Vicky Lee (VL): My name is Vicky Lee and err I came to Spare Tyre as a result of an advertisement in Camden New Journal. So erm I went along and found myself in a group of people err who were absolutely delightful and I have been with them ever since
Arti Prashar (AP): So you’re, you’ve been a longstanding member of umm Spare Tyre’s companies uhh performing companies and usually part of the older people’s companies. Umm tell us a little bit about that.
VL: Err well what is a very interesting thing about being a member of erm an older age group theatre is that erm we can we don’t have to be older performers. You can be a child. You can be a sexually active young woman. You can you can enter any of the areas of your life that you have lived and relive them. In ‘Angina Monologues’ I hit something err in myself and this is one of the things that is err a tremendous surprise to me about acting is err it was the err the transsexual part of myself. So in that I was err a woman hiding in a sort of male self. Err I’m not quite sure that erm I’ve actually found her totally yet because I don’t feel that femininity has to do with necessarily a look. Erm it has to do with err an expression of the female of myself.
AP: So are you able to explore all those things in the theatre you have been doing?
VL: Uhh the acting parts that I played have allowed me to explore those uhh and to take on a sort of “as if”. To take the, to take it to the extreme. To dress as a man to uhh walk as man. Erm in the play I did in Edinburgh erm I played both male and female parts in the same play. Taking clothes on and off erm hundreds of changes err which was a very exciting. I played Andrew Carnegie with a cigar, a homburg hat, and big coat or I would be a eugenicist in a slinky tight skirt and high heels
AP: So that was in ‘Still Life Dreaming’?
VL: ‘Still Life Dreaming’
AP: Yes. Is there another part that you have really enjoyed doing?
VL: One of the parts that I really enjoyed doing was playing Salome. It’s uhh it’s a piece about a woman who erm takes men home just purely as sexual objects for herself. Very interesting because I would say that although she’s a character very very unlike myself there are also many emotions that Salome has which I identify with very very strongly
AP: But do you think audiences responded to an older performer playing that part?
VL: Audiences can be very shocked at an older performer playing a part like that. They don’t I don’t think it is expected that an older person is willing to exp- explore a present sexuality. A present passion and intensity and emotion. I think err audiences expect older people to be observers of life and perhaps as wise commentators but not to actually enter the the err emotion as a present experience.
AP: What what keeps your interest in Spare Tyre?
VL: Erm well I didn’t really know anything about Spare Tyre when I originally came along. I had heard erm of it it was a a word in the background in the feminist uhh 1970s uhh particularly “Fat is a Feminist Issue.” Erm I was pretty busy living err a life as a woman holding up my half of the sky. So I didn’t become very erm active in feminist politics and so erm it is a it is a very interesting erm exploration for me now to find out erm a little bit more about what feminism actually is because I’m not really very sure erm you know how to (laughs) how to be a feminist. I think actually as a dentist and as a professional person, I wasn’t either male or female. I was that profession. Uhh other members say “well can we be sure that we have uhh female icons around err can we be sure that we uhh incorporate in our logo in our whatever we do something that shows this is being the angle that is being taken is from a female point of view and particularly umm from a… where it is very hard to umm not be invisible.” Spare Tyre has encouraged uhh a group of us to to become far more independent In our choice of what uhh are the subject matter. How we will uhh bring that subject matter to a script to the performance and to have a far greater say in erm how that performance uhh will manifest itself.
AP: But but is that is that not a natural progression of the work that that came out of kind of a community involvement that’s now still within the participatory arts realm and that’s the journey you’ve been making really? It it feels to me like a natural kind of segue into what you’re doing right now.
VL: Well I think it uhh it it it is a natural progression but erm uhh we went from uhh when I first came to Spare Tyre it was umm a Friday a week. So I took myself along and I was provided with a lunch and when we had a performance I was bussed backwards and looked after and nannied
VL: Erm I wasn’t expecting to have to grow up
(Both AP and VL laugh)
VL: I wasn’t expecting to have to do it all myself. In fact I was congratulating Spare Tyre on looking after me so well that I didn’t really need to do anything other than turn up.
AP: So I guess that’s that’s that’s that’s the system of our of our political system as well isn’t it? And the way that we are funded as well. That’s that’s the progression it made in a way
VL: I think-
AP: and it’s had to go that way
VL: I think I think that’s right. Spare Tyre itself has has err taken a very different path as a result of the modern world as a result of the funding err as a result of the err enormous competitiveness out there in the marketplace too. And umm the the whole thing of social political theatre is that umm that as an actor I’m not just engaged to be a performer. I’m engaged as wanting to be heard.
AP: There is one other area that I would like to talk to you about. And that is umm your hidden disability. I wanted to know about your journey of that with the company as well.
WL: I have a very major hearing loss. Umm and the the extent of my hearing loss is that err I don’t hear constants very well. Err with hearing aids erm and in a one to one situation or in a small group I can follow what is going on but I do tend to lip read.
AP: I wondered if you had any thoughts about umm the very first time that you came to a session and I’m not sure whether you did reveal you had a a a hearing disability but actually –
VL: Well I never even thought that it anybody, nobody in my life has ever made any attempt to do anything for me, to speak better. They notice when I don’t hear them or they get angry at me or or or all sorts of or have all sorts of strange responses to me. And I think that perhaps is is what Spare Tyre erm how Spare Tyre hooked me in I think even
(Both AP and VL laugh)
VL: Was to say “look you have a disability and we can accommodate that.” I didn’t see err hearing loss as a disability erm that could be accommodated. It was just a fact. I actually have in my life had very very little experience of being looked after. And therefore I think this, the first thing when when we had our lunch provided for us and taken around in transport erm that that was the most lovely feeling to me of being looked after. Treasures that I have been given at Spare Tyre and those treasures are learning to perform. Err learning to umm how to command a space err how to how to take a piece of written dialogue and create from that something as though it is spontaneously coming out of me. Thank you, thank you for looking after me thank you for talking to me. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to to express myself. I think my life you know “you don’t deserve it you cant have this you, you know, you’ve got everything you’ve got too much.” But the idea of me being in theatre I, definitely even if it had come anywhere near my consciousness I would have thought “not for you, no you cant have that.”
AP: You are so allowed
VL: I’m ah thank you. I’m allowed
(Both AP and VL laugh)
AP: I’m I’m going to ask you actually what were you doing to me at the at the beginning?
VL: What was I doing?
VL: How do you mean? What-
AP: Well what’s aura brushing?
VL: What’s aura- oh doing to you?
VL: erm what happens is err we have a sort of electrically charged atmosphere around us. Erm so this area around our bodies err that extends beyond the physical body and it’s that err energy that gets very depleted when we get upset, when we get tired. So the idea of aura brushing or or clearing the aura or helping somebodies aura is to try and equalise all the energy all over.
Vicky joined us having never acted before during one of our workshop series held in Camden, before becoming part of the HotPots ensemble. More recently she and other Spare Tyre actors formed their own theatre group, SilverSage, and premiered their first play during our Invisible Women festival in Spring 2018.
Vicky spoke to us about some of her favourite shows, and the freedom acting gives her.