Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?
The Hairy Godmothers consists of a motley crew of Perth’s (Western Australia) creatives, coming from a diverse range of backgrounds including lawyers, engineers, PhD graduates, theatre managers, science teachers, poets and yogis.
We started the group in 2019 as a group of friends coming together to have some fun and write a Fringe show. Now we’ve created our own fairy-tale and quit our jobs to live the life of touring artists writing, producing and performing our shows to audiences around the world.
What’s great about your job?
There’s many we could talk into, but we love having a chat and interacting with audience members after our shows. Learning what resonated with them in the show, taking photos, and having a laugh.
What are the bits you don’t like or find challenging?
For every hour we’re on stage there’s probably 10 hrs or more of admin work to go with it! Thankfully we all chip in and share the load but there can definitely be stressful periods when we have many balls up in the air.
What are the highlights of your career to date?
The first performance of any show is always a highlight. Some of our cast members had never sung live on stage or been a part of a choreographed dance before, so taking on new challenges and learning and growing as performers is exciting for us.
We’ve been able to tour all around Australia and now coming to the UK which is very exciting, and definitely a highlight too!
Could you tell us how The Hairy Godmother creative collective works and functions? How do you decide what to do, who contributes what, and how is the workload split?
Great question! We’re not a conventional performance group by any means. There are 8 Hairy Godmothers, as well as additional cast/crew that we get on board for specific seasons. Of the 8 group members we make ALL decisions together, have no designated director and share all the tasks based on skill sets, interest to learn a task or just because it needs to get done.
This can sometimes mean it’s a longer process to make decisions, but we are curious humans and love learning and growing both as performers and people. It also makes the journey very rewarding!
You’re bringing two shows to Brighton Fringe. How would you describe them?
Dizney in Drag: Once Upon a Parody is a hilarious and nostalgic comedy-musical that takes fairytale favourites (like never seen before) on a hero’s journey of trying to find one true love. The show is a tongue-and-cheek cabaret that covers topical subjects in a playful, curious and adult themed way!!!
WET is a cathartic cabaret with heart. The five female-identifying cast members from HGM dive deep into the themes of what it is to be a woman through song, comedy, dance, poetry and so much more. You’ll be wet in all the right ways in the emotive, sexy and explorative journey of femininity and womanhood!
Why did you decide to do two shows? Are there benefits or drawbacks to the decision?
Although the two shows are very different in the style and storyline, they both aspire to educate through entertainment. We, as performers and individuals, are passionate about the topics we discuss in the shows. We love creating artistic expressions that catalyse discussions within others and normalise vulnerability and individuality.
Having a large percentage of performers in both shows, in front or behind the scenes, makes it very beneficial. However, there can be some long days if both shows are opening on the same day! Always worth it though!
With WET, why did you change its name? And what should an audience expect from the show?
Originally WET was called PUSSY. A very provocative name but we wanted a bold statement as the show is very bold. However, after a year of running the show and touring it outside of our home town of Perth (Western Australia), we quickly found that social media didn’t particularly like the name PUSSY which made it very hard to market to new audiences. There was also a large stigma around the word which we unpack in the show, however with initial impressions some people were getting deterred. We wanted to make a statement while still making it approachable so WET was chosen!
Thinking about Dizney In Drag, it feels that drag has become a politically charged issue, especially in the US. Do you have a perception of any societal shifts around drag, and can you talk to its continued importance?
We are by no means a traditional drag show, but we have started to observe drag becoming more accessible and well known by people of all backgrounds which is very exciting.
I had a really interesting and unique upbringing in that I spent my late teens and early twenties choreographing and dancing for the Drag Queens in Perth. It was very common over a decade ago for my friends and family to have never seen a Drag Queen in person and believe in inaccurate stereotypes e.g. that everyone who does Drag is gay, they are always mean and/or only lip sync their songs. Now everyone I know regardless of their background, sexuality & age has a better understanding of the diversity of Drag and celebrates it as an art form.
We love standing for the fact that cross-dressing doesn’t need to be a commentary on your sexuality. Anyone is allowed to cross dress, it’s a form of self-expression!
Did Covid-19 change the way you create work? Do you approach shows with a different mentality now?
We were fortunate in Australia that we were able to continue some of our work. However, it was a very bizarre experience performing to a crowd of masked people at reduced capacities. We had to add in a lot of hand sanitiser for any crowd interactions! The fact we still got to perform was a blessing though.
With writing new shows, we have an awareness of what we may need to change to make it more approachable and safer for everyone. We have always been very strong on consent, so we won’t be sitting on any audience members without asking first!!
What was your career path into this job? Have you also worked outside the arts?
