“Approaching exam term, this type of good-natured theatre can only be appreciated”Abby From Primeval Made Me Gay Company

Growing up is messy. Really messy. Even the happiest child imaginable will experience their fair share of heartbreak, unfortunate hairstyles, and healthy doses of self-loathing. In fact, the only thing tougher than growing up is reminiscing about it afterwards; I still want to assume the foetal position every time I think about 13 year-old me, with her side parting, Fallout Boy obsession, and unrequited crush on someone her friends codenamed ‘Purple’ (don’t even). After meeting with the directorial team behind Wednesday’s Corpus Playroom late show, I feel reassured that I am not alone. Abby From Primeval Made Me Gay is a show that explores how we become the people we are today and who helps us to get there, with the reassuring message that growing up is messy for everyone.

It’s a deceptively simple idea. Over the course of an hour, six performers will stand up and share a story about someone who had a real impact on their lives. The show’s compere and director Billie Collins likes to describe it as “a scrapbook” or “show and tell for adults”. Interspersed between the monologues is a collage of other material from the performers’ lives. Collins explains: “we had a big group session where we all got together and looked through old diaries, home videos, poems. It was really wholesome, really funny, really cringey.”

For one night only, audience members will share in performers’ most personal moments and formative relationships

Collins was inspired to put on Abby From Primeval Made Me Gay after watching Netflix series Mortified, a filmed stage show in which adults read their teenage diaries to a packed theatre. “There’s something very human about it,” she reflects, “as an audience member you think, ‘that didn’t happen to me, but I know what it feels like.’” Other appropriate comparisons might be photoblog Humans of New York or BBC Radio 4’s My Teenage Diary. In all these projects, snapshots from a stranger’s life allow us to see in others the quirks and vulnerabilities we usually fight to conceal in ourselves. Collins believes that true stories make particularly powerful live performances, joking that “You’re never going to watch Hamlet and think ‘I remember the time I killed my uncle.’”

The challenge of bringing true stories to the stage has forced the creative team to rethink the directorial process. Associate Director Caroline Yu explains, “it’s difficult to rehearse something that’s true and personal. As directors, we can’t say ‘can you emote this line a bit differently’ because then we’re telling someone how to feel about their experiences. It’s up to performers to express what they’re feeling in the moment. Every run-through has been different.” It was clearly important for the team to create an atmosphere of trust and support. While stories inevitably had to be edited, performers always had control over how their experiences were represented. Associate Director Mariam Abdel-Razek reflects, “it’s been interesting to see what the cast insist on. Some things we’ve negotiated. Sometimes they’ll put their foot down, and for us that’s fine. It’s their story, it’s up to them.”


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In our conversation, the word ‘wholesome’ comes up a lot, and it is apparent that this ‘wholesomeness’ stems from the show’s pathos as much as its comedy. Abdel-Razek explains that, even during its most moving moments, the show is “wholesome because you can see the performer and you know they’re doing fine. You think, ‘they survived that,’ and that’s what makes it wholesome.” Approaching exam term, this type of good-natured theatre can only be appreciated. Collins agrees that audience members should expect to learn about themselves as well as the performers, commenting that “the whole thing should just feel like you’ve been brought into someone’s living room and you’re having a chat.”

Abby From Primeval Made Me Gay is a show about people, making this simple yet ambitious project relevant to us all. For one night only, audience members will share in performers’ most personal moments and formative relationships, and in turn be prompted to reflect on their own. Yu emphasises the universality of the show, commenting: “we all have those people and those diary entries or Facebook status’ from years back.” What better antidote to our embarrassing histories than to laugh, cringe, and celebrate them together?

Abby From Primeval Made Me Gay is on at the Corpus Playroom on Wednesday 25 April

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