ED2017 Caro Meets ED2017 Interviews ED2017 Review Edition ED2017 Theatre

Yolanda Mercy: Quarter Life Crisis

By | Published on Wednesday 26 July 2017

We first spoke to Yolanda Mercy about her show ‘Quarter Life Crisis’ when it had a short run at London’s Ovalhouse earlier this year, though I didn’t know when I first sought her out for a chat that she’d be headed up to my beloved Edinburgh Festival this summer.
But headed to Edinburgh she is. I organised a quick catch up, to find out more about the development of the show, and why she’s chosen to take it to the Fringe.

CM: It’s possibly kinda self-evident because of the title… but what is ‘Quarter Life Crisis’ about? What story does it tell?
YM: ‘Quarter Life Crisis’ takes you on the journey of Alicia, a 25 year old Londoner who is trying to make her way through life…

CM: What themes does the show explore?
YM: The show explores age angst, heritage and being a millennial.

CM: Is it based on your own experiences?
YM: I would say this piece takes inspiration from my life and the lives of people around me. I like it when the lines between real life and fiction are blurred.

CM: What made you want to create a show with this subject?
YM: I created this show as a response to friends having babies, getting married or buying a house… whereas I was more concerned with the problem of “how can I keep my young person’s railcard…?”

CM: I know that there’s music and audience participation involved, so it doesn’t sound like it’s traditional, set piece theatre – can you explain what it’s like, format-wise? Are all your shows like this?
YM: Without giving away too much, we wanted to create a new theatrical experience. I am obsessed with music, and seeing how my idols Lady Gaga and Beyonce create an experience during their concerts really inspired me. I saw this done in theatre by Luisa Omeilan and ‘Shopping and F***king’ at the Lyric Hammersmith…

So I thought why can’t we see how to challenge our audiences by creating an all round theatrical experience, that engages audiences in a new-exciting and memorable way. We (Jade Lewis) and I, started playing with this form of working during our first show ‘On The Edge Of Me’, but this time around with more resources and a bigger team, we have taken our production of ‘Quarter Life Crisis’ to another artistic level.

CM: What do you like about creating your own shows, as opposed to participation in other people’s?
YM: What I love about creating my own work is getting the opportunity to tell stories that involve working with a team of people: producer Gemma Lloyd, director Jade Lewis, sound/visual designer Luay Eljamal, company manager Lola Aladeshelu, dramaturg Jules Haworth, set and costume Designer Cecile Tremolieres, lighting designer Sarah Readman, stage manager Matthew Gardner, associate director Holly Gallagher, online visual content creator Rachel Moore, poster designer OBDesignz and PR Chloe Nelkin/Suzie Jacobs… Plus so many more wonderful people….

As you can see, it takes more than one person to make this one hour show ready for an audience. I love seeing how they turn my dream into a reality which then becomes our shared piece. I always say that everyone who works with me, owns the show just as much as I do because it takes a team to make a vision happen. After weeks of working, it’s amazing when people believe in our dream and they buy a ticket then come away saying “I really enjoyed that show” or “I really related to that”. Whenever we hear that, I’m always so in awe because it’s such an honour to have audiences who truly believe in the work we make.

CM: We first spoke to you about the show when you performed it in London in the spring. How did those shows go?
YM: Our shows at OvalHouse theatre went so well. It’s so crazy cause we sold out a week beforehand and we even had a waiting list. The audience who managed to see the show seemed to really enjoy it, and I was inundated with such wonderful responses from people who said the show was “funny, relatable and really thought provoking”. It was the first time previewing Quarter Life Crisis in London and it was great to see audiences who’ve attended our last show, who came again and even brought friends.

CM: Has the play changed or developed in any way since then?
YM: Yes the play has gotten even stronger. I have worked really hard with my wonderful dramaturg Jules Haworth to make the narrative clearer and I’m even playing another character.

CM: How did you start out working in the arts? What made you want this kind of career?
YM: I went to the Brit school and then studied at Laban. I originally entered the arts thinking that I would be dancer… hoping to join the Matthew Bourne Company.

But it was during my second year at Laban that I read Peter Brook’s ‘The Empty Space’ which really made me fall in love with theatre more. My training at Laban was very German Expressionistic – so the lines between dance and theatre joined: dance theatre… or Tanztheatre… Coming from the Tanztheatre background helped me think about theatre as an all round thing from lights, sound, body in space and words. From my second year at Laban I became obsessed and saw everything in theatre that I could.

I joined theatre quite ‘late’ – whatever that’s supposed to mean – but being ‘late’ made me sign up for every outreach programme I could, and with every outreach programme the more I learned about theatre, and myself as an artist.

I was an “actor for hire” (essentially auditioning for everyone else’s work) for over 2 years until I realised that I was stuck and that I couldn’t quite break through, which pushed me into writing my first play ‘On The Edge Of Me’. Then I guess from there magic started happening… I finally started to be seen in rooms which I struggled to be heard in before…HELLO WORLD!

CM: Have you been to the Edinburgh Fringe before? What do you expect from it?
YM: I have been to Edinburgh fringe twice before to watch shows- but I’ve never done a full run. I’ve spoken to a lot of people who have done it before and one thing they say is “pace yourself. Make sure you keep on top of your wellbeing”. So I’m making sure that I find a yoga studio to keep my practice going.

CM: What made you decide to bring this show to the Festival?
YM: I have always wanted to present a show at Edinburgh fringe, but I didn’t have the right piece. When I wrote Quarter Life Crisis I had the fringe in mind. I knew I wanted to share this story with a huge international audience, so what better place to do so than Edinburgh fringe.

CM: Do you have plans to see other shows while you are there?
YM: Yes definitely. I have my heart set on seeing a lot of comedy. My main aim of the fringe is to laugh ALOT.

CM: What’s next after Edinburgh?
YM: I think I will have a mini rest break in September, then we kick off our tour from October. I really want to tour Quarter Life Crisis as far and wide as possible.

Yolanda Mercy performed ‘Quarter Life Crisis’ at Underbelly Cowgate at Edinburgh Festival 2017.