Masculinity, #ladsladslads & theatre making – an interview with Jake Jarratt…..

An area I’ve been intensely interested in from a self-reflective exploring view point is gendered normative behaviour….as a 33yr old woman without children, on a non-conventional career path who embraces being quite eccentric and introverted as a badge of honour, the older I’ve gotten, the more aware I’ve become of society trying to pigeon hole me and push onto me, gender conventions or make excuses for me as to why I don’t succumb to them.

The more I don’t succumb, the more society tries to reinforce them and with more energy. I sometimes wonder, at what point others will accept the way I am, in the way I have learned to do so. Or I wonder, when I will stop playing up to this “eccentric” characterisation of myself…. !?

I never thought I’d get married or have children, I never spent time agonising over boys (I didn’t get it), I always knew as I can see a lot of my Father in me, that I would be fiercely ambitious and introverted, I had no interest in being in fashion or “popular”, I just liked what I liked…… I’ve forever been positioned as a “tom boy” or “ladette” as I’m not girly…..

Actually the term being “girly” always offended me even as a child and I have memories of trying SO HARD to play with Barbies, have Polly Pockets and “girly” things….it was exhausting but it made people happy and I was curious enough to see what the fuss was about. I remember having the realisation of holding a polly pocket as a mini me and thinking “this is a bit shit” and deciding to go back to collecting woodlice, building dens and tending to my imaginary horse farm where I played both the farmer and the horses….what can I say, I’m versatile!?

But there is something in rejecting the above and still for some reason carrying around this weird feeling of disappointing the universe that I’m not, never was, or ever will be what society seemingly demands of me. I’m the lass who quotes South Park and Family Guy like a second language, that loves to be outside in her own head, that really loves to wear bold dresses but equally loves to dress like an 80s power suited man, I hate talking about my feelings, I’m not emotional enough, I HATE cooking, make up is functional, I’m always the more dominant one in a relationship who takes a traditionally more “masculine role”, I’m the big spoon, I don’t have kids and I don’t feel empty not having them, I find commitment and stability absolutely terrifying…..

I’ve been told that some of my personality traits and the above make me quite “masculine” – that I could be intimidating to men….off putting. It’s weird isn’t it, how we have such a fixed ideal of what it means to be masculine or feminine? I’ve been classed as a hyper-masculine trait exhibiting female…..

And my Dad wasn’t classed as an A Typical “manly man”- he had no interest in being one either. So my Dad not “masculine” enough and me, who is very much like my Dad, with my supposed “hyper masculine” traits…..

We live in a bizarre world. A world where men are supposed to be strong. And women who are strong aren’t girly enough and too masculine and men who struggle sometimes are weak and told to “man up”. And whilst things are changing slowly…..there is a lot of work to be done.

I’m delighted that theatre maker Jake Jarrett is using masculinity as a theme and starting point for his show “Blokes, Fellas, Geezers”…… especially as you can see from above I’m extremely interested in this topic and how we keep telling kids they are free to be who they want to be and yet, reinforcing gendered stereo-types over and over again. Even I had to apologise in a meeting recently, when I used the term about myself “growing some balls” ….it slipped out and it reminded me, that what it is to be masculine and/or feminine is so ingrained in our minds that even I use an outdated phrase like that when championing strength and courage and of course, I totally cringed and wanted the ground to swallow me immediately.

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(Jake Jarratt)

As you can tell, this subject topic gets me buzzed and I’m super excited to see Jake’s show on 26th September at Arts Centre Washington, Sunderland; we are invited to enter Jake’s world, where the men are men and the pints are cold and what it’s like to inherit working-class masculinity whilst discovering what kind of person he wants to become.

I didn’t know Jake before this blog post (I’ve seen some of his past acting and writing work and heard of him as an emerging talent) but it was the subject content of this show that made me buy a ticket and to reach out to find out more ahead of the show.…

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Hi Jake, for my readers….Who are you?

I’m an actor, theatre-maker and part time book-maker from Crook in County Durham.

I ask this question to all the people I interview; can you tell me about your journey into the arts/creative sector?

It was the usual thing of doing school plays and then attending a drama group that triggered a variation of stuff; from Christmas shows to issue-based work that was used to educate audiences at other schools and conferences.  I loved ‘Bouncers’ by John Godber and ‘Bones’ by Peter Straughan at school and that style of work. Writing that focuses on people and places that are familiar to us is what excited me when I was younger. Paul Charlton went to the same drama group that I went to, and seeing him do really well and seeing his sketch show ‘The Ginge, The Geordie and The Geek’ on the tele was inspiring and showed that it was possible as well.

After doing drama for my GCSE’s and at A level, I finally went on to do 4 years at Northumbria to study drama. Where I spent 2 years hating the subject and really enjoying the last 2. It was during the last 2 that I found a buzz for performing again, and a buzz for making and writing my own work which was very new to me. And after graduating (which is nearly 2 years ago) I decided to make a career as a freelancer in this mad industry.

Katie Jarvis making her own presse drink at Bottlegreen. Wednesday 21st of January 2015

(Bouncers)

So on to this show ‘Blokes, Fellas, Geezers’ – what’s it all about?

The show is about inherited masculinity in the North-East; that is boiled down and filtered through a father/son relationship. It focuses on how boys through to men are told or taught to behave in a specific way that fits a mould of what men in the north-east should be. This is the second time I’m doing the show and what’s been a big focus this time is looking at what makes a father want to project toxic behaviours on to their sons.

I know this is a tough question, but if you could sum the show up in three-words?

Fast, funny, familiar

Who would you like to come and see the show or who do you think it will appeal to?

Anyone from the North-East (I know that’s a massive range haha!). It’s a piece of work that looks at the region as it is now. We see a lot of work from the time when the mining and shipping industry was thriving, and I think it’s nice to make a piece of work that looks at the place in the present.

