Boots is a play written by Sacha Voit and Jessica Butcher, making its return to the West End at The Bunker, alongside a dynamic female-led team. The play was first put on in March last year. It portrays the story of two women (played by Tanya Loretta Dee and Amanda Boxer) who find their voice, and face their fears through each others company, despite coming from very contrasting backgrounds. In a society which often teaches women to compete rather than come together; productions like this are very refreshing.
I had the opportunity to speak to Tanya Loretta Dee, who plays the character of Willow, all about what Boots means in the wider context of London’s theatre.
What does it mean to have a female-led production a centre for London’s contemporary theatre?
“It’s definitely important, not just for female group performers, for example Donmar Warehouse’s Shakespeare company, but also for the production side to be acknowledged as female-led. This includes female sound and lighting directors, [these roles] are still often thought of as male led.
When you create work with a group of women, magic happens. There’s a lot of freedom, and release in the work; as well as trust and healing. This is apparent in the play, and it’s important that we start this type of work. And it has started to an extent. There’s plenty of female-led companies in mid-scale theatre. We still have a lot of work to do mainstream, but we’re starting at the bottom and pushing through!
The Bunker Theatre have a really strong season. It’s an all-female and very inclusive period, and they’ve done an amazing job. They have people of colour producing many different shows.”
In the current political climate, female empowerment programs rising to the forefront and movements such as me-too, what statement does Boots make in that context?
“Not everyone has found their voice yet, and what Me Too is a brilliant campaign. What it has done is given people the empowerment to speak out. Some people don’t know how to do that or what it means. That has to start from education and trust.
Boots is all about building female friendships, relationships and trust. The connection that we need to have as women to work together and to understand each other, understand what it means to be a woman whilst acknowledging various privileges. Hopefully, at the end women acknowledge that they need their female friends. At the end Liz and Willow, come together through education and love.”
What it does is show that once you have that trust with women, you are then able to educate them. Through that education you are able to talk, and learn, and grow. You can speak out, but only with that trust.
“That what the play’s all about. About how we do build that trust with people who are very different to us. How do we connect with people who aren’t our age, colour or race?
Does it always work? – no. But through it all, there is something so powerful about the female connection.
That what the play is all about – liberating women through this profound connection.”
How would you encourage young women, particularly of colour, to get more involved with theatre?
“I would say, finding a woman or man who is an actor as a mentor, and listening to what they have to say. Many people of colour involved in theatre are very open to young people, or anyone (of colour) coming together and asking or giving for help.
There’s also loads of companies that are starting up, like Blacktress, Bossy Tribe Critics of Colour. There are many people who are willing to give that help. Know that if you’re a person of colour, your story is important.
Also research! What groups are being set up, what workshops are there. I started by going to Triforce nights, which was set up by people of colour. Find your tribe!”
How does Boots discuss intergenerational friendships, and how can we tackle loneliness in the elderly?
“There are many groups and retirement communities that call out for people to visit those affected. There’s a huge call for volunteers to offer support to those affected by loneliness. The character, Liz, though she lives with her husband, she still feels very lonely. She finds comfort in Willow, which is a great message for this community, and encouraging towards intergenerational friendships.”
Boots is on at The Bunker (London Bridge) from 19 February – 16 March.Tickets are available from www.bunkertheatre.com and are priced at £19.50 (£15 for concessions). Also, for each performance ten £10 tickets are released for under 30s.