HOT (Helen of Troy) is happening!

Big news! Pinecone Performance Lab has received funding from Arts Council England to produce my new solo show HOT (Helen of Troy)!

“NEW??” I hear you say. Well, you’re right – I’ve been working on ideas around Helen of Troy since 2010 (nearly as long as the Trojan War raged in antiquity…). But in many ways, HOT is a new show.

My last blog post (a year ago, yikes!) described how director/dramaturg Katharina Reinthaller and I had ‘completely reconceptualised’ the show. We did! It was a totally different format than the script I wrote in late 2017 – which was totally different again from the previous versions of The Helen Project that Megan Cohen and I created in San Francisco in 2013, and then in London in 2014.

Five women stand on stage in golden lighting, confronting the audience, in a previous production of The Helen Project.
Serafina Salvador, Angela Bull, Kandy Rohmann, Georgina Panton, and Rachel Handshaw in The Helen Project at the Face to Face Festival 2014. Photo by Stuart Window.

And now, complete with a new title, HOT (Helen of Troy) is totally different again! I took an autobiographical theatre workshop with the brilliant performance artist Bryony Kimmings in December 2018, and finally figured out how AMY relates to the mythology of Helen. The show is not going to be autobiographical, exactly, but it will be uniquely personal to me, in a way that the original Helen Project wasn’t.

Amy looks into a hand mirror, reflecting her own face. The mirror also has a drawn-on face representing Helen of Troy.
Last summer’s version of the show, then called ‘Helen of Troy Calls Bullshit’ featured a mirror puppet in the role of Helen!

In HOT, I play a teenage version of myself, at a classic high school sleepover with my friends, the audience. We hold a seance to conjure the spirit of Helen of Troy, to give me a makeover. My teenage alter-ego has been spurned by the Cute Guy who has gone to the High School Dance with the Popular Girl. So my plan is to become beautiful enough to go to the dance and steal him back – with the help of my fairy godmother Helen of Troy.

There will be power ballads, tea lights for everyone, a Magic 8 ball, and ‘Cosmos’ magazine with beauty tips from the Greek gods.

Of course, the point of setting up classic tropes and stereotypes is to subvert them – we’ll lean into the expectations that go with 90s makeover movies like Clueless, She’s All That, or Never Been Kissed, and then take the story in a surprising direction by the end. (I can’t give you any spoilers, because I don’t know yet how it ends!)

This week, we have a residency at artsdepot in their creation space, to develop these ideas, and pin down the key moments of the show. I’m continuing to work with Katharina, plus my pal Ilayda Arden who will help me to improvise conversations between Helen and Amy, and also come up with some bitchin’ 90s visual design.

Then, later in September, I’m heading to Portugal to stay at Sharlit Deyzac’s new artist residency, and hopefully bash out a first draft of the script. Once that’s in place, Yaiza Varona can get started composing the music, and Hannah Tookey can sink her teeth into the nitty-gritty of producing the show.

We’re planning performances in early February 2020 – but I can’t tell you any more about that just yet, so stay tuned!

Big thanks to Arts Council England and artsdepot for their support of the show! And extra special gratitude to Susie Italiano, my other half at Pinecone Performance Lab, who has believed in this project through so many iterations, stumbling blocks, and moments of inspiration.