Johnny Autin talks about bringing ‘Queer Words’ to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Name: Johnny Autin (Autin Dance Theatre)
Name of Edinburgh show: Queer Words
Venue: Greenside @Infirmary Street (Forest Theatre)
Performance time: 4.15pm Dates: Aug 13-18, 20-25
Show length: 45 minutes
Ticket price: £10/£8 conc

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
Hi, My name is Johnny Autin.

I am an international dance artist and choreographer from France, now based in Birmingham (UK).
I trained at the French National Conservatoire of Music and Dance, and went on early in my career to choreograph and direct work experimenting with a range of different styles, from contemporary dance, flamenco, breakdance and opera to physical theatre.

I have been working internationally for the last 12 years with choreographers and companies throughout Europe as a performer and physical theatre practitioner, as well as touring work worldwide

I am an associate choreographer for Birmingham Opera Company, and I am the Creative Director of Autin Dance Theatre (est. 2013) currently touring ‘A Positive Life’ our immersive dance theatre experience around sex, love and relationships for young people, and our outdoor show-stopper ‘Dystopia’.

Our brand new stand-up dance theatre ‘Queer Words’ will be our Edinburgh Fringe Festival debut!

Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
Queer Words, stand-up comedy meets dance theatre!

Performed by an all-LGBTQ cast of 3 exceptional performers, Queer Words is a bold, provocative, and multi-disciplinary performance. Combining story-telling, spoken word, dance and physical theatre, Queer Words investigates toxic ideals and the crisis of masculinity at an open mic night. Brutally honest, darkly funny and at times controversial – Autin Dance Theatre is tackling a culture of violence and insecurities with sketches about personal stories around the male perspective, feminism, gender inequalities, and homophobia.

I think it’s an epic and vibrant 45 minute slice of outspoken pride, hope, activism, and courage.

How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
I have had the idea of making a show about toxic masculinity from a queer point of view for a couple of years. We have been working on this show (devising and rehearsing) since February this year, and it will be premiering for the first time at the Fringe Festival. We believe our show is very relevant for audiences in 2018, looking at homophobia, toxic ideals of masculinity, mental health, gender roles, and sexism. Considering the current political focuses about equal rights, and a lot of stories that are emerging around mental health, suicide being the main killer of young males under 25, gender equality, and LGBTI rights, we unpick some of those issues and themes in the piece by making taking them to some extremes and making fun of them.

Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?
Performers – rest up beforehand because you’re going to need it! Be with a great team, who can have a good laugh. Enjoy what we do and making the most of the vibrant and energetic atmosphere!

I particularly love catching up with fellow performers, going out and socialising at the end of each day.

Visitors – walking shoes and rain ponchos are a must!

Go and see a variety of work, take a risk on something you wouldn’t normally watch!

Vary the styles of shows you go and watch; a bit of comedy, a bit of theatre, and a whole lot of dance! J

What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
Once, I was touring a dance production up and down the country and the trousers of my costumes started wearing off, and inevitably one night they split at the seam right between my legs (and I was only wearing a dance belt/ dancers’ jockstrap!) when I went into a deep crouching position revealing my bare buttocks to the hundreds of people in the audience. I am laughing about it now, but I can tell you that I never exited the stage so fast in my life!

I changed into some rehearsal pants in the wings and jumped right back in with a little grin on my face.

Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
I have so many! I find a lot of my contemporaries and peers to be super inspiring both in the UK and internationally. In my opinion if you put yourself out there with your work, I will always find something in it that I can take with me and admire. Marie Chouinard, LLyod Newson (DV8 Physical Theatre), Amit Lahav (Gecko Theatre Company) and Crystal Pite are the first ones that spring to mind as they create completely unique universe with their productions, creatively totally outside of the box, leaving their audiences’ mesmerised and stimulated. I am inspired by stuff that excites my imagination, and they do that pretty well. Don’t you love it when you leave the theatre with a buzzing feeling that stays with you long after?

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Each performer is different when it comes to how they prepare just before a show, some like to focus on energising the body, others on calming the mind (and the nerves) or even going over the lines or steps from the show. As a company, we like to keep to ourselves until around 5 minutes before clearance when we’ll breathe together in a small circle, have a final short vocal warm-up, and hug each other tightly!

What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
Dance show wise, I look forward to seeing ‘5 days of falling’ by Sam Amos, and The Troth by Akademy, but also Jonny Woo’s All Star Brexit cabaret, and the ever-so-sexy boylesque’s Briefs! And so many more, if only I had more money and time at The Fringe I’d binge on shows so much more!

Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the fringe?
Our show is not what you’d expect from a dance show – in the best possible ways!

It’s entertaining, hilarious, moving, provoking and beautiful.

In the end, you get to find out about and fall in love with 3 fantastic queer performers.

We explore and talk about real stories with passion and authenticity. Queer Words has something for everyone, dance, music, poetry, singing, and a lot of sass!

We are not shy, and tell it like it is.


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