INTERVIEW: CURIOUS FESTIVAL – MELODY SPROATES & JG TANSLEY | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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This year’s Curious Festival focuses a lot of its programming on celebrating transgender and gender non-conforming artists and performers. Melody Sproates and JG Tansley are two non-binary performers breaking down a multitude of boundaries with their shows.

Melody Sproates’ background in theatre and cabaret serves the creation of their debut solo show *gender not included, an exploration of their personal journey of self and gender identity. “It’s mostly about my experiences of being non-binary, and coming to terms with that. Making theatre work and performances helps me make sense of it in my head, and helps me describe how I’m feeling to other people in a fun and accessible way.” Melody explains.

As with so much of Curious Festival’s programme, Melody’s show is an accessible and fun production which will be a hit with music lovers. “I use lip sync and lots of different songs all mashed together to create one coherent story. There’s lots of sound clips from bands like The Prodigy, Nirvana and The Happy Mondays. I’m using their words to say what I want to say – which is about gender, about my voice and how sometimes I feel like I don’t have a voice.”

Melody’s frustration with non-binary representation in the media has also proved a catalyst for their show. “Non-binary is not in media. That’s why I struggled so much, because I knew I was feeling different but I didn’t know why. I came across ‘non-binary’ but only because of the internet. It needs to be on the telly, it needs to be taught in schools – people need to know about it. Music is so accessible for anyone, everywhere. One song can mean a million different things to a million different people. I’m just using it in one particular way to help people understand the issues that I’m trying to talk about.”

JG Tansley meanwhile, who works under the alias of dandysocpic, showcases their performance piece SPACE: A Herstory, which documents the evolution of LGBTQ+ spaces using personal accounts and history to feed dandysocpic’s alternative future theories in a pseudo sci-fi twist. “A Herstory is about Queer spaces: what are they, where are they, who are they for, how do they happen – all those messy questions. It imagines what our spaces will look like in the future, it looks back, and it looks at how we use them currently, and if we can use them better. Ultimately, it’s about asking ‘when does something become a Queer space?’” JG explains.

The theatre is for the people so if we’re not telling everyone’s stories, then the theatre is lying

The inspiration for the show came after the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016. “The vigil on Times Square in the centre of the – possibly problematically named – Pink Triangle felt very charged: a mixture of sadness, but of joy and also resilience in a space I knew was for me and people like me, but somewhere I’ve not really felt connected to. In the wake of such a huge loss, it felt so needed. There was so much about this city I didn’t know, because we inherit these spaces, and so rarely are they yours that you’ve started.”

JG’s research into Newcastle’s own relationship with Queer spaces turned up some surprises. “Like a classic millennial, I did a quick Google just to see what I could find. I ended up on weird forums that weren’t anything to do with Queerness. There’s one called Pubwatch that remembers old pubs, where people comment things like, ‘We never used to go in there because that’s where the gays drank.’ Problematic, but useful for me. I put a call out to buy people coffees and meet up in a space they felt was Queer just to talk about what that means to them. I always start by asking, ‘When did you become aware of LGBTQ+ spaces existing? When did you start going to them?’”

JG’s discoveries and conversations led down a path which would ultimately become SPACE: A Herstory; a fusion of theatre, live art and sound installation. “Amongst all of this is a fictional storyline about what Queer spaces would have looked like if Section 28, the law banning the promotion of homosexuality in the 1980s, hadn’t passed. I hypothesise that we would have broken away and formed Queer colonies within the UK. In that timeline, Soho declares independence.”

Both Melody and JG admit that without festivals like Curious, their voices wouldn’t get the amplification that is so sorely needed. “I don’t think the show would exist without Curious,” JG says. “I genuinely would have lost the will to make this show had they not picked it up and encouraged me. It’s a niche work. But people are curious about these lives and the histories that will get lost if people don’t make live archives of them.”

“It’s interesting feeling like you have to approach a venue with ‘a Queer story’ when it’s not just a Queer story. It’s more than that, you should be telling these stories.” Continues Melody. “You shouldn’t feel like you’re taking a risk putting something on. The theatre is for the people so if we’re not telling everyone’s stories, then the theatre is lying.”

JG Tansley’s SPACE: A Herstory takes place on Tuesday 2nd and Wednesday 3rd July, and Melody Sproates’ *gender not included takes place on Tuesday 2nd and Saturday 13th July, both at Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle.

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