Jessica Butcher talks about the brain’s response to grief in SPARKS at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
Hello, I’m Jess, I’m 30. My first role at school was Hamish Bigmore in Mr Majeika and I’ve never looked back. I did English Literature at King’s College London and then went on to train at Drama Studio London.

Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
Sparks is a two hander musical about the brain’s response to grief. It’s a story of a kamikaze love affair with unexpected consequences. It’s also about love and connections.

How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
I started writing this show in 2016. We performed it at the brilliant VAULT Festival in February of this year and it got a really exciting response. Sparks is a story of grief. Everyone, at some point in their life will experience grief and so I wanted to write something that was honest, in the hope it will encourage people to feel less alone in their grieving. And I hope it shines a light on the joy of being alive!

Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?
Yes. Try not to drink too much. And make sure you eat a green vegetable at least once a day.

What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
When I was doing Where Do Little Birds Go? at the Festival in 2015 the show started with a big song. One evening a woman in her 70s arrived late and danced across the stage with me, brandishing an umbrella. It made me laugh, and the entire audience too; it was a beautiful start to the show. And so many embarrassing things have happened on stage…most of which are not suitable for the internet.

Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
Emma Thompson for her endless support and love of women. Emma Rice for her creativity and bravery. And Hannah Gadsby for finding the most extraordinary way of telling the truth.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Yes, many, they change depending on the show. But they always involve a banana, sometimes a flapjack, a long shower, yoga, a loud sing and a walk to the theatre where I look at the sky.

What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
Oh wow! So many! Holly Morgan and Tom Moores are doing Madonna or Whore? at the Assembly, it’s funny and clever. James Rowland’s Revelations, Songlines by Tullulah Brown, The Extinction Event by David Aula & Simon Evans, Incognito’s Tobacco Road and Plunge Theatre’s Clingfilm. And One Life Stand by Middle Child.

Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the Fringe?
Because if you’ve ever lost someone and/or had a terrible relationship it should connect with you. It’s also got great songs and I believe it to be a positive way to spend an hour.


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