Elinor Coleman talked about bringing BABY DADDY to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
I’m an actor born, raised and currently residing in the People’s Republic of Birmingham. I’ve been working in theatre, radio and film since dropping out of drama school many moons ago, but it’s only in the last two years that I started writing and developing my own work- Baby Daddy being the first full length production I’ve created. I also dip my toe in the music world too: singing in a cumbia band and writing some of my own songs when the moment takes me. Some of which you can hear in the show, in fact.

Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
‘Baby Daddy’ is a painfully honest insight into the life of a young single parent, based on my own experiences. The story is performed through a mixture of narrative, spoken word and song, and I am accompanied onstage by a brilliant multi- instrumentalist called Ricardo Rocha. We follow the journey of Ellie, a young lone mother who is struggling with her new found responsibilities and is convinced that the world doesn’t see her family unit as complete. So she sets about to find a father for her child, thinking it will be the answer to all her problems…

How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
I had the idea for the show at the beginning of 2016 after a particularly difficult period in my life. I wanted to do something with what I was feeling so I began writing. In the beginning I wrote about the funny and awful idiosyncracies of being a single parent; all the things that I wish somebody had told me. I teamed up with director Sarah Hamilton Baker and the piece went through several phases of development; including winning the Artist Development prize at Shoot Festival in 2016 before going on to be produced by The Birmingham REP in Autumn 2017.

Over time the story has grown into its complete self, and wider themes have emerged about the nature of family and feeling the pressure to fit your happiness to other people’s expectations. It’s a very frank exploration of some extremely personal things, and picks apart some very painful topics. This said, ultimately, it is a hopeful piece, and one which celebrates single parenthood whilst still giving an audience room to see themselves in a story which may not look exactly like their own.

Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?
Drink water, eat proper food and don’t live on Pro Plus. (Other caffeine tablets are available).

What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
This is technically a backstage story. I was touring with a show a few years ago, a series of one-nighters across the country, and on one particular evening myself and the two other actors were all put in the same dressing room. One of the actors had a pre-show poo, the stench of which seeped out of the toilet and had us gagging as we tried to get dressed and prepare. A massive argument ensued about whether it was morally correct for that actor to have done that poo in that tiny dressing room toilet, having had a curry the night before. And for a moment it looked like the show would not go on. But it did and we’re all still friends. The End.

Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
Too many to name. As an actor I can’t get enough of Emma Thomson and Olivia Colman. For singing inspiration I look to Mexican Wonder Woman Lila Downs. For writing and making work I take my inspiration from all around, but most especially my contemporaries. There are some amazing people making work in Birmingham. Two who I really dig are Francesca Millican Slater (whose podcast ‘Stories to Tell in the Middle of the Night’ is a never ending source of imagination stimulation) and Amahra Spence who makes truly engaging and vital theatre and sings like a dream.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
I do like to do annoying vocal warm ups and maybe have a little dance if I can. Immediately before I go on, I take a few breaths and remind myself to keep it real and send the story out in the truest way that I can.

What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
‘We’ve Got Each Other’ by Paul O’Donnell (Pleasance), ‘Freeman’ by Strictly Arts (Pleasance), ‘(Sorry)’ by Susie Sillett/prod by Kings Head (Assembly) and Noctium’s show ‘Hymns for Robots’ (C Venues). Just a coincidence that they’re all Midlands companies. I’m also looking forward to seeing Paine’s Plough’s programme at the Roundabout- most especially ‘How to Spot an Alien’, which my eight year old is also buzzing to see.

Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the Fringe?
I don’t think they will have seen anything quite like it. We don’t think that this is a story that has been told before. It is simultaneously uplifting, hilarious, crushing, heartbreaking and life affirming, and the story is held in a form that is in itself an unusual blend of storytelling mediums. But they work. I promise it will take you on a journey to unexpected places.


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