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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Still the Kettle Sings is about listening, love and a whole lot of tea

New play uses narration, dance, song, poetry, and movement to tell stories of extraordinary women

Based on interviews with seven extraordinary women in their lives, the company of Vancouver’s Plan Z Theatre premieres the brand new work, Still the Kettle Sings.

From stories of watching cattle give birth, wedding cakes flying across the world, and protests ending in imprisonment, the stories in Still the Kettle Sings are all very real. And sometimes very surprising.

In our Q&A with co-creator and performer Jill Raymond, we find out more.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Tell us about Still the Kettle Sings.

It is a devised piece of theatre, meaning that it is completely new and not starting with a script. Instead, it starts from a stimulus or idea. In our case, the interviews.

The show itself doesn’t have a linear narrative, instead we see representations or tellings of fragments of many different stories from the mundane to the miraculous. It’s like a teeny tiny epic.

What was the inspiration for creating the show?

Eleanor [Felton] started with this idea that the show should have the feel of sitting at the table in your house and having a conversation with your grandma. Often we only know events in people’s lives, we don’t know their story. It’s a really simple and yet profound statement; that we should stop to learn about the women in our lives and listen. Really listen.

Where did the title come from?

We spent a long time discussing the name. Eleanor Felton came from an original place of wanting to be sitting at the kitchen table sharing stories. And tea seems to have been a big literal and metaphorical influence.

Despite sometimes facing incredible loss, hardship or prejudice they continued with their lives with a sense of purpose, meandering sure, but also some kind of certainty and deliberateness.

There is a quote that jumped out: “Think of the kettle! Even when up to its neck in hot water it still sings!” The idea that the worst can be happening and women are still able to get on with what needs to be done, because it needs to be done.

So we played around with a few constructs of that idea and settled on Still the Kettle Sings. I could probably write an essay describing all the ways we feel it can be broken down and interpreted. Suffice to say, we felt strongly it was the right choice of name for the show.

Jill Raymond with her mother Kate Hancock who Raymond interviewed for The Kettle Still Sings
Jill Raymond (right) with her mother Kate Hancock.

Who did you interview?

My mom – Kate Hancock.

How did you decide to interview her?

Eleanor was very open with her instructions of who to interview. I picked my mom because she has lead an extraordinary life; she is a beacon of light to so many who know her, a brilliant educator and artist and honestly I was shocked to think how much I didn’t know – about my own mom. It was a beautiful by-product of the show that I learned so much more about her, and makes me want to continue asking more questions. I hope I don’t drive her nuts.

Did you learn anything surprising during your interview?

It was most interesting to hear what others in the cast/creative had to say. As I said, I know my mom is an incredible woman, but hearing others reactions and emotional connections to her stories was so heart filling. I think we all feel that we have really come to know and love all of these women through the process.

How did you decide what in the interview to include in the show?

We have used ideas, themes and actual stories from all of the interviews. We had a wealth of material to work with from the words of these exceptional people.

The press material talks about “a magic world” in which the stories are told – can you elaborate?

We use a lot of storytelling devices in Still the Kettle Sings – scenes, narration, dance, song, poetry, movement – so the performance will be a break from the theatre norm; the magic I think comes from this mix of mediums and a lack of narrative which will allow the audience to read the play in whatever way they like. Everyone will have a very unique experience of it.

What do you hope audiences will walk away with after seeing Still the Kettle Sings?

That their life should involve more listening, more love, more cups of tea. And – obviously – that they think the show is the best ever and they see the blood, sweat and tears – all literal – that went into creating this show.

Still the Kettle Sings plays Vancouver’s Pacific Theatre (1440 W 12th Ave, Vancouver) from July 12-15. Tickets are available online or at the door.  Or visit Plan Z Theatre online for more information.

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