Articles for May, 2012


What The **** Is Normal?! – An interview with Francesca Martinez

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012 by Tricycle

Francesca Martinez will be performing What The **** Is Normal?! at the Tricycle Theatre from Wednesday 6 – Saturday 9 June, and will be joined by a very special guest each night. Click Here for more information.


To say that Francesca Martinez is up-and-coming would be a serious oversight – in actual fact, she’s been active since 1994. Beginning her career as an actor in Grange Hill, representing the series’ first main disabled character, then moving in to the comedy world (even balancing the two with her role in an episode of Extras) and coming to add motivational speaking to her already impressive CV, she’s no newbie to the circuit.

Francesca Martinez“It’s a very personal show; growing up being labelled “abnormal” from a very young age has meant that I’ve had this intense relationship with the word “normal” and this show is kind of based on that premise of, you know, what do you do when you’re labelled “abnormal” in a world obsessed with normality and fitting in? The show’s kind of my answer to that question. I think whatever you’ve got is normal to you, so I have this funny contradiction whereby the world labelled me “abnormal”, but I felt totally normal, and totally capable, and I think part of that was that I was lucky enough to grow up in a family who never defined me as disabled, they always just said ‘you’re Francesca.’

“It’s quite a rollercoaster journey – I went from a really happy kid, very loved, very confident, to you know, high school teenage hell where all that confidence was stripped away and I began to judge myself on these standards by which other people saw me, and that just made me into a shadow of myself. And then [in the show] I talk about the journey I went on getting Grange Hill, and how that really had an impact on me and restored some of my confidence, but fundamentally I was still wishing I was normal, whatever that was, and then I speak about really intense romantic encounters that totally changed my perception of what normal was and I guess the show is very much about questioning these labels, asking why they exist, who do they benefit, and ultimately the liberation of ripping them up and creating your own.

“It’s a universal show in the sense that it’s not about disability, but it’s about what it is to be human, to find self acceptance, and ultimately try and define yourself by your own values and liberate yourself from these pressures that exist within society to conform on many levels. I feel it’s quite a political question, because I think the concept of normal is used to control people and to disempower, so I’m really passionate about communicating the power you can reclaim yourself if you stick two fingers up to that idea and go, you know what, I’m going to define myself by my own means and take back control over my thoughts.”

The concept of definition is one that Martinez comes up against quite frequently in the media, being labelled as a ‘female comedian’ – a label that has slipped into common usage in the comedy world which is still, at least in terms of mainstream representation, fairly male-dominated – as well as a disabled comic.

“I find labels like that really misleading. Number one, I hate the word disabled, because it focuses on what I can’t do. It kind of perpetuates this myth that there’s a group of people who can’t do stuff and everyone else is perfect, but that’s actually really inaccurate.

“I also think it’s really disempowering to grow up having this label slapped on you and I talk about in my show how much I hate the word “cerebral palsy”, how it makes people so nervous. One of the things I say is that I’ve re-christened myself wobbly, because wobbly is a word I like, wobbly is cool, wobbly is not scary or off-putting. And it may sound really trivial – they’re words, they’re sounds – and in one way, I agree, but in another way, words really betray what we think of whatever they’re labelling, and it’s quite a big section in my show, I talk about the awful words given to disability, whereas there are other truly awful things that have quite nice names, like friendly fire. Why? Because those in power want them to sound acceptable.

“I think the way we label things is a very political area, and being a baby and having terrible sounding names slapped on you, it’s quite hard to struggle free of them and feel like you’re not a faulty piece of equipment. It’s something I struggled with for years and it’s ironic that I’m still labelled a disabled comic because from the first show I ever did I was questioning how we label each other, and in my experience the only normality there is, is difference. So these labels that try and separate people I find divisive, and in the end it just makes us all feel that there’s a secret club that we’re all trying very hard to fit into, when actually that club doesn’t exist, and a real revelatory moment was when I realised that I’d never met a normal person before. That was a really powerful moment because I thought, wow, they don’t exist. All that exists are people, and that was so nice for me, because I just felt, you know what, I’m not more different than anyone else, I’m just part of the human race.

“Where I’ve found issues [in the comedy world] is venturing into television. I think by definition TV is a more image-obsessed medium, and panel shows seem very scared of booking me – possibly because comedy and disability are not seen as natural partners. Jimmy Carr fought for months to get me onto 8 out of 10 Cats, but his producers wouldn’t have it in the end, and I think maybe it’s because [panel shows are] perceived as quite light hearted post-pub entertainment, and I think they just see me as a lump of disability that’s going to come on the show and bring the mood down.

