Q&A - Robyn Grant (Buzz: A New Musical)

Up and coming theatre company Fat Rascal is currently shocking audiences at the Drayton Arms Theatre with their audacious show Buzz: The Musical, a feminist piece which celebrates women's independence and sexuality. The show has already made waves, having received a slew of positive reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer, and it looks set to wave waves in London too. 

Having just opened the show, Robyn Grant (actress and writer of Buzz: A New Musical) talks about her 'naughty little world changing musical' and perfectly sums up the ongoing need for feminist theatre which celebrates woman and normalised women's sexuality.

It’s so exciting to see a young theatre company producing such interesting, socially relevant content. How did Fat Rascal Theatre form?
Fat Rascal Theatre was formed by myself and a collection of East 15 graduates in 2015. A fat rascal is a large scone popular in the north of England and we hold the same values. Affordable, hearty and soul filling. We're using the very accessible mediums of musical theatre and comedy to get more people engaged in thought-provoking theatre. So often people are put off by political theatre as they feel it's not for them and we hope to change that!

How did the history of a vibrator become the basis for a new musical?
I started research on the vibrator after watching the 2011 film 'Hysteria' and was amazed that I had never heard this incredible story before. As I dug deeper I discovered research on the dildo all the way back to the Stone Age. So often I get asked 'why do we need a musical about the history of the vibrator?' I'll tell you why. Because it's about so much more than that. It's about the untold story of female sexual oppression through the ages and how finally, in 2016, it's beginning to be ok for a woman to stand up and say "I am a sexual being and I don't have a man". And it's a musical because we're British and if it wasn't done through silly songs we'd all run away and cry and make cups of tea just to do something with our hands.

Buzz: A New Musical is a feminist piece of theatre which explores female sexuality. Despite progress in this area, it is still quite a taboo subject. To what extent do you think that female sexuality is a controversial topic today?
The British attitude to sex is ridiculous. We're still generally an embarrassed nation, especially when you get out of our big cities. We need to talk about sex and sexuality, women need to feel like they can be sexual beings in the same way that men can. The difference in acceptance of male masturbation and female masturbation is odd. Funnily enough, it's mainly women that have the problem with it! There’s a lot of shame and embarrassment around the topic. Some girls I spoke to told me ‘Well I don’t need to masturbate, I have a boyfriend”. Female sexuality is always associated with the pleasure or approval of a man. If a woman dresses provocatively or openly discusses her sexuality she is seen as an easy target for men or to be desiring their attention. 

How will Buzz: A New Musical help to challenge the negative and tabooed perceptions of female sexuality?
Buzz explores the little known fact that women have been masturbating since the beginning of time. As technology has advanced so has our ability to do so. People have to know that in the 70's the magic wand wasn't just thought up it was developed after thousands of years of prototypes. The clitoris hasn't suddenly popped out recently. Our grandmothers didn't wake up one morning and think 'gosh what's that between my legs'. Only recently has the clitoris been properly studied. Why in sex education aren't kids taught about it? Why do we watch cartoons of women laying on their back, taking a few hefty pumps to make a baby when our bodies are so much more capable than that? If anything women are designed to be able to have more sex than men and for pleasure rather than just function! Buzz explores the sexual women of history and will hopefully make the women of today feel a little more comfortable about it all knowing that it is and always has been perfectly normal. 

Do you think that the subject of female sexuality becoming more visible in theatre today?
I think that feminism is currently a 'hot topic' and thus we are seeing more work on female sexuality. However it's still seen as, 'a feminist work' rather than just 'a show about a woman and not a man'. Until there are just as many female parts and feminist theatre is just the norm there is a problem. At the moment it all still feels a little "I went to see a feminist play, aren't I cultured, now off I pop to watch five west end shows with majority male casts where a woman with nice legs might appear for the men to fight over and I won't bat an eyelid because that's normal'. But that's commercial theatre for you! It sells. The Brits like their classics. And until investors and producers become brave enough to put on risky 'feminist work' in a commercial setting this won't change. 

And as such, is feminist theatre is becoming more accessible? 
Slowly yes. However there's still a major problem within our industry. From the second you start drama classes in school it’s blatantly obvious there are more girls interested in acting than boys, this continues at drama school auditions and then into the industry. Despite this however there are far fewer opportunities for women and therefore we have become very disposable in modern theatre. This is not true only for actors, but for technicians, writers, composers, directors, and producers. In professional theatre there are hardly any women in positions of power. Women not only compete for less jobs but are judged on an entirely different scale. Because of the sheer number of women, casting directors can be as picky as they like and sadly it all comes down to appearance. Things are changing slowly, we are seeing more and more fantastic female artists emerging and I just hope that by creating a show for women, about women, by women, I can do my little bit.

The musical’s protagonist Angie seems like an everywoman, who audiences will relate to. Is she based on anyone in particular?
Angie is a little bit of me and a little bit of what I feel represents a woman of 2016. She's a voice for our generation of women, a real, honest one. A 22-year-old Miranda Hart. Allie Munro who plays Angie is a wonderful comedic actress who pours a lot of herself into the role too. She's gorgeous and she's hilarious and she doesn't have to self deprecate to be so. I think everybody will be able to see a bit of themselves in Angie and will at least once turn to their friend and say 'Oh my god I've done that!"

What’s next for the musical? 
I'd love to tour Buzz around the UK, especially up to the North. London is so spoilt with its vast variety of theatre whereas the rest of the country is treated to another revival of Oklahoma. When Buzz went to Leeds in Edinburgh previews we got such an amazing response. Theatre in every variety needs to be accessible for everyone. But in short nothing's confirmed yet. Pretty certain we're gonna get loads of dollar and arena tour it by January, but every day at a time. In the words of Cher, 'You haven't seen the last of me' or my naughty little world changing vibrator musical.

You can catch Buzz: A New Musical at the Drayton Arms Theatre, Tuesdays to Fridays until 29th October. Visit the Drayton Arms Theatre website for more information and to book tickets.