Lemon House Theatre are showing the importance of having queer, female voices on stage
Samia Djilli and Jennifer Cerys started Lemon House Theatre to offer a platform for stories that they felt weren’t currently being staged, and next month, they’ll be taking their new plays Different Sand and Willow to The Bunker in South London.
Different Sand will be the first all-female, Algerian piece of work on a London stage, and is about British-Algerian sisters Linda and Amira, exploring family and being split between cultures. In Willow, Gabi takes to the stage to talk about her break-up with girlfriend Lottie, but quickly learns how hard it is to tell your own story, with this play being staged by an all-female, queer team.
Two members of this team are actors Jennifer Dixon and Sophia O’Donohue, who are playing ex-girlfriends Gabi and Lottie. They sat down with Jennifer Cerys to chat about putting the play Willow together, and the importance of having queer, female voices on stage.
How would you describe the play in three words?
Jennifer Dixon: Generation Z, relatable, real.
Sophia O’Donohue: Intense, happening, and briefly-sweet
Can you tell us a bit about your characters?
Jennifer: Gabi is very (in her) feelings (both physically in her tactility and how she feels emotionally). Dramatic, for sure. *Que snippet of “It’s Britney bitch”* And thirdly, I’d say she doesn’t realise how confident she actually is and how this makes her seem to those she’s close to.
Sophia: Lottie is: aloof (in a cool way), scared, and honest.
Why did you get involved with the project?
Jennifer: It’s quite rare that you come across a text, particularly a play, which as a mode of creative work provides a physical manifestation in front of an audience, (and) that focuses on a queer relationship between women of colour that does not centre its focus on their intersectionalities. It isn’t about that, and the audience won’t entirely realise this until the end of the play, if at all. We never finish a film or come to the end of a play with a heteronormative couple as it’s focus and suddenly think about the sexual expressions. So why not do the same in Willow? It’s a relationship, in so many ways, like any other. This is normal. This is 2019. This is London. This is us.
Sophia: As a queer actor I’ve never come across a play or project which normalised a lesbian relationship. I think plays such as Willow are really reflective of our current society, with people being much more open with their sexuality than ever before and Willow is a story so many queer women can relate to, in a sad, awkward, and hilarious way.
How do you think this project will assist in the representation of queer voices on stage?
Jennifer: Queer bodies have always played an integral part in arts and performance, be that from a voyeuristic viewpoint or from the individuals unique and collective experiences. However, there is a sense of ease that sits upon the creative team when the project they’re working on allows them to exist without having to provide explanation or justification. You see them and they’re just there, they are just being. And this isn’t to say that performance focusing on queer identities isn’t crucial - it most definitely is - but so it the representation of our existence without justification.
Sophia: It makes me, as an actor, want to create more pieces such as this, and once you’ve got queer actors, writers, and an audience, it allows for that voice to be found and developed.
Willow will be on at 8.30pm on 8th, 9th, 15th and 16th September. Get your tickets here.