“I think it’s quite bizarre because for the last 12 years of my career, I’ve been making those very same audiences laugh, no one’s run out of my shows screaming. I kind of understand it because I’m the first wobbly comic in the country, so naturally the doors aren’t open yet. In the same way though I do think, come on guys, what’s the worst that can happen? In live comedy there’s no grey area, people either laugh or they don’t, so I’m tested all the time. I’m only human and I do get a bit frustrated that they don’t feel like they can take the chance on me, but I also think it’s a matter of time, hopefully the more I show in my live work that I don’t induce pant-wetting fear the more likely they are to say, okay, let’s give it a go.”

Quite the opposite of inducing pant-wetting fear, Martinez says she’s been able to connect with audiences across the board.

“I do get disabled audiences, and I do perform at events for disabled people. I think it’s really refreshing for them to see someone on stage like me, because there are so few people in the media representing difference. One of the big problems is that the media could really do so much in terms of making difference seem normal, but it doesn’t.

“Funnily enough, I get written to and approached by loads of able-bodied people saying they found my show really challenging or it changed the way they thought about themselves, so it’s a real equal balance of feedback, because my show’s very much about trying to focus on the aspects of human life that we all share, and I kind of hope that my comedy would connect with and inspire anyone because I feel fundamentally we’re all dealing with the same challenges.

“I think comedy is a unique art form in that it allows you to cut through the chit chat and to just address topics, but in a really lighthearted way. One of the things when I started that I was aware of, is that you hardly ever hear from anyone different making jokes and talking about their life as a person. It’s always quite serious, or quite sad, so I was really happy that I could stand up there and humanise a scary label. It’s interesting, because some critics when I started said, oh she’s funny, but her material needs to broaden out from that issue, and I’ve always felt, it’s not an issue, I do exactly what every other comedian does, I talk about my life. Full stop.”

“I’ve always felt very passionate that while difference isn’t really covered in the mainstream, I’m going to do my best to be honest about it and share my life. I think comedy is such a perfect way to do that, because it does dispel nerves and fears very quickly. I do feel [that disability] is still the last taboo because if you look at the representation in the media, it’s next to zero, and when it is covered it’s often a very narrow depiction of people in wheelchairs. I also think maybe it’s because [the subject of disability] conjures up feelings of pity, it makes people confront questions of mortality. I understand there are complex reactions but I also feel the very solution to those feelings is exposure and relationships with all kinds of ability, because ultimately we are all people and that often gets lost if your contact is limited.

“I can understand why it’s been a difficult area for humanity to come to terms with, but I also feel like we need to deal with it. The funny thing is, disability is normal, because it’s always existed; there’s no point trying to cover it up or ignore it, it’s always going to be there. Another thing I touch upon in my show is the benefit of being different, and what it teaches you, and what it makes you confront, and I’m very grateful to my CP for teaching me certain things that made me happier. You never hear that anywhere, you just hear ‘disability’s awful’. And obviously we’ve just seen really recently, sadly with Amy Winehouse, how you can have externally everything – wealth, beauty, talent – and it doesn’t mean you’re happy or confident or together, but society tells us that is what you need to be happy. My show is very much about questioning that and proving otherwise.”

This feature was written by Caitlin Field, and originally published by The Skinny.

Francesca Martinez will be performing What The **** Is Normal?! at the Tricycle Theatre from Wednesday 6 – Sunday 9 June. Click Here for more information.


New Artistic Director Indhu Rubasingham wins AWA Award

Friday, May 18th, 2012 by Tricycle

Week two in charge, and our new Artistic Director Indhu Rubasingham is already winning awards!

Earlier this week Indhu attended the prestigious Asian Women of Achievement Awards, an inspiring evening celebrating Britain’s pioneering Asian women.

The awards, hosted by Real Business, Pinky Lilani OBE and Caspian Media, brought together an incredible list of talented, ambitious nominees from ground-breaking entrepreneurs, passionate philanthropists to City professionals.

With 11 categories and 52 nominees, competition was tough, but there could only be 10 winners…

A huge congratulations to our new Artistic Director!

