Empower Her* Voice Theatre Collective introduces… ‘Spotlight: Female-Identifying and Non-Binary Voices in Theatre.’ This is a new series of interviews, released monthly, to broadcast the emerging and established voices of female-identifying and non-binary creatives within theatre.
Introducing Bibi Lucille
Bibi Lucille is a London based actress who began her career in theatre and performed twice in the West End, one with a Noel Coward play and the other with new writing. She has since moved on to film and was nominated for 'Best Performer' in the award winning short 'All Inclusive', gained a lead role in PopstarTV’s series 'Purgatory' and performed in the web-series 'I am Sophie' that won first prize in the Oscar and BAFTA qualifying Flickers' RIIFF film festival. Next month, you can catch her as a lead role in the Amazon Prime series ‘Trust’ and this October, she will be performing her one woman show, ‘Meat Cute’.
What was your first experience watching theatre?
I think my first potent memory of watching theatre and being in that atmosphere was when I started a weekly drama class at my local theatre. We would watch the plays and
rehearsals that were put on in the main space and it became so familiar and exciting to
me, it started to feel like home. My mum would always take me and my sister to larger
theatres in the west end and seeing everything so grandiose just heightened my excitement and love for the stage. I’m lucky in that both my parents are creatives and surrounded me with art growing up. My dad would take me to poetry nights and live music events which expanded my view on everything theatre could be; which is anything and everything.
A more specific, early memory for me was watching the Snow Queen at the Questor’s Theatre. I remember it being enthralling and terrifying all at the same time. A kid’s imagination is active enough but combining that with the all consuming ambience of theatre made the entire experience more real that ever. Theatre is a magical place for a kid; it transports them to all the spectral worlds that exist in their minds, allowing it to
come to life.
What was the first play to make you want to work in theatre?
Weirdly, I don’t remember there being one specific moment that made it all click that
this was what I wanted to do. I loved theatre from the beginning; it just seemed like
working on stage and film was never even question. Although I do remember one play I
saw a few years ago that really drove home exactly how bad I wanted this. It was ‘Yerma’
performed at the Old Vic. You know that feeling you get when you stumble across a play,
a film or a song that just gets it? That’s what Yerma was for me. Even though the basis of
the plot was far from my own situation, it conveyed all the teenage angst I remember
feeling at the time. The confusion, the frustration, the loneliness. I think that was the
beauty of the play’s success; every person in that audience could relate to it no matter
how different their situation was to the character’s.
Another beautiful thing about that play was the way it was staged. The entire story played out inside a large glass box. It felt like the audience was peering into another world, watching this woman’s fate through a glass ball. Within the box, the scenery would change and so would the weather. Sometimes it was brilliant sunshine, other times it was pouring with rain. The script, the performances, the set are all things that will stay with me indefinitely and is a clear blueprint on how theatre can change lives.
Why theatre for you? Why is it the right form for you?
I think the main reason I fell in love with theatre is because it created a space where a person can be anyone they want to be. That we are not confined to one life and one path. You can be anyone you want without judgement and in the process, you bring others (the audience) along with you on a journey. It’s incredible to me that we, as humans, use our imagination to tell stories to people, to lose ourselves in another world for a few hours. I truly believe it’s the closest thing we have to magic.
What influences your writing/work ?
I think it’s safe to say that the main thing that influences my work are my experiences. As the saying goes, write what you know. I think everyone has a story to tell and everyone’s unique experiences are all tales in themselves. I also know that when I write, I can choose whichever path I want my character to go down and I can live vicariously through the characters that are braver than me, that take more risks. I’m influenced greatly by brazen characters and I try to carry this over into my real life by being as courageous and outspoken as the characters I write. I also, like most others, just love consuming other people’s stories. I think it’s so important for every artist to surround themselves with all kinds of art; it will spark creativity, excitement, inspiration... and will make you all the more eager to create something as fantastical and moving of your own.
Which playwrights/performers/creatives have influenced you the most?
It’s such an obvious one but the playwright and performer that has truly inspired me the most is our lord and saviour, Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Not only is her work undeniably brilliant and witty but even her backstory as to how she created her career is inspiring. She is everything the media needed; a true representation of a woman who doesn’t sugar coat what womanhood really is, the pressure women feel in a society obsessed with relationships and youth and the heart-breaking truth of what loneliness really looks likes, something every individual is prone to feeling at some point in their lives. Not only does she convey all of this, she does it through humour. The best medicine for anything. No matter how bad things get, she’s able to see the humour in every scenario, which is just enlightening in itself. I can’t rave about this woman enough but as a final note, she has shown that there is hope at any age to create your own work and carve your own path in the theatre and film industry, despite the challenges we face as women. Anything is possible.
How has the theatre industry changed over your time working?
