A brand new show all about the ups and downs of parenting is coming to Berkshire this year (it’s at the Corn Exchange in Newbury on Sunday 20 February!) We had a chat with performer Sophie Ross to find out about the inspiration for the show and what you can expect as an audience member.
Here’s what Sophie told us:
“I graduated from drama school and did a couple of years of various musicals, I was a gigging musician for a little while, did some songwriting and I was in a couple of bands. I then had my first baby at 24 and I stepped back from the whole scene because my career hadn’t fully established. I threw myself into the parenting thing quite readily and quite happily and had another baby three years later. I was getting a hankering for getting back into the arts so when my second child went to school I spoke to my flatmate from drama school, Sarah. She had become a parent too and was trying to maintain her theatre company while juggling family. We thought, ‘God, it’s hard!’ Trying to keep a piece of you and be an engaged parent, keeping the family running, paying the bills and everything else.
Sarah and I were talking about how to create theatre while still being ‘everything else.’ It’s a difficult industry to be in without throwing yourself entirely into it. So we came to the conclusion that we just needed to make our own thing! We were trying to figure out a way of creating theatre, initially it was in order to get the artists who are parents back into the arts. Our thoughts were to do it in within school days, we’d have shorter days and a longer rehearsal period. E.g, a 10am-2pm day over five weeks and flexibility in the space so you could bring a baby into the studio. We applied to the Arts Council for some funding, they accepted and we wrote this show! It turned out to be for parents, as well as by parents. We wrote about what we know, which is the juggle, the amazing joyous parts of parenthood, the trials and doubts that you have but also the support network. That really was hammered home by a lot of my friends having babies in lockdown. They couldn’t go to the groups, couldn’t have their family over for a coffee, their parents had to stand at the gate while they waved with their six month old baby. The show’s about celebrating parenthood and giving people a bit of solidarity.
In March 2021 we launched the show on Zoom and had around 85 people join us live. Since then we have applied for more funding and we have made it into a live production. It seems to have been received well and people are really resonating with it.
What can people expect? It’s just me and my piano poking fun at the ridiculousness and the ludicrousness of the juggle. Hopefully loads of laughs! Lots of people have said that they’ve cried, which I find lovely and humbling. People have said that they find it relatable, hopefully there’s something for everybody. There is a lot of silliness, jokes, magic, jumping around. It’s really just a big metaphor about parenthood. The juggle is real!
Babies are welcome at the shows. The show is a little bit sweary, because you do want to swear sometimes! In some venues we have a workshop facility for older kids (depending on whether they have the capacity). So they will have a DBS checked person doing crafts or an activity with the older ones. Many people come without their babies. At a recent matinee performance we had a lot of babies. In the evening we had lots of mums who had sorted childcare and come with their girlfriends to enjoy a glass of wine. It made the matinee and evening performances very different, even though it’s the same show. The evening performance was really raucous, the audience was shouting out and joining in with the jokes. They let their hair down, it’s really interesting how a matinee and an evening performance can be so different!
Most of the show is about that first culture shock, coming to terms with who you are and the feelings that come with becoming a parent.”
Swings and Roundabouts is showing at the Corn Exchange, Newbury on Sunday 20 February (shows are 2pm, 4pm and 8pm). Book your tickets here.
You can watch it at South Streets Arts, Reading on 2 June 2022 (tickets available to purchase soon).