The Arts & Culture Award

Indhu Rubasingham, artistic director, The Tricycle Theatre, for her “astounding achievements” in theatre, having also directed at the National Theatre, The Royal Court and The Almeida.

Tonight’s winners have all shown courage, intelligence and determination to succeed in their chosen fields and will certainly help to inspire the next generation of ambitious women keen to make their mark in the professional, business or cultural sectors,” commented Chris Sullivan of RBS, the Asian Women of Achievement Awards’ main supporter.

The Awards’ founder Pinky Lilani said: “We’re now in our 13th year of the Asian Women of Achievement Awards and the wealth and variety of the talent we unearth year-on-year never ceases to amaze me. These women are remarkably talented and are true trailblazers in their individual sectors and specialities, but they all share one common goal: to make a positive difference for young Asian women.”


Tamsin Waley-Cohen on the Tricycle’s Classical Music Series

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012 by Tricycle

Tamsin Waley-CohenTamsin Waley-Cohen is the Artistic Director of the Honeymead Ensemble, who have been delighting audiences with their Classical Music Series since last autumn. Their next concert, this Sunday (20 May), will feature two of the most revered quartets from the Russian Romantic movement, by Arensky and Tchaikovsky. Click here for more information.

When did you first become interested in music and what inspired you to pick up a violin?
I have been interested in music since before I can remember! I remember asking and asking for lessons when I was very little, and I remember my first violin lesson very clearly – the story goes that I saw a televised prom, aged 2, and become totally transfixed but the violin. And I still am!

How did the Honeymead Ensemble begin?
We began 6 years ago now on Exmoor, as week of intense work and exploration of the great chamber music works. The idea was to have a week away from the usual distractions of life, living and working together, with a big programme to explore, and then three concerts to bring it all to life at the end of it.

There is so much fantastic classical music, how do you decide what to programme each month?
That is a very good question! We are spoiled for choice. I try to combine the great works with some lesser known pieces, and to give each concert a theme or connecting thread, so that each work relates to the other. I have tried to create programmes that are profoundly powerful and yet give great joy to the listener, that are challenging yet rewarding, and to keep as much variety as possible within the series – we have travelled from Schubert to Schoenberg, to Glass and Janacek, Ravel and Beethoven to Tchaikovsky and Strauss.

What has been the highlight of the Tricycle’s Classical Music Series so far & what are you most looking forward to in the upcoming concerts?
Each concert has been so different, and the whole series such an exciting journey that it is very hard to pick one! I think that part of what is so special is that each concert is absolutely different from all the others, so there is never any sense of monotony. I am really looking forward to the gorgeous French programme that seems so ideal for a summer evening, and I am extremely excited about the new quartet that Joseph Phibbs is writing for us. We are playing it alongside two of the great quartets int eh repertoire by Schubert and Britten. It is a great honour to give a world premier for such a fantastic composer, and to have the chance to work alongside him in interpreting his work. To play something for the first time ever is not an everyday occurrence, and I’m sure it’ll be quite an occasion.

Tamsin Waley-Cohen and the Honeymead Ensemble continue the Classical Music Series this Sunday (20 May) at 7pm in the Tricycle Theatre. Click here for more information and to book tickets.


Vanessa Paradis talks about her new film Cafe De Flore

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012 by Tricycle

Vanessa ParadisVanessa Paradis has never been pinned down to one label. Before she was an actress, she was a model and a singer, becoming globally famous at the age of 14 when her single ‘Joe Le Taxi’ became a smash hit in 15 countries. But despite winning a French Cesar for her 1989 debut Noce Blanche, she’s turned down several major film offers over the years and taken prolonged sabbaticals from acting in order to focus on her music and raise two children with Johnny Depp (they’ve been a couple since the 1990s). In the last couple of years, however, she has picked up the pace again with film work and her starring role in Cafe De Flore may be a sign that Paradis, now 39, is about to enter the most fruitful phase of her acting career.

Jean-Marc Vallée’s emotive, mystical drama tells two parallel stories: one, set in present-day Montreal, depicts the break-up of a marriage and its devastating impact on Carole (Hélène Florent), who remains convinced that her bond with husband Antoine (Kevin Parent) was meant to last forever; the other is set in 1969 Paris, where single mother Jacqueline (Paradis) is raising a young son with Down’s Syndrome. To call Jacqueline devoted is an understatement – she showers love and affection on Laurent (Marin Gerrier), enrolling him at a normal school, teaching him to defend himself from bullies. But when he develops a close attachment to Veronique, another Down’s syndrome child, her maternal devotion comes under threat, leading to unforeseen consequences. It’s fair to say that Paradis is heartbreaking in the role and she was duly rewarded with a Best Actress prize at the 2012 Genies, Canada’s equivalent to the Oscars.


