PROFILE: Sophie Willan | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Steve Ullathorne

Award-winning comedian, successful writer, campaigner for change; it’s difficult not to put a label on Sophie Willan, but that’s precisely what her new show, Branded (heading to Stockton’s ARC on Saturday 10th February and Northern Stage, Newcastle on Thursday 15th March), is railing against. “Branded is an anarchic, upbeat stand-up show that challenges the single narratives surrounding identity politics through my own personal experience – specifically, I challenge perceptions around class, feminism and northern identity. This show is for anyone who’s wondered how to make a space for themselves when the boxes don’t quite fit.” She explains.

Sophie decided she wanted to get into comedy from a young age. “I went to Ibiza with my Gran when I was eight, she was going clubbing and I joined the hotel drama club. I treaded the boards for the very first time, playing the Crying Clown. I had to go out to the audience and cry to opera music, I got a standing ovation! I had the bug from then.”

This show is for anyone who’s wondered how to make a space for themselves when the boxes don’t quite fit

Her debut show, On Record, drew from her own experiences of being in and out of the care system and Sophie cites a frustration with how welfare is represented in popular culture as a drive for her work. “In 2015 I had become infuriated by the growing negative representation of welfare recipients in mainstream media and entertainment – such as the media attack on Josie Cunningham and TV programs like Benefit Street and even Loose Women. I wanted to redress the balance and humanize people like my mother who suffer with drug and mental health issues.”

On Record earned her a Chortle Best Newcomer nomination and Branded has been equally well-praised, winning the coveted main prize at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards, and lauded for its witty approach to a multitude of personal subjects from her mother’s heroin addition to Sophie’s own experiences as a sex worker, but these aren’t tales merely made to make you laugh. “I hope the show challenges people’s ideas – shakes things up a bit. I hope it leaves people feeling more connected. The shows are funny, challenging and honest. They’re true to my experience and my understanding of the world but there’s no slitting your wrists on stage at the forty minute mark.”

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