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Amée Smith: It’s all about her

By | Published on Thursday 14 July 2016


Amée Smith is a proper actress: she trained at Rose Bruford College Of Theatre And Performance and you might have seen her performing in a number of shows at the Edinburgh Fringe, including ‘Acts Of Redemption’ and ‘Knightmare Live’.
This summer, however, she is heading up to Edinburgh with her very own solo show in the comedy programme, which draws on her past experiences of being in a doomed relationship with a comedian… we caught up with Amée, to find out more about ‘Relax, It’s Not About You’.

CM: The show is listed in the comedy section, but it sounds as though you have an involved tale to tell us – would you describe this show as storytelling, or do you regard it as stand up?
AS: While I’m not claiming to have honed the skills of a stand-up since challenging myself to write a show, deciding to put it in the comedy section rather than the theatre section has definitely changed the direction the show was growing in. It has come from a theatrical place, but I’ve had to balance that with people’s expectations of a comedy show. Or at least through the filter of my expectations of people’s expectations of a comedy show.

I think the format of the show will be familiar to a stand-up audience, no one will feel I’ve plunged them into ‘Hamlet’, but I hope that it also has the feeling of a complete story that you get from theatre.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about that story?
AS: I had my heart broken by a comedian and ultimately that’s where the story of the show starts. I spent five years listening to him talk about the show he was going to write and take to the Fringe and that experience seemed to sum up my frustrations with our relationship, that after years of working my life around his schedule, he didn’t take a show to Fringe while we were together, and I’d had my life on hold for nothing.

After chatting with friends I realised that all that energy didn’t have to be wasted! All those talks about making a show could still count for something, it would just be mine rather than his. On top of that, I could set myself other challenges that would build me up again, things that would have me working towards being the me I wanted to be rather than have a focus on him or how he’d made me feel. Some of those challenges came from things he could do that I’d admired and missed when we broke up, but if he could do them, so could I.

It’s all about me and my feelings, my journey of getting past a stumbling block, but I think it’s something we can all relate to.

CM: How much of your material here is based on the actual truth?
AS: All of it. There are places with names changed so I’m not over-sharing friends’ personal info, but that’s about it. If I can laugh at my life, hopefully others can too and in a positive way.

CM: Is it hard to perform a show that’s so personal? Do you ever have difficulty sharing your experiences? Or is it actually cathartic?
AS: There’s nothing in the show that hasn’t already been shared with my friends and family, so although it’s personal, it’s not raw. That’s made it easier to work with the material. The hardest thing has been the fear of doing this show in a sphere where so many people I know and admire excel, this is what they do every year if not every day, and I’ve had to fight the feeling of being a pretender. But if I’m challenging myself I might as well do it big, the bigger the risks the bigger they pay off. I’m expecting the end of Fringe to be the best Artaudian Theatre Of Cruelty style catharsis I could give myself.

CM: It sounds as though you had a pretty difficult time – do you think you’ve moved on successfully from it? Do you think it’s had an effect on your personality, or an effect on where your future will go from here?
AS: I am over it. Totally over it.

I went through a phase of saying those exact words to myself whenever a thought of him popped into my mind. I told myself that the more I said it, the closer I would get to it being true. Then I started working on this show and forgot about it for ages. The next time I said it, I found it was totally true. Getting past a tough time happens, and it happens while your focus is elsewhere. Not ignoring the hurt but not letting it be something that defines you.

I think every experience you have, be it good or bad, changes you; changes your outlook or your approach to life. Sometimes that’s small – you learn a lesson and move on – but sometimes it’s life changing. The break up made me really cautious about new relationships, and I didn’t want to let new people into my life so new people couldn’t hurt me. That would make life safe, perhaps, but rather dull. Now I’m letting loads of new people in to share a bit of my life every day for 26 days! I don’t know what effect that’s going to have on my future but I’m excited to find out.

