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Hearty: Q&A with Emma Frankland

Emma Frankland Hearty credit Steve Tanner

Hearty: Q&A with Emma Frankland

Award-winning live performance and theatre artist Emma Frankland is returning to her homeland of West Sussex with her performance of Hearty.

Hearty is the fifth and final solo show in Emma’s None of Us is Yet a Robot project, which is a series of performances she has created in response to her gender transition and the politics surrounding transgender identity over the past seven years.

In this show, Emma tackles the ongoing media fascination with transgender lives, and interrogates the controversial bio-technology of HRT.

This politically-charged recital sees Emma bearing wings of sharp knives and shooting fireballs into the air, while weaving stories of trans ancestry through her performance. Connecting the cycles of the fetishisation, violence, and erasure that transgender people have experienced for centuries, Hearty is raw, messy, and authentic.

“[Hearty is] a ferocious cry for the safety of trans women. Brands don’t lead revolutions, people like Emma Frankland do.” The Guardian

How has your experience as a transwoman helped to shape the dynamic of Hearty?

It’s quite hard to answer because it’s not really possible to separate Hearty from my identity as a transwoman. Initially the project came about from a desire to reach out and connect with cisgender women who also use Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and that was the impetus; a way of bridging the gap between transwomen and ciswomen where there can sometimes be animosity.

I think as I got deeper into the project, I realised that what I was really interested in was the stories of other transgender people around the world who I was meeting with and connecting with, and so the focus became about all of our stories and the ways in which they need to be archived.

Tell us about your previous use of transformative materials to create your visual imagery. Was this largely for the metaphor, or was there more to it?

In a previous show I used salt and clay and things, and the reasons for those materials was that they come from the landscape where I’m from, from Cornwall. It feels really important that the work I make is really rooted in the place that I’m from, and I think that for Hearty, the material that is really used the most is fire, which obviously is a very universal thing that lots of people have connections to.

How has the reception been to Hearty so far, and how has this impacted each performance in the tour?

The reception has been amazing. Hearty has been critically acclaimed as it’s toured around and we’ve always had really amazing responses from both the trans community that experience it and also from cisgender people who have come and seen it.

I think that it’s interesting how it’s maybe changed from before COVID and post-COVID; Hearty is set in an apocalyptic world and I think that people are able to connect to that idea of ‘there’s an apocalypse, there’s a change and a threat to our ways of life’ more now than previously.

Your work has had an excitingly significant impact on society. What does this experience mean for you both personally and professionally?

I’m very flattered that you think my work has had a significant impact on society. I think it’s very important for me personally that the art I make has an impact. I guess I sometimes frame it as ‘what is the duty of care of an artist?’ I like the idea that we have a responsibility, and maybe that responsibility of an artist is to tell the truth, to speak about our experience as we experience it, and so through being very personal we can hopefully find ways to connect with other people.

I’ve felt that it’s been my responsibility as a trans person – going through these perhaps difficult times in the UK lately – to speak honestly and openly about that. Maybe that’s where the impact comes from. I think as well it’s important for trans people to see ourselves reflected on stage and in ways that we are not used to. I think that that’s something that is particularly significant about the work I make; it’s very unapologetic and bold and that’s not necessarily a sphere that trans people get to be framed in.

What does it mean to you to be able to perform Hearty in your local area?

It’s really amazing to be performing in my local area. I’m excited to see friendly faces in the crowd but also to be able to connect with more trans people and with more people in West Sussex. It feels like a really beautiful way to start my engagement with Worthing Theatres.

Hearty is on at the Pavilion Theatre on Saturday 21 May 2022 at 8:00pm. Tickets are on sale from £13.50, which you can purchase here.

Worthing Theatres and Museum is a registered charity, and we are committed to providing you with quality art and culture. For information on how you can support us as your local arts charity, such as donating or buying a membership, please click here.

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