Sadly, the main thing I have seen happen to the theatre industry is how increasingly elitist it’s becoming. Going back to the very origins of theatre, it was entertainment for all classes; lower, middle and upper. But now, theatre tickets have become so expensive that even the cheapest ones won’t be less than fifteen pounds which isn’t an expense most people can continue to afford every week or even month. The same goes for people who want to work in theatre; it doesn’t pay well at first and is a tough industry to crack into. I mainly know the actor’s side of things and getting training is extremely costly (even just to audition) and then there are the expenses of going to auditions and having to do amateur dramatics for free to gain experience before you can even get your first paid job. On the flip side of things, there have been some amazing things to happen in theatre. Over the past ten years or so, there has been a dramatic increase of diversity in casts. More opportunities are opening up to people of all ethnicities, which means so many people of all different background are being represented in theatre. I also believe it’s becoming a safe place for people to work; it’s not uncommon to find people abusing their power in the arts, a prime example being of Kevin Spacey when he ran the Old Vic and young interns with dreams of working in the theatre were being harassed. So much more light is coming to the surface about these things, making theatre a safer environment for all.
What's the hardest play/extract/project you've ever written/created and why?
I’m still very early to the game of writing and creating my own projects, as it was only a year ago that I decided I would start creating plays and films of my own. But I do have an extract that comes to mind that was as hard as it was easy to write.
I have a play called ‘Meat Cute’ that I wrote for my very talented cousin, Anastasia Bunce to direct. At first, it was a fun, ten minute piece that addressed issues such as the environment and veganism in a very light hearted way. The ten minute piece was a success and has now been extended to an hour. Without giving too much away, the full-length play explores veganism in greater depth and there’s an extract within it that was very painful to write. The character expresses how exhausted she is by the constant fight for change and how she realises that she cannot save every animal from a life of pain caused by humans. This realisation is part of a painful truth we all have to come to terms with when growing up; that we really can’t save everyone and everything in the world, no matter how hard we try.
It’s a pessimistic outlook on life and not one that I myself personally am prone to
having. I do believe small changes make a difference, but it can be emotionally draining
for people who spend a lot of their lives fighting for a cause and see very little change.
Are there ideas and themes that you keep coming back to?
For me, I can’t see myself ever losing my passion and urgency to fight for animal
rights and feminism. I think these are themes that I will always want to explore and will
always deem urgent enough to fight for unless something radically changes in the world.
Although of course, I’ve realised over the years that this has to be delicately done. When
you have an opinion that’s not always popular, it’s easy to feel aggressive through the
frustration of fighting a seemingly losing battle. So a theme I think I will always return to is
comedy. Comedy is such a brilliant genre in so many ways. It creates relatability, it
softens everyone’s walls and can bring a great, inexplicable sense of trust between the
audience and the players. Not only does it do all that, it’s fun. It’s escapism at it’s
absolute finest and brings a sense of lightness about the world. I think having humour is
at the essence of being human and in many ways, of youth. There’s a quote that goes,
‘You are as young as the micro-moments of joy you feel in each day.’
What advice would you give to a woman wanting to work and write in theatre, but
without obvious access streams?
The advice I would give to a woman working in theatre without a clear way in, is to
make creative friends. There is nothing more pivotal that having a support team around
you, people who have the same passions and want to make things happen as badly as
you do. Share your work with each other. Hold each other accountable. Find a project
you’re all passionate about and want to bring to life. The only way ‘Meat Cute’ has any
hope is because of the people working to make it happen. As mentioned before, the
director, Anastasia Bunce is the one that inspired me to write something and without her,
it would never have been written. She hosted the first two performances and was the
reason we found the incredible producer of MC, Lote Pupola. These two women are
working hard to get funding and theatres on board to get MC out into the world.
It must be noted that you won’t stumble across your perfect team straight away.
Everything takes trial and error unless you’re incredibly lucky. Don’t give up if you don’t
find them straight away. Join theatre clubs, societies, groups on social media. There are
avenues all around you, you just need to look for them.
Have you written in other forms?
The first time I started writing was actually doing fiction books. My first one ended
up getting wiped after a tech accident which definitely threw me off writing for a while, but
looking back on it, it was a great warm up to just get into writing in the first place. I started to find my style and narrative, which was almost like muscle memory when I started writing ‘Meat Cute’. I’m still writing a fiction book which has turned out to be a beast of a task, so probably won’t be finished soon! But to anyone starting out as a writer, I would say just start writing a book, even if it’s just for yourself. It is a great way to get into the art of storytelling, so then you can branch out to scripts or acting or whatever you want to do.
What are your top tips for emerging female playwrights/creatives who have not
had formal training?
I truly believe that formal training is becoming less and less imperative when it
comes to getting into creative industries. I think, sadly, a lot of it has become a money
making mill and it’s just such an expensive investment that most people cannot afford. I
didn’t have training in acting or writing, it was something I got into on my own merit and
by building contacts along the way. I promise you, it’s not the be all and end all if you
don’t get into the course/school you wanted. It just means you have three more years
than you would have to crack into the industry.
If you could go back to the beginning of your interest in theatre, what would you
I think, knowing what I know now, I would go back and tell myself to start working
with people sooner. I was always a bit of a lone wolf and was intent on just making my
acting career by myself. I would love to have realised sooner that there is, of course,
strength in numbers and the sooner you surround yourself with people who want to make
the same projects as you, the better.
What are you working on next?
Well, things are finally picking up despite the stillness during lockdown! I’m very
lucky in that I was able to work a little last year, meaning that I have a series coming out
that I acted in called ‘Trust’ that will be on Amazon Prime and lots of things are happening
behind the scene in getting ‘Meat Cute’ on it’s feet. We’re hoping to have it in theatres by
summer and after that, will be working on a short film version to release to the world.