I think my show will appeal to men of all ages. The performance gives an insight to how men react to their environments and deal with their mental health. You see one character having to live up to a reputation laid out by his dad. And you see another character struggling to deal with his life and how that affects his relationship with his son.

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Why should people come see Blokes, Fellas, Geezers” on 26th September at Arts Centre Washington?

It gives them a chance to see and explore what’s happening at either side of masculinity. Why young people are growing up and feeling they have to behave in this way and seeing why fully-grown men are behaving this way. It’s a performance that allows us to look at toxic masculinity as a whole rather than just blaming an individual or a group of individuals.

What do you want the audience to take away from seeing your show?

To understand what’s making men tick. A big part of putting the show together has been looking at why people do the things they do and just to leave with that in their heads or the back of their heads. We’re quick to judge and write people off, but just to open up, reflect and think why?

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How do you feel about the pressure to behave in a “masculine” way?

It’s concerning. Because men, no matter what age, feel like this is an appropriate way of dealing with how they feel, because they’ve been told that any other way is a sign of weakness. And you’re left with men dealing with their issues in damaging ways; which sometimes goes on to affect their relationships with family and friends as well as themselves. I think there’s more out there now to try and break that “Grow some balls” stereotype with men’s mental health groups and its presence in the media; but still think there’s stacks more to be done.

What’s your advice to young men still trying to figure stuff out?

Look after yourselves and your pals; always check in on each other. It’s a proper man thing to struggle on with dealing with your mental health and one of your mates will be as well, and I’ve seen that from either side.  But being more open will make it easier as you grow up. And I suppose its finding who you are and not feeling you have to live up to an outdated stereotype. And not being afraid to admit you’ve gotten it wrong. I can’t count many times I’ve done something and I realised that I’ve been a dickhead. It’s about realising we’ve made mistakes, and stopping ourselves and pals from making them again.

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Tell me about your work before this show?

This is my first one – my first solo show. So this is me bairn I suppose.

I co-wrote and performed in a piece with Cameron Sharp who is one third of Bonnie and the Bonnets called ‘Wank Buddies’. It looks at 2 lads, one gay, one straight, at a Uni house party and how they are very similar as people and how their sexualities have dictated a journey against each other.

I co-wrote and performed in a little project called ‘Two Heads, One Shirt’ with Andrea Scrimshaw that looked at genders in sport and how men and women’s sports are regulated differently.

In the spring I performed in a belter show called ‘Isolation’ written by Elijah Young, which looked at a group of students in a struggling school, and how their home lives and other issues affect their relationships with one another.

jj  (Two Heads, One Shirt)

What do you think the difference between solo performing and performing with others?

I much prefer working with others. The first time I did this show for 90% of time I was by myself for writing and performing. It’s so much more enjoyable to share your time writing and rehearsing with people. ‘Wank Buddies’ with Cameron was class craic, we spent a lot of time in the making phase of the show and it was mint to share that with someone.

With ‘Isolation’ there was a cast of 8 which was great because you get to see what people are doing differently in rehearsal room so it’s a good learning experience, as well having 7 other people to put up with my shit banter ha.

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(Wank Buddies)

This is the second outing of this show, what are you doing with it this time?

Yeah, I’ve made a lot of changes to the script which are going to be good to play with. I’ve also gotten funding to build a team up, so it’s nice to see what we can do to make the performance more than just me on stage with cardboard boxes. Scott Young from Odd Man Out is directing, he’s also been helping me with the writing, so it’s good to bring another head into the show as well to see what we can do with it.

As a freelancer like me, you’ll have a million different hats on…what else are you up to alongside Blokes, Fellas, Geezers?

I’ve been getting ready to work with November Club, who’ve got a project at the Lit and Phil, which is really exciting. Following on from Wank Buddies, Cameron and I, along with Jack Lloyd, Dan Watson and Elijah Young have looked at making a piece as a group that focuses on male mental health set in a super market. Its working title is “The Meat Aisle” which is subject to change though and its very early doors.

Also ‘Wank Buddies’ goes back out on a tour next year which is exciting; I cannot wait for that.

Other than that, it’s been reading plays and going to auditions. Just trying to keep busy.

Wank Buddies written and perfomed by Jake Jarratt and Cameron Sharp in Elevator Festival 19 at Live Theatre 7

(Wank Buddies)

What is your highlight of 2019 so far?

Oooo ermm. Doing Elevator at Live Theatre was great; I’d love to do that over again. I enjoyed taking Blokes, Fellas, Geezers down to Hull and Farsley. It was nice to get outside of the North-East and take my work outside the region.

What’s next for 2020?

2020 see’s WB come back out and hopefully go to a venue in London. I’ve never performed in London so it be nice to tick that off the list. I will probably end up spending about £100 bar on a sandwich.

After WB I want to spend some time focusing on writing. I enjoy writing, but BFG and WB have been done under a pressure to get them out in time for a show. I want to spend some time getting better and learning more about the writing process. I don’t have a writing back ground, so I think it be nice to take some time to just focus on that.

Saying that, I also want to focus on my performing; looking at working with more theatre companies as an actor. And I want to look at working outside the region more in theatre or film. I find I learn more watching and hearing from other performers and it be belter to get in these spaces more often.

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Well thanks Jake!

So Blokes, Fellas, Geezers is coming to Arts Centre Washington on 26th September and is the first show on this tour run….you can get your tickets here! Exciting new theatre from an exciting lush new theatre maker…..

It’s also on a three shows for £15 special, if you fancy making a habit of Arts Centre Washington Theatre shenanigans on a Thursday night!

AWC Whats On Autumn Insta 3

There are other dates for shows too if you can’t make it including 5th October at Gala Theatre .

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