Rebecca Humphries talks about PROM KWEEN at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Name: Rebecca Humphries
Name of Edinburgh show: Prom Kween
Venue: Assembly George Square Gardens
Performance time: 9pm
Show length: 1hr
Ticket price: £13-14
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
Sure! I trained in acting at LAMDA, and since then have been acting predonimantly in theatre. I’ve performed at the National (Pomona/The Kitchen), the Donmar (Temple), the RSC (Myth/The Earthworks), Royal Court (Open Court), Hampstead Theatre (Wild Honey), Old Vic (24 Hour plays)…..that’ll do. But I’ve also been in sitcoms for BBC/Comedy Central/Channel 4/ITV and quite a bit of Radio 4 stuff. In 2014 I brought a solo hour of musical comedy, ‘Dizney Rascal’, to the Fringe – it kind of questioned whether you can be be a Disney fan and also a woke person, knowing what we now know about Walt’s background and the progress we’ve made in terms of equality. I’ve managed to make it sound much dryer than it was, it was actually pretty daft.
Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
Prom Kween is inspired by the true story of the first ever non binary kid to win the coveted US high school title- and the bitches who tried to stand in the way. It was only in 2016, if you can believe that – which obviously was significant for the USA in other, less progressive ways. It’s fun, it’s political, it celebrates America’s contradictions while also ripping it to shreds. A huge high-school-parody-pop- culture-satirical-hot-mess that’s been dipped in glitter and had a couple of alcopops.
How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
I saw the story of Matthew pop up on my facebook feed in 2016, and instantly knew it was materual for the musica I had been dying to write since I won the msuical comedy award for ‘Dizney’. It was a time that shows like Drag Race were coming to the fore, and it seemed as though questions surrounding gender were suddenly being discussed in mainstream pop culture. Even in the past two years, society has progressed so much in terms of awareness but there is still a long long way to go. Prom Kween has a non binary character at it’s fore, but that character is totally normalised inasmuch as we treat Matthew like any other teenage kid – whether straight, gay, non binary, male, female. In fact, 4 actors in the show play Matthew, 2 male and 2 female, all very different people but all relating to feeling like an outsider in some sense. I think acknowledging our similarities as human beings rather than our differences is an important step for equality and it felt vital we champion that in the show.
Not to mention the pop culture references in the book are constantly changing and keeping up to date. Luckily the president provides a lot of material.
Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?
Performers, for gods sake take vitamins. You are in a city where the carb is King and beer is an actual food group. Don’t make promises to see shows you can’t keep. It’s anxiety inducing and stressful for all involved.
Visitors – do whatever you feel like doing at any given moment. Don’t overplan, for overplanning is the death of fun and the Fringe should be fun first and foremost.
What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
There are so, so many of both. The things that have happened to me personally haven’t been as hilarious as the following that happened to someone else, so I’ll give that one. It’s long but i have to get it all across.
I was in a Chekhov play called Wild Honey at Hampstead theatre. Towards the end of the play my character attempts to kill herself because her husband is having an affair. At the play’s climax, she is led in to reconcile with him, barely alive, by the women who have wronged her.
In the script, my character’s brother rushes through the door to announce my entrance. The actor playing my brother bounces in, exclaiming ‘Misha, she’s alive!’ Except he didn’t. All we heard was ‘Mish…!’ And a massive bang. I cannot, cannot clearly express the hysteria I felt walking through that door and seeing the lovely actor fully faceplanted on the ground. The stakes were so high, I was meant to have narrowly escaped death, and I was shaking and convulsing with repressed laughter. I looked straight into the eyes of the actor playing my husband who promptly walked upstage and faced the wall with his head in his hands. Every single line uttered by every actor on that stage (around 10) was incomprehensible and we were all crying with laughter in the curtain call.
Even now writing this I am hysterical.
Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
It’s no new thing to say Lin Manuel Miranda is it? Not just because Hamilton is amazing, because it is, but because of the perseverance, imagination and trust in his own artistic vision.
Cher because Cher gives zero f**ks.
Elton John really recently walked out of a bingo night my friend ran exclaming it was ‘TOO BORING!’ Which for me absolutely epitomised what it is to be true to yourself. Your fabulous self.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Oh not really, I just get to the theatre disgustingly early ridden with nerves and end up putting about 4 layers of make up on. Luckily as we’ve established I’m a big drag fan.
What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
I cannot wait to see Gingzilla and Denim. What I’m really really looking forward to though is finding something incredible I had no idea existed before this month.
Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the fringe?
I think they should come not only because the calibre and experience of our cast already renders it a total bargain, but it’s the best party you’ve ever been to and a perfect way to kick off a night at the Fringe. Our aim is to get everyone in that venue sashaying away caked in glitter and celebrating their individuality, no matter what they identify as or where they come from.