INTERVIEW: Serena Ramsey | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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We spend our childhood years often wanting little more than a bit of stability, and only the occasional experience we’ll later file politely as ‘character-building’. So what do you do when you walk forehead-first into puberty, your mam leaves to join a cult, and you learn you’ve been replaced with witch and wizard weekends and an affair with a tree?

Here’s what. You take your thirteen-year-old self by the hand, grab a sausage roll and write a one-woman love letter to Newcastle that will stitch some of your emotional wounds back together, and send audiences out on a fizzing, electro-induced high.

Waxa Belta Helta Skelta (currently awaiting rescheduled dates) is the work of Geordie clown, actor and Frisky Arts cabaret performer Serena Ramsey, who’s delved into her past and hit the rawest nerve to deliver a tale of abandonment you couldn’t make up if you tried. Bringing us a play with its own DJ (the music is live-mixed onstage by sound designer TingYing Dong), Serena takes the notion that a story about loss is best handled within the values of traditional theatre, and blows a 3D raspberry at it. “I love the audience to be thrown into a fully immersive world that is a shock to the senses,” she says. “They feel transported, and for an hour can forget some of the stuff that goes on outside those doors. I could have done with that as a kid, and even now as an adult that’s the work that really gets my blood pumping.”

I love the audience to be thrown into a fully immersive world that is a shock to the senses

Waxa Belta Helta Skelta doesn’t use its escapism as a way out. Instead, it becomes a way in, and it is through its pseudo-guise as a “trash, cult, Geordie dance electro party” that difficult emotions can at last get some air. At its heart, Serena says, it’s simply “a story of a young girl figuring out why her mam left her.” It’s a story she hadn’t gone near until a year ago. “I spent most of my life bottling up all those feelings of abandonment and anger,” she explains. “I told myself, ‘Face it now or it will just come up later. And hey, why not make something beautiful out of something really tough and uncomfortable?’”

In doing this, I wonder what effect it has had on her life outside of the play. “My dad and I worked a lot on the voice-over throughout the show, and we finally got to talk about the grief we had both felt. We would go for a pint and finally be able to chat about how it had affected our mental health. My dad, a big Geordie lad from Westerhope, baring his heart to me and to this project, has been the biggest breakthrough moment for me.”

For those who haven’t seen a cabaret piece at the theatre, Waxa Belta Helta Skelta will surely be all the more exhilarating when it finally gets an airing. “I would always encourage the audience to interact; laugh if they want to laugh, cry if they want to cry, shout if they want to shout, get up and dance with me (even if it’s in the wrong places).” People in the wrong places seem to be a lifelong influence on Serena: “The musicians, artists and cartoon characters I’ve always adored are the degenerates,” she says. “I think we all have a freak within us somewhere.”

An autumn tour for Waxa Belta Helta Skelta is currently being planned. Stay up to date with Serena Ramsey’s work via her website

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