The hunger for space, life, laughter, sex: Interview with Courtney Buchner

"Women often stay small because... taking up space can be horrifically scary and it’s not just a one-time decision. We have to make that decision every time we step into a business meeting, an appointment, a restaurant, our bedrooms."

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Trigger warning: This article refers to eating disorders

Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?

Hiya! I’m Courtney Buchner and I’m an actress, writer, cat obsessed, bookworm. 

Can you give us the typical outline of a day?

Oh, this is so difficult because each day is so different. I think that’s what makes being an artist both simultaneously petrifying and beautiful. 

I tend to be quite a routine based person so when my alarm goes off on a Monday morning and that Monday looks entirely different to the Monday just passed, I can quickly get into a cold, sweat, panic mode and question why I have chosen a career that is so amazingly unpredictable. I actually implemented my own morning routine which I *try* to stick to so I start the day by feeding my cat (Bailey-he’s the best) and meditating before I devour a peanut butter bagel.

From there it depends if I am writing or in a rehearsal but regardless of what I am doing I will always require an oat milk coffee before I start. 

How did you first get into the creative industry? Have you ever worked outside of acting?

I have made a few amazing Oat Milk Latte’s myself as a Barista before going to drama school but in terms of getting into the industry I grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa and after being cast as the Star in the Nativity and given a full on gold Lycra bodysuit, I knew I wanted to be an actress. I did have a minor moment of thinking I was going to be a doctor but that was fleeting (My parents' brief relief… also…fleeting). 

Currently, alongside writing and acting, I mentor young children (particularly young girls) who are struggling with their mental health or are going through Eating Disorder recovery. 

Your current play, ‘Appetite Everywhere’, is a new feminist comedy that explores women's hunger for space, power, sex, food and laughter. Can you talk more about those hungers, and the show itself?

Sure! So “Appetite Everywhere” is an autobiographical comedy piece that started because I wanted to explore how women take up space by looking at my journey through Eating Disorder Recovery. Having an Eating Disorder at a young age taught me a lot about literal hunger as well as this hunger for space, life, laughter, sex. As I went through my recovery, I realised all these pleasures were connected. If I denied one then another also suffered. The show looks at these pleasures/hungers and how we can give ourselves the pleasure of taking up space!

The play follows the story of C from her colonoscopy (yes there is actually a scene where she travels through her intestines) to her discovery that she has an Eating Disorder…She learns that no-one’s whole story is just funny, or pain, or sadness and that admitting that is bloody vulnerable. But important. She learns that in order to take up space she has to share her story, fully, not just the funny bits. And that is vulnerable. But important.

What is your creation process like, and did ‘Appetite Everywhere’ deviate from that at all?c0d7e7c3ca1445e5aedbb112de77942e5d572918.JPG

Ah the creative process! I think my general process is usually: Create something. Panic. Soothe. Show it to a close team. Panic. Soothe. Put it on. 

I think “Appetite Everywhere” definitely followed this path. It was quite ironic because I would laugh with the directors about the fact that I was putting on a show about taking up space and that there I was, in a rehearsal room, stressed about having to take up space. 

My actual creative process tends to start with an image and in this case, it was a woman in a laundry bag. I was really interested in the idea that women often stay small because society tells us it is comfortable and because often there are uncomfortable consequences when women do take up space. Taking up space can be horrifically scary and it’s not just a one-time decision. We have to make that decision every time we step into a business meeting, an appointment, a restaurant, our bedrooms. I wanted to explore that decision and our relationship to taking up space.

Is there anything you’ve learned about yourself while working on these shows, or anything that surprised you?

I learnt that no path is linear both in terms of my own journey trying to take up more space, my recovery and my creative process.

I also can be a person who holds onto a lot of fear and I think the biggest thing I learnt about myself is that I became that person who felt the fear and did it anyway!

Congratulations on selling out at Brighton Fringe! Is this your first time at the Fringe, and how did you find the experience?

Thank you! Yup! It’s my first time at Brighton Fringe and I absolutely loved it! It was really lovely having the chance to do a shorter run with such a supportive atmosphere/audience. I really don’t know if I have ever experienced an audience who was just so actively happy to be in a little black box theatre on a Friday night!

You’re soon taking ‘Appetite Everywhere’ to London (where it’s also already sold out).  How does it feel to finally start being able to tour and perform in person again?

It feels both like I have entered another world and also never left. I spent most of lockdown writing and thinking in my head “Oh this would be great if this looked like that” but now actually getting into a space and seeing it start to come alive has been so exhilarating!

Was there anything positive you saw come during lockdown that you’d like to see continue as we (slowly) start to come out of it?

I think we are so used to rushing, grinding, working hard, never taking a break to reflect but that the lockdown actually gave us this chance to ask ourselves why we do this, what do we really love doing, how can we do this again. I love that a lot of my creative friends are now more selective with their time, their energy, their talents. They value themselves and their skills in a way that makes me feel proud and inspired! It gave us all the time to remind ourselves what amazing things we have to offer! 

And more broadly, what change do you want to see in the industry?

I want to be surprised when I see a top theatre’s line-ups or cast announcements! I want to see a cast of people I have never seen before and who actually reflect our society! I want to see new plays that are vulnerable, that speak about experiences and lives and loves and stories that bond us but that, for some reason, we keep to ourselves! I want to see plays about experiences that I have never had but that help me understand the person sitting next to me. I want to see an industry that makes spaces accessible and stories accessible to everyone. I don’t want to see an industry. I want to see a community. 

What are the parts of your job you love?

I love the fact that I get to play and imagine all the time. I always think “Oh gosh, one day someone woke up played with their toys…and then never played imagination games b03ebd782186f17faf7ca52d5ce042c4b1600245.jpgagain.” I love that I can step into a room and meet new people who want to play too!

And conversely, what do you hate, or struggle with?

Haha…Oh gosh...Vulnerability here I come. I don’t think this is new or rare but I struggle sometimes to not take things personally or so deeply. This career teaches me that some things are not always in our hands. And I struggle with that. I struggle to sit with that disappointment when things don’t seem to align. So many of us dream big…and we should! But sometimes when those dreams don’t seem to be aligning it can be really tough. It can be tough to be resilient.

What is one bit of advice you wished you received before entering the industry?

To be honest, I received this advice from an amazing teacher once but I didn’t believe it or take it in at the time and now it’s something I continuously remind myself of. 

You are the only person who can offer your interpretation of a role. Someone doing something differently doesn’t make you bad or wrong. You are the only person who can write the specific words on a page you chose to write. You are already enough. 

If you could send any message back to your 16-year-old self, what would it be?

Put the laxatives down. 

Oh, and buckle up! Chemistry A level sucks.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Just thank you for your time and energy!

Finally, where can people find you and your work online?

You can follow on Instagram: @AppetiteEverywhere or @Courts2288 or Twitter: @CourtneyBuchner for all updates on where the show will be next!

Author

Tom Inniss

Tom Inniss Voice Team

Tom is the Editor of Voice. He is a politics graduate and holds a masters in journalism, with particular interest in youth political engagement and technology. He is also a mentor to our Voice Contributors, and champions our festivals programme, including the reporter team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

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