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Interview: Taking a short trip to Barcelona for Just Sayin’

Tina Zucco talks to us about new play, Just Sayin’

Tina Zucco’s Just Sayin’ is heading to Islington’s The Hope Theatre as part of this year’s Camden Fringe. Yes, we know, Islington isn’t technically in Camden, but hey, it’s a growing festival, it needs all the space it can get! 

The play follows Cat, new to Barcelona and eager to find love. But when she starts to do voluntary work in the homeless community, it makes her question what it is she really wants from life.

It certainly looks to contain themes we’re always pleased to see covered, so we couldn’t resist the opportunity to grab some time with Tina and find out more.

Lovely to meet you Tina – first things first, how much of you is there in your character Cat? Are you from Barcelona originally?

Thank you so much for having me! It’s great having the chance to talk about Cat and Just Sayin’ in general because this show has been a part of my life for a year now and I’m so excited any time I get to share it with more people!

I would say that Cat(erina) is 50% me, and 50% my best friend… Although I did live in Barcelona for a while, the character of Cat and her story was actually inspired by my best friend, an Italian girl, working in Barcelona, and volunteering with the homeless community there. But then, all of Cat’s flaws and quirks come from me, and she has some of my interests too, like the fact that she loves salsa dancing and watching Vampire Diaries is definitely something we have in common. 

But Is London your home now? And do you still feel it is as much home now as when you first arrived, hope Brexit hasn’t affected your love of our wonderful city?

London is my home and I love it! I’ve been in the UK for about 6 years now and I’ve had the chance to live in York, Manchester and now London! Brexit was a bit of a shock because the referendum happened just after I got accepted into university in the UK so I feared I wasn’t going to feel welcomed. But all of the wonderful people I met in England never made me feel unwanted, everyone is lovely and polite, which is one thing I love about the UK! But it is a bit saddening that other Italians now can’t just as easily move here and start a new life.

Your new play is Just Sayin’ – what drew you to write a play that seems to be very much about homelessness? Is this a subject close to your heart?

Like I mentioned earlier, this play is inspired by my best friend, Carlotta. She volunteers with a local Christian charity to help the homeless every Sunday, and when she started talking to me about it, her eyes had a wonderful spark in them, you could see how happy she was to be making a different in people’s lives, and how great she felt to be meeting all these different unique people every Sunday. 

One day we were having a drink in Barcelona and one of the regulars that she sees quite often during her time with the charity came to talk to her, to catch up and ask for her help for a problem he was having, and I realised how she was actually building very personal relationships with many of them. That’s when I decided to start writing Just Sayin’. It actually had a working title of “Carlotta” for about 6 months.

Did you do much research into the subject, do you think people aren’t aware of just how much of a problem homelessness is?

Once I left Barcelona I still called Carlotta every Monday night. She would tell me about who she had met that week and the stories she’d heard. I started writing down everything she was saying. So that was the beginning of the research project. I wanted to make sure that all of the homeless characters Cat meets in her journey were real people and not just cliches.

Needless to say, the more I would hear about these people the more I got into tackling the problem of homelessness in the UK. I found a director who was also active in helping the homeless. We then picked London and Brighton as the places to stage Just Sayin’ because both of these cities have an incredibly high percentage of homeless people.

We don’t expect our play to change the world, but we do hope we can make a small difference, so we partnered with Beam who run individual fundraisers to help people get off the streets, and we’re fundraising for them on the days of our show, hoping to raise enough to help at least one person start a new life.

It’s also about how your actions can make a difference in someone else’s life, is this something you’ve experienced. Is it more about the small things we do, or are you hoping people might think much bigger – such as going out to volunteer?

I think it’s definitely about the little things. If we could just inspire our audience to be nice and kind, to acknowledge the people asking for help and honestly thinking is there anything I can do for them now? Like, maybe I don’t have change on me, but I’m going into Tesco, is there anything they need? Literally one smile can go a long way, so yeah, we can’t change the world, but we can try to change the mood of the people who inhabit it.

What can we expect from the play, are you going to tug on the heartstrings or just planning to make us laugh?

Well, I’m a massive fan of comedy. I think people remember things that make them laugh, so you can expect laughter for sure. But ultimately, we talk about some serious stuff, so there will be some heartfelt moments that will make our audience reflect, maybe even feel something they wouldn’t have expected to feel when coming into the theatre.

Camden Fringe is looking very big and bold this year, how excited are you to be part of it, and are there any other shows you’ve got your eye on and hope to see?

I am both excited and terrified to be part of the Camden Fringe this year. The thing I love the most about London is its theatre scene and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be part of it. But the competition is extremely high and I myself have a growing list of shows I want to watch! I’ll definitely start with Someone Else’s Shoes because it opens the festival and it’s put on by a group of young artists, which is something I always admire! Then I’ll catch Hooks and Hookups which is on the same days as me at the Hope Theatre. (You can listen to our interview with the creatives of Hoops and Hookups here.) One other show I would recommend is Blue Balloons Pink which is also at the Hope Theatre and I’ve had the pleasure to catch at the Brighton Fringe. It’s also a new piece of writing full of twists! 

With so much to see, why should we make sure Just Sayin’ is on the top of the list of shows that should be seen at the festival this year then?

All I’ll say is that if you’re looking for a new, fresh, one-woman show that will make you forget you’re in London and transport you to the magical Barcelona for one hour, then come watch Just Sayin’, and you will not be disappointed! 

Honestly, I am so grateful I had female creatives such as Lara Cosmetatos, the director, and Siân Elissa and Tee, the producer and designer, working with me on Just Sayin’. They all brought something wonderful and unique to the team and the show, and we were all amazed when we were nominated for Best Play at the Brighton Fringe. It was the first time we were all working together and seeing the results, and the way our first audience reacted to the show, was really gratifying! 

As always, our thanks to Tina for finding the time to chat to us about her play.

You can catch Just Sayin’ at The Hope Theatre between 12 and 14 August at 9pm. Further information and tickets here.

The show plays after Hoops and Hookups (7pm) so we do highly recommend a double bill! You can find out more about Hoops and Hookups in our recent podcast with the writers/ performers here.

If you want to support Just Sayin’, they have a GoFundMe page here for donations. If you donate the price of a ticket you will receive a link with the professionally filmed performance of the show when it is available.

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