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Composed at Northern Stage

Published: 29 June 2019
Reporter: Peter Lathan

PUG is a “performance cabaret and a cheeky disco.” It began life on 15 July 2016 at Alphabetti. Since then, it has found a home at the Tyneside Irish Centre where it has mounted performances by, among others, poet and playwright sean burn, writer / musician / artist / performer Melody Sproates, comedian Lost Voice Guy, dance company Company of Others and dance artist Gavin Coward. Its co-founder and co-presenter is Rosa Postlethwaite.

“In 2016,” she said, “I started hosting and producing PUG. In this new position, as a spokesperson, I found myself using familiar hosting patter. I thought about how, by hosting these performances, I was perpetuating the same old power dynamics and the alluring feeling of belonging to something bigger than myself. I thought about how I could, on a small scale, hide behind the name of organisation.

“I decided to make a show about small actions carried out by people ‘doing their jobs’ that exposed how exclusion and gatekeeping happens in cultural industries. The Master of Ceremonies is a vehicle for me to explore cycles of behaviour. Through this figure, I interrogate both my personal identity, the privileges it affords me, and power of the impersonal, institutional voice. Driving the action and unravelling the strength of my created persona is my own resistance to responding to everyday micro-aggressions in a reasonable, measured and composed way.”

As she steps into the role of Master of Ceremonies in Composed, performing an in-house announcement, a thank-you to the sponsors and a warm-up act, she interrogates familiar theatre rituals and the changing relationship between a spokesperson and their institution.

Unpicking paternal attitudes towards “hard to reach” communities, welcoming the audience to “their” theatre, and behaving on the edge of acceptability, her role as Master of Ceremonies shines a spotlight on the conversations that happen within our theatres, but not on our stages.

Composed interrogates theatre rituals, fantasy and institutional violence—and plays with what happens when the composition cracks.

The show premières on 17 September at Northern Stage (7:45 in Stage 2), before going on to Theatre Deli, Sheffield (19 September), Exeter Phoenix (9 October) and Camden People’s Theatre (10 and 11 October).

Tickets for the Northern Stage performance are now on sale at £10 and £12.