ED2018 Chris Meets ED2018 Interviews ED2018 Theatre

Katie Mahon and Molly Rumford: Brenda’s Got A Baby

By | Published on Friday 17 August 2018

‘Brenda’s Got A Baby’ is a new play centred on two working class sisters. One is sixteen and pregnant, the other is the first in her family to go to university. The play explores their interactions as they each tackle very different challenges.

The piece, which is premiering at the Festival, has been created by Katie Mahon and Molly Rumford – both until recently theatre students at the University Of Leeds – and their company Blooming Buds. It is based on a series of interviews involving local students and local communities and aims to put the spotlight on the struggles and pressures faced by young working class women who are pursuing an education, or starting a family, or both.

It’s an interesting production from an interesting company. So obviously we wanted to find out more.

CC: Tell us about the premise to ‘Brenda’s Got A Baby’.
KM+MR: Brenda is sixteen and pregnant. Her sister Amy is the first in her family to go to university. What could possibly go wrong?! It’s a new play that explores the struggles young, working class women face. We are working class and attend university, and we recognise the difficulties women like us have to tackle when trying to be a mother and study. We wanted to raise awareness of the struggles and pressures that these women face, and to consider the systems in place that are meant to support them, like universal credit, and whether they are sufficient in this current political and economic climate.

CC: Why did you decide to create a piece exploring these themes?
KM+MR: We decided to make ‘Brenda’s Got a Baby’ because we were the first in our family to go to university and the last in our generation to have children. We wanted to explore why women from working class backgrounds are choosing to have families rather than going to university.

CC: The show is based on a series of interviews. Who were those with? When and how did you conduct them?
KM+MR: The interviews are with people in the community we work in. We contacted people we knew, these people contacted people they knew too. We also put a call out on Facebook. The university students are people we knew from university.

CC: What were the most interesting revelations to come out of the research?
KM+MR: At the outset, those of us working on the project felt that if we were to get pregnant during or soon after university, that would end our careers. However, through the research and the other community work surrounding the play, we realised that having a baby is not the end of your career and that women should be encouraged and supported to do both.

CC: How are those interviews adopted into the play?
KM+MR: We used the interviews to inform the events that happen in the play. The characters and the plot are fictional, however everything that happens and the characters themselves are based on the interviews.

CC: Tell us a little about Bloomin Buds. What does it aim to achieve?
KM+MR: Bloomin’ Buds Theatre Company aims to increase access to and opportunities in the arts for working class people. We set the company up because, when we went to university, we were shocked about how different the environment was there. We wanted to encourage people from working class communities to aspire for more and convince them that university can be for them. We now run three weekly sessions in community centres, run workshops in schools, create community performances, hold public events and create professional theatre pieces, like ‘Brenda’s Got a Baby’, which we perform in venues, communities and schools.

CC: What was your background before setting up the company?
KM+MR: Before setting up the company, we actually had little experience in management and production. We were simply arts students with a passion. We have always wanted to work in the arts and have now graduated from the University Of Leeds with degrees in Theatre And Performance.

CC: Why did you decide to premiere the show at the Fringe?
KM+MR: We wanted to raise awareness of the issues explored in the play on a large international platform. We also wanted to raise the profile of the company, establishing ourselves in a professional setting.

CC: It’s your Fringe debut as a company. Had you personally been to the Festival before?
KM+MR: We worked at the Fringe last year as flyerers for the full month. We used this to do research and gain experience to help us bring our show to the Festival this year. Katie had also performed at the Festival when she was sixteen.

CC: What are the challenges of staging your first Fringe show?
KM+MR: Coming to the Fringe was a new challenge for us, mainly financially. We had to plan and fundraise for eighteen months to make sure that we had all bases covered.

CC: We are half way through the Festival now, how has it been going so far?
KM+MR: We have had more success that we could have hoped for, with some amazing reviews and great audiences. People are responding amazingly to us and it has been so great to receive so much support from theatre companies back home and here at the Fringe.

CC: What are your plans and ambitions for the show and the company after the Festival?
KM+MR: From the Festival, we aim to tour the show in theatres, communities and schools. We will be continuing our community work and expanding our outreach. We are aiming for our next theatre piece to be the first which has funding in place in advance, taking our company to the next stage.

‘Brenda’s Got a Baby’ was performed at theSpace on North Bridge at Edinburgh Festival 2018.