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

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Image by Rhona Foster

Dramaturg and performance artist Rosa Postlethwaite’s new show, Composed, takes a playful swipe at life in the arts; investigating social conventions, familiar theatrical rituals and looking at where individuals fit in hierarchical organisations. If this is all sounding a bit meta, let Rosa explain… “I adopt several different Master of Ceremonies personas during the show, one is an authoritative ‘over the tannoy’ persona, another is a host who has to fill in time during the show and appears very visible, awkward and vulnerable. The MC is often a spokesperson for an organisation. I was interested in what this role reveals about the relationship between an individual and the institution they are representing.”

As well as taking on the persona of an MC and behaving “on the edge of acceptability”, she’ll draw on her own experiences of being sponsored, and having to publicly thank sponsors. “To start an event with a ‘thank you to the sponsors’ sets up who is valued in the room and whose name is remembered. I want to draw the audience’s attention to that.”

Rosa’s also keen to address artistic terminology in the show. “‘Hard to reach’ is a catch-all phrase sometimes used to describe people that can’t have access to or don’t want to have access to a particular organisation. It’s problematic because it identifies a group of people as the problem – they are the ones who are ‘hard to reach’ – rather than talking about the barriers set up. Arts workers often set out to ‘help’ a ‘hard to reach community’ by gifting them with ‘culture’, reinforcing hierarchies and ignoring this as part of the system of oppression.”

her work uses performance to respond to the systems of oppression that shape everyday life

Rosa explains that her work uses performance to respond to the systems of oppression that shape everyday life. During her experiences as host and producer of the PUG performance club night, she found herself behaving in ways she was used to seeing from others. “I was perpetuating the same old power dynamics and the alluring feeling of belonging to something bigger than myself. I thought about how I could, on a small scale, hide behind the name of organisation.” 

Exploring these cycles of behaviour and looking at how gatekeeping and exclusion happens in the cultural sector, the new show became a composition of different cabaret acts she’s been performing since 2016. “It was an opportunity to reflect on the small actions I do as a worker. Following this, I made cabaret acts taking hosting formats and re-doing them to point to what ‘just doing your job’ reinforces. These performances became a way of checking myself.”

She’s unconcerned that the challenging aspects of the show could rub some in the creative sector up the wrong way. “I think that organisations are genuinely interested in the subject matter and/or think it will gain them kudos. I hope that some of the feelings represented in the performance will be relatable to people that work in organisations as well as challenging. But maybe after the tour I’ll answer differently…”

Composed is at Northern Stage, Newcastle on Tuesday 17th September

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