CM: Does He know about this show? What are the chances of him coming to see it?
AS: I don’t know what he knows. I’ve not kept the show a secret  – that would make ticket sales hard! – and we have mutual friends, so he probably does. He will be at Fringe this year, because he’s finally doing a show, but I’ve checked and it clashes so I doubt he’ll be at mine. Though if he were to be there, the show wouldn’t change. It’s not about him. And I don’t mention him by name, he doesn’t get any free publicity out of me!

CM: Do you think your show perhaps has the potential to help other people who are in a nightmare relationship (but possibly don’t realise it yet…?).
AS: I hope that people leave the show feeling uplifted regardless of their situations. Nightmare relationships aren’t the only things that bring us down, aren’t the only situations where we let someone else’s opinion of us become what we think of ourselves. A mean boss, a faltering friendship, even just a flippant comment from someone we never see again can weigh heavy. Reminding yourself that you get to be your own judge and have the control to change your fate is empowering and positive. I’ve not achieved a miracle, we can all do it.

CM: Is there any good time to put your hopes and dreams on hold, do you think?
AS: The only time to put your hopes and dreams on hold is to focus on your other hopes and dreams. Your life is yours, and being happy is the most important thing. Go for what you want and remember that it’s okay to change your mind. Deciding you don’t want something and stopping is just as important as going for what you want. Changing isn’t failing.

CM: Your background as a performer is in acting, rather than stand-up. What made you decide you wanted to do a solo show of this kind? What made you choose to create a show like this, and why now?
AS: Oh yes! As an actor I have so many safety nets that don’t exist with this and the process of getting this show on its feet has seen me staring into several back-stage mirrors chanting “Please don’t let anyone notice that I don’t know what I’m doing!”

I joke that spite is the reason the show came about, and really it is, but not spiting him. It’s spiting all the thoughts I had about not being worth anything, showing myself I was wrong, because I’ve remembered that I think I’m pretty damn awesome.

Why now? Well I actually thought about it a year ago and didn’t do it, letting the self censoring voice in my head stop me. I’ve stopped listening to that voice so much now. Unless it’s telling me to eat cake, of course.

CM: Is there a big difference between performing alone and performing as part of a theatrical ensemble? Is performing alone scarier?
AS: There’s a huge difference. Even between performing a monologue and this is worlds apart. This is terrifying!

I have no character to hide behind, I have no one who can jump in with the next line. I have no fourth wall and no one else to go to the bar with for analysis and comfort afterwards!

This is exposing and humbling and utterly wonderful. There’s a saying that you should do something that scares you every day, and I am. I’m just making it the same thing every day for a while.

CM: You’re very well used to being at the Fringe – do you have any tips for first time visitors?
AS: A few months ago I and another alumnus were sitting in on a class at my old theatre school that is taught by one of our friends and, when we were asked about Fringe, the best piece of advice he had was “Don’t do it”. That’s the best advice I’ve heard for performers. You either accept it and don’t go, or see it as a challenge and prove them wrong by putting your all into it.

CM: What else will you be doing other than performing? Which other shows are you planning to see?
AS: I’m usually wearing several hats at Fringe. I’m working my day job as normal, so much of the day will be sitting with my laptop and a million emails. I’m also teching a show (‘The Establishment’ at Heroes @ Dragonfly, go, they are great) and catching up with friends who I only see this time each year.

There are so many shows I want to see! James Loveridge at the Hanover Tap. Paul Duncan McGarrity at Cabaret Voltaire (if you’ve missed his pre-Fringe Archaeological Guessing Game on Facebook, you’ve missed a treat!). The Immercity shows in the theatre section – ‘Blood Will Have Blood’ at C Nova and ‘Fire Burn’ at theSpace on The Mile.

There’s so much to choose from, take a punt with something you don’t know but like the sound of. The Fringe is all about discovering things that you can’t find elsewhere.

CM: What’s next for you, after Edinburgh?
AS: A holiday!

The more I say that the more true it will become. It’s currently a total lie! But being miserable is most definitely not in the plan…

‘Relax, It’s Not About You’ was performed at Underbelly Med Quad at Edinburgh Festival 2016.

Photo: Jody Kingzett