Interview with Artistic Director and Theatre Producer, Molly Pharo

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I’m delighted to share with you this interview with the very talented Molly Pharo, Artistic Director and theatre producer for Magic Maverick– talking about Magic Maverick’s new and innovative take on fairytales and feminism. Drum roll please…

Hello Molly, and welcome to The Breathing Ghosts Series Blog. For those not familiar with Magic Maverick, can you tell us a little bit about it? 

Hi thanks for having me 🙂 I am the Artistic Director and Producer for a theatre company called Magic Maverick. We are a company of 4 who are Music Director Rhys Cook, Art Director Laura Gwen Miles, Schools and Engagement Director Helen White and myself. We are all working artists in different fields and have come together to make our first show Moonshine’s Entirely Necessary Adventure. We are still finding out who we are through rehearsals but our work is strongly influenced by fantasy, 1930s and silent film aesthetics and cabaret. We use live original music, storytelling and shadow puppetry to tell enchanting stories that are designed to empower audiences.

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Can you explain a little bit about your new show, Moonshine’s Entirely Necessary Adventure?  

Moonshine has come to life through a long series to experimentation. It began as a solo poetry show that I did in 2013 called Shipwrecked, An Entirely Necessary Adventure which told the story of a girl who lived on a broken boat with an overbearing scarecrow. At the same time me and Laura were working together on a cabaret piece at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern in London and decided to develop this story into something more substantial. I then wrote Moonshine as a children’s book and now two years later we have a story which is beautiful and complex and has come very far from Moonshine stuck in her boat. The show now follows the story of Moonshine, a girl of thirteen with silver skin who escapes the enchanting yet oppressive forest she grew up in to journey into what it means to be yourself. On her quest she meets pirates, mermaids, magicians and fate on this most necessary of adventures.

How are fairy tales used within your show? 

Fairy tales form the basis of the structure of the show, but we also borrow from other genres like fantasy and adventure. We are critical of how the worlds that fairy tales and other forms of storytelling represent women and girls, and question who gets to tell stories historically and who gets to be the hero. As our show is for families (but it’s like a really good kid’s film you could watch as an adult) we present them with a world they are familiar with through the environments of the worlds we create. These are a magical forest, a pirate ship and a mermaid palace but we present complex female characters.

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Do you think that Moonshine is/could be a role model for young women? And if so, in what way and why is this important?

I would love her to be a role model for young women! In the show she is thirteen years old, an age where we are woken from our childhood and find ourselves in a labyrinth of choices and conflicts. The entire show allows Moonshine to always make her own autonomous choices and navigate the fantastical world she throws herself into which is an allegory for the landscape that young women find themselves in at this age, and arguably are in for the rest of their lives. She meets a series of female characters who she emulates and learns from before realising that there isn’t one archetypal woman she can grow up to be, she can be strong, she can be wild, she can be clever, she can be vulnerable, she can always choose to be her whole authentic self.

How is puppetry, animation and verse used within your show?

As we are still a new company we can’t bring in all the elements we would like to during this first tour of Moonshine. But we are a really diverse team in terms of artistic skills, Laura is a stop frame animator, Rhys a professional opera singer, Helen a comedic actress and writer, and we all are making the show together fusing our skills and ideas together. At the moment the show is mainly poetry and live music which we have written but after our first show this week at The Iris Theatre, Covent Garden we are re designing the show to include shadow puppetry and in the future we have ambitions to make it around stop frame animation.

Is it inspired by any particular sources?

It is inspired by so many things! We curated an event at The Feminist Library last Saturday to discuss and share our research and process and between us have such eclectic references. I was hugely inspired by Catherynne Valente’s Fairyland series, Rhys has been reading Sara Maitland’s Gossip From The Forest among a host of literature and academic writing around fairy tales, feminism, folk lore, adventure and fantasy. The show comes from a very playful place in my childhood of pretending my bed was a boat or hot air balloon and going on my own entirely necessary adventures, and watching films like Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Barron Munchausen. But we are finding our own distinctive voice and style and I am really excited to share it with audiences.

How does it deal with the ‘stereotypes’ of women commonly found within fairy tales?

We are interested in deconstructing female archetypes in fairy-tales through Moonshine’s experiences. She meets a series of characters that you may immediately associate with stereotypes- there is Moonshine’s Mother, a witchy woman of the forest, ruthless pirates, clever magicians and sexy mermaids. But Moonshine spends time with each of them and realises that every character is complex and nuanced and that as a girl there are not these flat options for who to grow up to be. The Mother is not evil and over bearing, she loves Moonshine and every decision she makes comes from a place of love, the pirates are led by a woman who is using anger to deal with experiences in her own life, and her first mate is queer. I won’t give away the whole story, but Moonshine uses these experiences to empower herself and make informed choices in her own life, which is something we all can do.

We are touring Moonshine’s Entirely Necessary Adventure and would love to meet some of the Breathing Ghosts readers there! Our first show is this Friday 6th March at The Iris Theatre Covent Garden, tickets can be found here and future dates are on our website.

Thank you Molly!

PLEASE NOTE: All images are copyright of Magic Maverick, and used here with permission.

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