Image of Rosa Postlethwaite (left) and Hannah Walker (right) by Jonathan George
It was only last week that one of our national newspapers decided to portray Newcastle in an extremely negative light with photographs of bank holiday revellers a little worse for wear. The people we become when we drink are a lot more nuanced than those which were evidenced in that piece though, and two creative souls who now call Newcastle home are trying to channel that as they bring An Evening With Savvy B to Alphabetti Theatre for a week long run from Monday 5th until Saturday 10th September.
There’s a vibrant passion for capturing something honest and sincere that shines through when talking to Hannah Walker and Rosa Postlethwaite, it was utterly infectious as they discussed the upcoming performance. Rosa explained “the show is about who you become when you drink. A lot of people drink because they want to become more able socially.” The character of Savvy B was created by Hannah with interesting initial intentions; “it started off personal. I made a ten minute show quite similar to this when I was at university six years ago. I created this character because I was nervous to go onstage; I created a character that was really fantastic and quite drunk. I made her the focus and then I wasn’t. Now we’ve developed it into a whole 40 minute piece, we’ve done more research on other people’s relationship with drink too.”
The dynamic duo then developed the piece through performances at scratch nights, and their own pop-up shows, performing in places like Prohibition Cabaret Bar in Gateshead and a bingo hall in Byker, speaking to audiences before and after performances. “The fun thing with the pop up shows which definitely went into the longer piece was that what we were doing was going to the place, having a drink, having a chat, getting involved in the activity that was there and then performing and then being there afterwards. We really wanted to be able to talk to people,” Rosa passionately told me. The fervent research is something which could really make Savvy B stand-out, both ladies have a history of bar work behind them, and they’ve made an effort to understand the varying relationships people can have with alcohol. Hannah showed how important that earnest approach is, “I think I’ve got to care about something. I want to say something about this.” It’s her personal experience that have influenced the character so well too, “Savvy B is me, it’s that voice in your head, and everyone always has that voice in their head, even regardless of drinking, you’ve got someone always being silly.”
performance art should be this huge umbrella term. Trying to show things that could be surprising to people
Dealing with a topic like people’s relationships with alcohol feels like it’s in a safe a pair of hands with Hannah and Rosa, with their exuberant attitude towards theatre key. It’s certainly important to both of them that the show is a fun experience. For Rosa, “performance art should be this huge umbrella term. Trying to show things that could be surprising to people is what I would aim to do.” Hannah equally has similar expectations for what theatre experiences should be for people, “It’s a good night out. I’m going to entertain you, you’ve made to effort to come and see me, so I want to give you the best night out, and take from it what you will at the end.”
The fact that neither grew up in Newcastle has also had an interesting impact on them both, with Hannah making the move from Bellingham when she was 16, “I was very country bumpkin, drinking in haystacks” she joked, “I got this whole new life that I didn’t know existed. As soon as I moved here I started going out all the time and was different then when I’d go back home, that life felt different from this city life that I’d created.” Rosa moved from Leicester, leading to them eventually being cast in the same production before life taking over and them going their separate ways. In April this year, Rosa moved back, and they snapped up the chance to work together again.
The early forms of the show have travelled outside the North East just once so far, in Sheffield; though with the show to head to London for two performances on Wednesday 21st and Thursday 22nd September, it’s exciting to see where this could be taken. The plan for Hannah is “we can pop in a car and just rock up with this ten minute cabaret performance if not the full show, in pubs, in clubs, in student bars. Wherever we go, I would love to chat to people.” Rosa is very much in sync with this idea, “I don’t think you ever stop learning about your practice, you never know what kind of what great kind of thing you’re going to learn from just going out and chatting to people and learning and doing workshops and things like that. It is always about developing.” It’s the evolving through constantly pushing themselves and learning from people where you can see the two match up so well, as in unison, they shared how they developed this work; “we change it all the time.”
It’s a good night out. I’m going to entertain you, you’ve made to effort to come and see me, so I want to give you the best night out, and take from it what you will at the end.
Before London, it’s Alphabetti Theatre that Savvy B will be calling home for five days in September, Hannah speaks so highly of the venue; “it’s fantastic, it’s given us and so many artists an opportunity to perform. No-one knew who we were, we would never have gotten on at so many theatres, and they’ve given us a week. It’s lovely.” The choice of venue is one that’s key for Rosa too; “it’s not afraid to try new things and be adaptable. It’s a lovely space. It’s just the right size; it’s fantastically intimate and comfortable.” With a pay what you feel model in place for tickets too, it’s a wonderfully affordable way to get good theatre out there, and Hannah admits that getting people to see the show is what it’s all about “it’s just got to be accessible so we can get people in.”
Constantly striving for more, the twosome are also the masterminds behind PUG, which also had its debut show at Alphabetti Theatre in July. With an excellent turnout for that one, the quarterly night should go on to be another wonderful success and quirky component of the North East’s creative scene. Rosa knows just what they need from it too, “the idea of pug is that they’re short performances, in that an artist can try something new that they don’t maybe think is going to be a large show, might not make any money, or it might just be something that they’ve always wanted to do. They’re short, so it’s a dynamic night. You get a decent amount for your money, we play some tunes afterwards and people have a dance. It’s supposed to be quite exciting, and showing a diversity of art in the North East.” For Hannah too, it just comes back to this idea of theatre being a good way to spend an evening, “when we were going out into the public to interview people, everyone just wanted a good night out.” Rosa added, “they said fun. Every single person said fun, it should be fun.”
That idea that a night at the theatre should be incredible fun makes PUG one to look forward to in the future, though even sooner than that, it’s a chance to share a glass of wine (or tipple of your choice), in the company of An Evening With Savvy B, and the two very talented, sharp creative minds behind her.