Ones to Watch: Natasha Sutton-Williams
Natasha is a playwright, an actor and a journalist. She wrote, composed and performed her one woman musical show about Sigmund Freud to rave reviews and will be taking it to Edinburgh this year.
Congratulations on being featured as one of Hiive’s ‘Ones to Watch’! Can you introduce yourself and your creative work/interests?
I’m interested in silly things, sexy things and grotesque things. When I write or perform there is always a balancing act as I try to discover how much quim and poo I can get an audience to happily swallow. I find using songs and puppets help. I am eager to keep people in their seats, so my work is ultimately commercial while still (sometimes screamingly, sometimes subtly) full of envelope pushing material.
Freud The Musical is a great example. It's got a solid commercial hook, it's filled with toe tapping numbers but the high point of the show is an extended riff on shoving rats up your anus. It totally works. Audiences love it and I get a buzz out of winning over people who never thought they would find a puppet singing about poo remotely funny. When I played the King’s Head Theatre last summer they invited me back for an extended run.
It can be tough. I have a piece called Prone to Mischief that I performed at the Old Red Lion Theatre. It’s a hugely comic piece but at the same time shows awful things happening to the protagonist. I am out there alone performing it, holding onto the truth of how this character is really harming herself and people are laughing. But I can’t blame them. I wrote all the gags.
I have started performing a monologue called Clown Sex at comedy clubs. It started off as a monologue from a full length play at Arcola Theatre. It's interesting to see how comedy audiences are happy to laugh at a man licking out an obese clown, while in a theatre setting some audience members were worried I was body shaming an imaginary circus worker.
What are you currently working on?
I’m writing a play set in 1610 on the streets of Bankside, London. It’s about a sexually repressed homosexual shoemaker who invents the high heel but wants only men to wear them. It looks at the intersection between homophobia and misogyny. I want to portray sex without it being simply titillating or bawdy. I am looking for a frankness in the way we discuss sex and its place in the wider social and economic currents of our lives.
Don’t tell anyone but I’ve just started on a secret project about a famous fallen TV icon. I can’t say much but we are going to use ‘80’s and ‘90s pop tunes and see how far we can subvert the popular appeal of the jukebox musical.
As I mentioned, I’m doing the rounds of the London comedy circuit performing my show Clown Sex. The next performance will be on 7 March at Royal Vauxhall Tavern, lovingly hosted by Bar Wotever.
I will also be taking my one-woman show Freud The Musical up to Edinburgh this year which is going to be a blast!
What are your future creative ambitions?
My ultimate goal is to write and perform one of my musicals on the Royal Albert Hall stage. I have performed there several times with Crouch End Festival Chorus, but I would LOVE to perform my own work there. When you’re in a chorus of a hundred singers, it’s not so scary. When you are in a small cast performing your own work, it would be terrifying!
I also want to save the children. Maybe it's all the work with puppets but I feel I’ve got a great kid’s show in me. Besides, kids already think poo is funny. Maybe they are my perfect audience.
What advice would you give people aspiring to work in a similar creative field?
Whatever creative industry you are in you can get caught up in what other people think of you and your work. It can get dark. The most important thing is that you genuinely want to create work. If you want to make things and enjoy the process, you’re golden. If you are caught up in what is fashionable, who is working where, why haven’t I got my work on, why does nobody love me, you’re in trouble. The work is the thing. Are you in it for the long haul?
If you can find people you trust and are excited by their ideas, work with them. It’s easier said than done. Solid working relationships and friendships take a long time to build, but they are worth it.
Treat people the way you want to be treated. You will meet the same faces going up the greasy ladder as you will coming down!
Try and get your work out there as regularly as possible. You never know who is going to be your audience. The more doors you knock on, the more likely one will open. In theatre, you learn so much by putting the work on its feet in front of an audience. Don’t let it sit on the page. Get it out there! You will learn a huge amount from the process.
To keep up to date with Natasha, you can follow her on Twitter.