An anarchic new comedy about Britishness, if anybody knows what it is, and the power of punk. Help us take Octopus to the Fringe!
About this project
“You’re an octopus. All mixed up, like me. One leg something, and one leg something else.”
Octopus, an anarchic new comedy set in a world where your ‘Britishness’ is defined by the state, is off to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival!
As far as Sarah, Sara and Scheherazade are concerned, they have nothing in common. And yet they’ve all been called in for an interview to determine how British they are; a new requirement for those who are considered to have ‘non-indigenous heritage’. Sara looks kind of Asian. Scheherazade looks kind of Middle Eastern. And Sarah is kind of white and has no idea why she’s here. She also keeps bursting into song. But by the end of the play it becomes clear that these three women are all what Scheherazade thinks of as ‘octopuses’ – mixed race and mixed up with it. And maybe that’s true of Britishness too.
Octopus is written by Afsaneh Gray, and was inspired by her own experiences as a mixed-up half-Iranian/half-Jew. It is set in a dystopian world of bureaucratic box ticking and absurd interviews that feels disturbingly close to present day reality. With ‘mixed race’ now the fastest growing ethnic minority in the country, and against the backdrop of concerns about immigration and the refugee crisis, the questions it asks feel particularly relevant.
Who we are
Afsaneh is a playwright and (fun fact) one time doctor of medicine, based in London. She was previously a member of the prestigious Royal Court Studio Group and has been on attachment at the Orange Tree Theatre and Ovalhouse. She was longlisted for the 2014 Theatre503 Award, and is currently under commission by the Unicorn Theatre and the Scuola di Teatro Paolo Grassi in Milan.
Pia Furtado (director) is a previous Fringe First award winner with Dirty Great Love Story, which subsequently toured the UK and transferred to New York. Other credits includeConsensual for the National Youth Theatre and a production of Titus Andronicus in an urban car park that featured beat-boxing and parkour.
Paper Tiger Productions (co-producer) is Afsaneh Gray, Omar El-Khairy and Tanya Singh, a collective of theatre and film makers. Previous productions include and the Crowd (wept)(Riverside Studios), a critically acclaimed new opera about the death of Jade Goody, and Sour Lips (Ovalhouse). Paper Tiger is a 2016 resident company at the New Diorama as part of their BAMER Companies Project and was previously resident at Ovalhouse.
Fine Mess Theatre (co-producer) produced two new productions in 2015, Divas and Islands.Islands was handpicked by A Younger Theatre to feature at Incoming — the definitive festival for emerging theatre companies in the UK — before premiering in Edinburgh. Divas won the coveted Les Enfants Terribles Award for its Edinburgh production.
Octopus initially appeared as a short extract at Fine Mess Theatre’s Bites & Scratches night at London fringe venue the Camden People’s Theatre. The audience seemed to like it a lot, which was exciting. The play was then written in full, and developed at the Soho Theatre and the Arcola Theatre, a couple of fringe stalwarts. At that point, Fine Mess Theatre got involved again, and produced a reading at the Greenwich Theatre. After that people came up to us and said things like “I felt like that play was written for me” and “I’m an octopus”. And after that we decided the play felt important and important to do now, and that we should take it to Edinburgh, where it will reach a wider audience and hopefully have the chance to go further still. So that’s what we’re trying to do.
Why we need your help
We have already received financial backing from the Peggy Ramsay Foundation and the Royal Society of Literature. We’ve also been given free rehearsal space by the New Diorama, a massive contribution. But taking a show up to Edinburgh is an expensive business, and we need your help to:
1. Pay our creative team The majority of the funds raised from this campaign will go to paying people for their work. We have a 3 week rehearsal period followed by a 3 week run, and we want to make sure that we’re paying a fair fee (which is sadly often not the case with Edinburgh shows). This play has an all female, diverse cast – both underrepresented groups in the theatre – and we want to make sure that we can open up this opportunity to everybody.
2. Make the production look, and sound, amazing A small amount of money will go towards design – making the show look great. If we are able to exceed our initial goal, that money will go towards sound design. We want to work with composer Serafina Steer (classically trained harpist and post-punker, whose last, critically acclaimed album, The Moths Are Real, was produced by Jarvis Cocker) to create a live score for the show. Music, and especially punk, is key to the play – amplifying the spirit of discontent with the establishment that the characters increasingly feel – and we would love to make it an integral part of the audience experience.
Some work by Safiye Gray, fellow octopus and fantastic artist, who is currently busy creating our Octopus zine! Pledge £25 or more to get a digital copy, or if you’re feeling particularly lovely and want to give us £50 or more, we’d be delighted to pop a copy in the post for you.
What you can do
Check out our rewards and pledge your support! But also spread the word, far and wide. There are lots of octopuses out there, and we want to make sure they hear about this show.
Risks and challenges
Taking a show to the Edinburgh Fringe is always a challenge. You’re competing against a huge number of other fantastic shows, and you have to work tirelessly to get bums on seats. We are lucky that key members of the creative team have previous Edinburgh experience. With their know-how and the fact that we are all passionate about this play, we feel confident that, with your help, this octopus is going to be a spectentacular success