We have a very diverse background within our group. I personally came from a background of Science with a PhD in health psychology and exercise physiology, although dancing and performing was my part-time job the whole way through my degrees. Others in our group have come from jobs such as engineering, law, podiatry, venue management, piano teaching, yoga teaching and many more! We’ve only just quit our jobs to travel around the world performing, so we really are living in a fairy-tale at the moment.
We were all creative in different ways before starting The Hairy Godmothers and had a range of performance experience, from seasoned performers to individuals that had never been on stage acting, singing and dancing before. Being friends, we could support, mentor and cheerlead each other in areas that we weren’t confident or skilled at. It’s a reminder that with persistence and encouragement anything is possible.
How has your background, upbringing and education had an impact on your artistic career?
As you can tell by now, we have a very vast range of upbringings! I believe it complements our art though as we look at topics and performances from a different perspective. We want to educate as well as entertain so we dive deep into topics with research and investigation, so that we can be accurate as well as playful and fun in our messaging. In WET for example, Emma, one of our cast members, researched the history of the clitoris and has a whole song (7 min long) dedicated to the history of the clitoris and all the researchers that have contributed to what we now know about it!
Did you have any role models or inspirations growing up?
Powerful women that have made notable changes on and off the screen like Marilyn Monroe, who was super business savvy and an incredible leader in sexual expression, and Mae West, who started her career late on in life showing that anyone can start at any age are, are two of my personal idols.
In terms of recent role models, Natalie Portman is up there with acting idols! Her versatility in acting styles and portraying emotions, as well as commitment to roles is incredible and definitely inspiring.
Can you describe your biggest challenge so far in your career? How did you overcome it?
The relationship you have with self is one of the biggest challenges and triumphs as you move from a critic of your own artistic expression to the biggest cheerleader.
I personally had always wanted to be a dancer and actress but because I spent 10yrs at university and was in my mid-20’s before I really started identifying myself as a ‘performer’ I thought I was too ‘old’ to really ‘make it’. Turns out I was wrong on that one. The more I learnt and researched actors' ages and the more encouragement I received from others to follow my dreams, the more I believed that I could. Acting and performing is just about being human and connecting others through a shared sense of humanity. So here I am in my 30’s now fully identifying as an actress and a dancer which I love!
Have you had a mentor anytime during your career, and if so, how has having one made a difference?
I’ve never had a specific mentor, but I seek out skill sets that I am lacking or want to improve. As a group we encourage each other to seek out personal development, it’s like any other business and job, we need to keep learning and growing as artists to improve. Each member in the group has an area of interest that they excel at and want to contribute to the group or an area of weakness that they want to bring up to a high quality, so we hire professionals to assist us on our personal and group goals and aspirations.
Are there any online support spaces you’re a part of, and if so, how have they helped you?
When we’re touring our greatest allies are other Australian performers that have walked a similar walk to us. Companies like Head First Acrobats (Godz & Creme le la Creme) and Showmen Productions (Adults Only Magic Show) have contributed to us as a company and supported us when we’ve had questions. Typically, every festival we go to will also have an artist’s support group as well. Reaching out to like-minded individuals with similar experiences makes it really relatable, bonding and impactful.
Have you noticed any changes in the industry? If so, what?
It’s always hard to comment on an industry as a whole. We definitely noticed the year that COVID hit. Artists were forced to get creative with their art and transfer it to online mediums or changed career paths until the storm calmed. It’s been really heart-warming and exciting to see things returning to a new normal. Being able to openly hug other artists without fearing one of you will have a 2-week show run cancelled if you catch COVID off each other, or being able to interact with audience members after a show rather than being held back behind a 1.5m line after the show. We do performance to make relatable art that others can connect with, so being separate from that was hard!
You’ve been granted the ability to send a message to 16-year-old you. What do you say?
There’s no ‘one way’ of getting to where you want to be. You’re going to have a unique, creative and interesting pathway that’s going to allow you to meet a lot of fascinating people and go on some crazy adventures around the world. Enjoy the ride and don’t get too caught up on the end goal.
Do you have any advice for young people interested in doing your kind of job?
I’d actually say this advice to any age group because whether you're a teenager or you're 60+, if you want to be creative then age, experience or background shouldn’t stop you from being creative. Creativity and self-expression are inherently human. No one in the world is like you and can give the unique perspective on the human experience that you can, so don’t be scared to be seen and heard. There’ll be someone out there that resonates with the message that you want to give to the world. That’s the beauty of art.
Where can people find, follow and like you online?
Questions answered by Dr. Jae West on behalf of The Hairy Godmothers (Insta: @dr.jae_west)