“Feminism is best served with a cocktail and a booty shake”: an interview with Tessa Waters

6 years ago
Til Knowles

Tessa Waters is an award winning and critically acclaimed physical comedian. Reread that sentence. With ten years of experience as a writer and performer, technical training in physical comedy and theatre, and a desire to talk about womanhood, it’s no wonder her show WOMANz is collecting bouquets of praise everywhere it goes.

I chatted to Tessa about WOMANz, audience participation and feminism.

So WOMANz is returning for another year! How have you and the show changed since touring internationally (Edinburgh Fringe) last year?

The show premiered in Edinburgh August 2014 and made its Australian premier for Melbourne Fringe Festival 2014 where it won three touring awards which was a complete surprise. I mean I knew I loved the show and it had gone pretty well in Edinburgh but it was so lovely to have such a warm home crowd turn up in force. So now the big national tour, I’m beyond excited to being shaking WOMANz all around the country!

What’re the differences between Australian audiences and international ones? Do you find people laughing in different places during the show?

Audiences are totally different every town you play and I love it as it keeps the show really fresh. London audiences laugh differently to Edinburgh-ians, to Melbournites, to Adelaidians etc etc. This will be my first time in Perth so I’m excited to see how the audiences react there. Other comedians have said they are great at heckling, must be all that time spent down the mines huh?

WOMANz Tessa Waters image

WOMANz deals with some important topics, from gender to love. What led you to write the show? Do you find yourself writing a narrative around the physical and comedic aspects, or visa versa?

With this show WOMANz the character came first, she is from my previous show ‘Sexytime!’. I wanted to make a show that celebrated all things ‘woman’ and did a lot of feminist and gender reading, but also kept getting locked in these Beyoncé/dance crew Youtube vortexes. As the show developed it became more about body image, about loving yourself and your body. It’s definitely got a feminist bent, because that’s something I’m really passionate about, but it’s also a big party show. That’s me though, I think feminism is best served with a cocktail and a booty shake.

What kind of things do you think should be discussed in the sphere of modern feminism? How do you feel about things like Caitlin Stasey’s new website (www.herself.com) and last year’s “10 hours in New York As a Woman” viral video?

The more we talk about all the different definitions of feminism the better. First and foremost it’s a very simple idea that men and women should be treated equally, full stop. Whatever it means to you individually is fine and great as all points of view added to the conversation mean we are always questioning and evolving and it stays relevant. WOMANz is about loving yourself and loving your body as part of that, and this is goes for both men and women. I think the objectification of women’s bodies and unhealthy body obsessions limit all of us. I’m saying love all of it, love yourself, love your body. God, how boring would life be if we all looked the same!! Whatever makes you feel empowered and confident and able to live a full and peaceful life is ok by me….as long as it’s not ‘Being a Jerk’…but then again jerks need love too, no?

The audience participation section of the show sounds terrifying. What’s your most interesting audience member experience (awful hecklers, secretly amazing dancers)?

It’s not scary at all! As an audience member I hate having to get up on stage so it’s nothing like that. I do so much dancing in the show I just impart some of this knowledge to the crowd, it’s foundation learning guys, it’s a gift really…you’re welcome. And it works both ways; people jump up and teach me awesome new moves. One night people just kept jumping up and we ended up with a full 3min spontaneously choreographed dance routine. It’s beautiful to see what people are willing to do when they are having an awesome time.

Which other acts at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival are you looking forward to seeing?

Anne Edmonds, Geraldine Hickey, Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall and Trygve Wakenshaw’s new show Nautilus.

WOMANz is playing at the Perth Cultural Centre as part of FringeWorld from the 6th to the 9th of February, 2015. Tickets are available at the FringeWorld website.

The show will also be at the Adelaide Fringe from the 13th of February until the 15th of March, the Brisbane Comedy Festival from the 17th to the 22nd of March, and of course, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival from March 26 to April 19 at the Melbourne Town Hall. 

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