty To Punch and Kate Bush looms tall over Kate Butch! Richard Maguire talked to the creatives behind the shows.
The great love affair between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West is a story that we can’t stop retelling. Last year, their relationship was portrayed in the glossy film Vita and Virginia, and the novel that Woolf wrote for Sackville-West, Orlando, is soon to be given the Katie Mitchell treatment at the Barbican. Misha Pinnington’s show V&V playing at the VAULT this week examines the letters that the two women wrote to each other. Her play is an analysis of how we communicate to each other through the written word.
Alongside Virginia and Vita’s correspondence, Pinnington places a modern day conversation between two women on a dating app. Their communication is full of pitfalls: what words to use, what emojis are the best, how many x kisses to leave. Pinnington, who her directs her own play, says that in some ways dating online is easier for queer women because they ‘speak the same language’, before acknowledging that it also raises its own challenges too, connected to intimacy and insecurity.
V&V is a two-hander with Heather Wilkins and EM Williams playing Virginia and Vita as well as the contemporary Mia and Lottie. We never see either pair meet on stage; instead all we hear is their words made by pen or texting. Pinnington’s favourite line from Woolf’s letters to Sackville-West is ‘I love your energy. I love your legs.’ Possibly these lines allow for no ambiguity unlike today’s text talk.
Also dealing with words is Edalia Day in their show Too Pretty To Punch. As a spoken word artist, Day will be performing some of their poems and also they will look at the words the media use to discuss trans issues. Day demonstrates that left wing newspapers like The Guardian can be just as transphobic as the red tops. Too often, Day believes, trans issues are reduced to the politics of gendered toilets while, perhaps, other more important subjects are ignored.
Through poetry and video projection Day will examine other pressing problems faced by trans people. As Day says in the show, being trans is like being plunged in a pool of jellyfish. They will sting you: you might die, but you probably won’t.
Too Pretty To Punch has been on the road and last year was a hit in Edinburgh. Day had been warned to expect hostile audiences in Scotland, but they never experienced any transphobia during the show’s run. And Edinburgh was certainly more open than Day’s hometown of Swindon. After most of the shows people hang back to tell Day how the material covered in the show has helped them. Some people have even ‘come out’ to Day as trans, saying that show has given them strength. Day can’t wait to get going at VAULT this week.
Words in the form of lyrics are the tools used in Kate Butch’s show Wuthering Shites, a loving and comedic tribute to music’s most eccentric star. Even though drag-queen Kate Butch is only 23, she grew up listening to Kate Bush, and cites And Dream Of Sheep as her favourite track, adding humorously that it’s the track she plays whenever someone dies! It promises to be that kind of show.
In her performance, Butch also introduces her own story of growing up in Buxton and of being bullied at school. She got her revenge in a way when Wuthering Shites won the Buxton Fringe Award in 2017 and 2019. She even offered discounted tickets to her bullies to the show, but they didn’t turn up.
With a mixture of live singing and lip-synching, Butch will perform a host of Kate Bush classics in the guise of a new jukebox musical called Broadway Bush! Expect Running Up That Hill, Hounds of Love, and Babooshka as well as the title track. After the run at VAULT, Butch is taking the show to Edinburgh for the summer. She says she plans to be Buxton’s biggest export after the mineral water!
So if it’s queer words and music you’re after this week, head on down to the VAULT Festival. In the words of Kate Bush herself: Wow!
V&V runs until 8 March 2020
Too Pretty To Punch runs until 8 March 2020
Wuthering Shites runs until 13 March 2020