Amy chats to Brook Tate as he prepares to take his show Birthmarked up to the Fringe!
Hey Brook – here’s your chance to give an elevator pitch, can you give us a brief synopsis?
An ex-Jehovah’s Witness preacher transforms into a tap-dancing zebra whilst singing songs in the belly of a whale in an attempt to expose the harmful practises of a harmful religious organisation and reconnect with the family he was separated from when excommunicated for his sexuality.
What inspired the show?
After seeing my own family and many others torn apart by the teachings within the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion, I felt pretty powerless and deeply depressed. I’m not really an angry person, but I reached a turning point where I felt physically moved to ‘do something’, and that ‘something’ just happened to be in the form of writing a musical. I watched Rocketman – the musical about Elton John’s life – and realised I was sat on a whole soundtrack of songs that I had written whilst being excommunicated, and I decided to use them as a basis for telling my story.
How important is the Fringe for new work? And how does it feel to be at the Fringe this year?
It feels very surreal to be part of Edinburgh Fringe, especially with a story I never expected to speak about so publicly. I’m not sure I would have felt brave enough to do this show without the support of my team, and we definitely wouldn’t have been able to do it without being selected by Horizon’s Showcase. As a queer person who has been shunned from their family’s religion, it feels important to bring our stories to a wider audience.
What are the main themes within the production, and what can audiences expect?
I guess the main themes are queer identity, faith, harmful religious systems and love and loss of family. Although all of the stuff I’ve replied with so far sounds quite heavy, it’s a very optimistic show, and overall pretty celebratory. There’s jazz, soul, folk, puppets made out of parasols, lycra, tap dancing, live body painting, a female whale comedian, and multiple costume changes…it’s a miracle we have any heavy themes in it at all really. Hahahahaha
Finally, with so many shows at the Edinburgh Fringe, why should people book a ticket to this show?
I reckon people will have a fun time – and have their eyes opened to what goes on within a community many people know about but may not know much about. I would also say if you like painting or art in any way, this show is probs up your street. I know that if I saw a show where someone transformed into a zebra with a pallet and paintbrush I’d think ‘Yeah. That was half decent actually.’ Basically, I think people will really enjoy it.
Horizon Showcase: Birthmarked is on at Assembly Rooms from the 3rd – 27th August at 7.15pm – info here!