Congratulations on your award. Were you there to accept in person?

Thank you very much. I wasn’t but Jean-Marc Vallée, the director, went and accepted it on my behalf. He asked me to send a little note just in case I won. I thanked Jean-Marc and Marin, the little boy that plays opposite me, because if they’re giving me the prize, it’s really because of these two men. It’s the case in every movie that you’re only good if the people around you are good. That little boy added so much grace and so much humour to our little tandem.

Was it difficult finding a young actor to play your son?

It was by luck and by love that Jean-Marc found Marin, because he is the actual friend – boyfriend even – of Alice [Dubois], who plays Veronique in the movie. Alice’s parents had sent a tape of her to be considered for the movie and Marin was on that tape because he was playing with her. They’re pretty much in love with each other.

You’re known to be picky with film roles. Why did you choose to do Cafe De Flore?

It was so brilliantly written. It was a shock to read but such a beautiful script. I also loved the movies that Jean-Marc had done before and the fact that he offered me a character unlike any I’ve been offered before was irresistible.

She’s a tough and devoted mother. What did you make of Jacqueline?

She has set a goal in her life because she has nothing. There’s no husband, no family, no friends and no money – nothing but the love she has to give this little boy. It’s all about him for her and she lives with the threat of losing him so her goal is to make him strive and survive and be strong. She doesn’t do everything well – it’s actually the contrary – but she does everything from her heart.

Did you ask Jean-Marc why he wanted you for this role?

He didn’t want me for the role! He met with other actresses in France. But after I read the script, I called him and I think he could see that I was so into it. It was that conversation that made him choose me, I think.

What did your collaboration with Jean-Marc bring out in the character?

She’s so different from me so I had to erase a bunch of things. I couldn’t be seductive, sensitive, vulnerable. When Jean-Marc and I were looking for the voice of this woman, it became really clear at one point that she had to be very masculine. Because she is both the mom and the dad, we had to find the masculinity in her.

Without giving too much away, did you ever meet or talk to the actors who star in Cafe De Flore’s parallel storyline?

No, we only met when the movie was done. They started to shoot the Canadian part first, and then Jean-Marc came to Paris for a month of preparation. He brought a 20-minute edit of what they had just shot in Montreal so we got to see the other characters and also the tone and rhythm and level of emotion they were playing. We still had to find our bearings together but there was already a movie that we could relate to, even if our story in Paris has nothing to do with theirs… apparently.

Cafe De Flore

Had you had experience of working with or knowing anyone with Down’s Syndrome prior to making Café De Flore?

No, it was the first time. And it was an amazing experience because Marin comes from such an amazing family. He has an older brother and a younger brother and the parents, Natalie and Christophe, are just unbelievable people – great parents and great human beings. This little boy was born with Down’s Syndrome. He was also born with an amazing personality, amazing intelligence and a sense of humour. It’s in his genes. It was beautiful spending time with them; we got along so well.

Were his parents there all the time?

No. It’s a tough thing for parents to leave their son in the hands of other people. It’s a big responsibility for us and they trusted us very much. They got to know us and then trusted us enough to leave their boy with us. They gave us shortcuts to what he likes, what he doesn’t like, what works, what doesn’t work.

How did he behave with you, the woman playing his mother?

He was great. That was my biggest fear because with Down’s Syndrome, most of the time there is a problem with assimilation, of processing new information. It’s quite a weird thing anyway for anybody – kids, grown-ups, Down’s Syndrome or not – to be in the scenes we were playing. It’s not a comedy, it’s tough, but he always knew that we were playing and when it was done, I was just Vanessa.

So you made him feel relaxed on set?

You know what? He made me feel relaxed. Everybody fell in love with this little boy on the set. He’s so funny and he’s a little angel. He’s a demon as well! He’s very stubborn so it wasn’t easy all the time.

Did you introduce your own children to him?

Yes. We had a few parties where we danced and ate fries and drank Coca-Cola. It was great.

Cafe De Flore is showing in the Tricycle Cinema from 11 – 17 May.
For more information, screening times and to book tickets, CLICK HERE.

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