Bristol Old Vic present a series of ‘works in progress’ theatre productions as part of their Ferment Fortnight — a celebration of Bristol’s local performance artists, directors and producers. Opening on Wednesday 20 January, Ferment Fortnight kicks off with a double bill of entertainment, featuring abstract performance artist Viki Browne.
Viki Browne has performed her work at venues including Exeter’s Bikeshed Theatre, Camden People’s Theatre and Bristol Old Vic. Her approach is often unafraid and courageous – presenting taboo subjects and the controversial aspects of life that others are more likely to shy away from. Since the age of seven, Viki has always wanted to pursue a career in acting, as she recently discovered from an old diary entry:
“To be honest, if I wasn’t making performance work I don’t know what I’d do! I recently found a diary of mine from when I was 7 years old and on the front page where it asks what you want to be when you are older I have written ‘actress’.” Viki explains.
She went on to study drama at university and found her strengths to be in conceiving scenes for the stage. It is this element of her work that allows her to control multiple aspects of the performance, which appeals to her healthy hunger for life:
“I’m a little greedy really.” She says. “I have alway been fascinated by people, and the way people’s brains work. I particularly love people watching in a busy cafe or a public place and guessing things about people’s lives. Our own brains can feel so complex and confusing and every single person carries this breadth of experiences and feelings with them wherever they go – I find this fascinating.”
Viki has used this curiosity for the human condition to fuel her script writing and performance. Communicating personal experience and serving it up in a universally resonate way, Viki’s shows often draw on real-world events, including her production Flood which was inspired by the 2012 floods in the south west (specifically Exeter) of the UK. She combines these current and relevant themes with a collage of performance art, stand up comedy, spoken word and cabaret. Every show is unique, and a sensory experience brought to life with incredible displays merging bold lighting, pop culture and original dialogue between herself and her audience.
“I tend to make work about whatever is happening to me at the time. I made that show with my partner Jac because we were out for a curry and got stranded by the floods. My work since then has also engaged with things that are happening to me at the time, my own relationship with anxiety and depression in HELP! and the death of my gran in The Gran Show.” Viki explains the inspirations behind her work.
“My art teacher told me that she thought something funny happened to my brain when I worked on my own in the art rooms.”
Her latest production, The Gran Show opens at Bristol Old Vic on Wednesday 20 January as part of Ferment Fortnight. A eulogy to her own Gran who passed away, Viki explores universal themes through the lens of personal experience. Inviting you to explore the complexities of loss, life and saying goodbye, Viki Draws on personal experience and family history. Her work is always surprising and threatens to challenge our embedded beliefs. Prepare for the unexpected, and leave your preconceptions at the door.
Viki historically is someone who has generated her truest creative ideas when working in a solitary space, yet there is a certain contradiction apparent when we watch her perform on stage. Someone who is able to focus on her art and bring it to an audience filled with strange faces, takes a lot of compartmentalising – yet, this would appear to be just another facet of Viki’s personality:
“Viki on stage is just a different version of myself. For me, that is what makes my performance ‘art’ rather than theatre, because I’m not attempting to play a character. Though The Gran Show might be the first exception to that rule.” Viki says.
Working at the Arnolfini coffee shop by day, Viki is immersing herself in Bristol’s theatre and arts scene, after moving to Bristol from London just last year:
“I moved to Bristol because I wanted to be part of a community of artists. Making solo performance can be pretty lonely, so I want to be part of a community that looks out for one another and in turn feeds the artistic capacity of the city in which they live.” Viki explains.
“I regularly use recognisable images from pop culture in my work as a vessel with which to talk about taboo subjects.”
Her work normally evolves in the moment as opposed to having a rigid structure at the outset. Working in an episodic way, Viki begins with a loose theme which then takes shape as she pieces the jigsaw together. She draws on various stimuli, as she explains:
“I regularly use recognisable images from pop culture in my work as a vessel with which to talk about taboo subjects such as death. I also feel that humour is one of the most important tools as a way to access and engage with difficult topics. I generally think that the more I am able to absorb from the media and other sources, the richer my voice. It’s my job to find unusual and surprising ways to link and connect these to personal experience.”
Viki’s personal inspirations include satirist performance artist Bobby Baker, Selina Thompson and Sylvia Rymat (also based in Bristol, though originally from Barcelona). Yet, it is that lived experience that really ignites Viki’s imaginative capacities and sparks the idea of her productions, including her latest The Gran Show to take place at Bristol Old Vic. Taking her cue from physical remnants left behind from her own Grandmother’s life, Viki has morphed these elements into her show, bringing photographs, props and direct dialogue from her Grandmother’s life.
“I have been engaging a lot with the concept of remains and how we use and respond to the remains left by someone once they have passed away. Their physical traces in descendants and belongings as well as the memories they leave us with. I hope that I will pay tribute to her though re-representation and re-performance of her remains, one of which is me.” Viki explains the process of creating The Gran Show concept.
The Gran Show (as written and performed by Viki Browne) will be showing at Bristol Old Vic at 8.15pm on Wednesday 20 January.
For more information on Viki Browne: www.vikibrowne.com
To purchase tickets for The Gran Show and any of the Ferment Fortnight shows at Bristol Old Vic: www.bristololdvic.org
All images © Matt Austin.