Tell us about your show, Stand By Your Nan.
Stand By Your Nan is a warm and funny show about memoirs of my grandmother, who was seen as an ordinary woman but to me had an extraordinary approach to life, the way society views older women and my own experience of aging. It’s peppered with poems, stories and stand up. I also like to involve stories from the audience, to hear the unsung tales of older women.
What made you want to write a show dedicated to grandmothers?
My Nan always wanted to write about her life, but she struggled with writing and I always promised to have a go at writing a play about her life. But as I got older I realised she actually always put the spotlight on other people, and that she was seen as just an ordinary housewife type. A bit ditsy and quiet. I had a completely other view of her and that fascinated me. How do older women disappear into these roles of ‘granny’?
What is the most memorable thing you learned from your grandmother?
That even in times when you seem most powerless, you can always find strength within. That we are all connected and ‘the other’ is an illusion constructed by those who seemingly have the most power in order to keep us divided. That sounds very convoluted but she was definitely one for compassion over division.
Why did you choose to preserve these stories through comedy?
Comedy is our most accessible art form, and I wanted this to be a very universal and accessible show even if it deals with personal memoir. Everyone has had a grandmother even if they don’t remember them or never met them.
This show follows on from your poetry book of the same name. How does the show relate to the poetry?
I started with the show as an oral storytelling but the poems poured out and I created a collection to go alongside it. People really enjoyed the book so I sold out and had to get a reprinting, which I think is a good sign.
Has writing this show changed your perception of what it’s like to get old?
Definitely, I’m in my forties and I am seeing the difference now – I didn’t even consider that I was old enough to be a grandmother, despite the fact I have children! Ageing is seen as a terrible curse but then we all get paranoid about it. I remember being worried in my twenties about hitting thirty, it’s ridiculous. We all have a very short time on earth we should be embracing all of it.
What do you hope people take away from your show?
I hope they feel connected, happy and also are moved to shine a light on hidden personal histories – because we often don’t value our own lives as real history. Even if it’s not all nice memories, the act of bringing forward stories from the past is valuing areas that might be forgotten about.Your memories are your history, your story. And I hope it changes perception of older women.
Are there any other shows you’re looking forward to at the Funny Things festival?
I’m not around for long so I’ll be seeing what I can at the Lych Gate Tavern which I’ve heard a lot about, however if I was around I’d be getting tickets for Gary Delany, Diane Spencer and Frank Skinner because he’s a legend!
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to break into comedy?
Don’t underestimate the value of writing a lot and the power of a good joke. Get as much stage time as you can. You need confidence but learning from your mistakes will teach you more than getting your ego stroked. Watch and learn from other acts. It takes a long time to be any good, so start now, keep improving and keep going.
Rachel is performing Stand By Your Nan on October 27th at the Funny Things Festival.
Find out more about the Funny Things Festival here.