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Interview: A Very Naughty Narrative

Anna Marie Simonsen on her one-woman show Naughty

Clowning, jelly, infantilization, and condemning the patriarchy; Norwegian theatre maker Anna Marie Simonsen’s Naughty is the perfect opportunity to laugh, cringe, and question all that we know about the world around us.

We sat down with Anna to discuss her enthralling yet uncomfortable one-woman show which aims to knock the patriarchy down one laugh at a time.

Naughty is showing for one night only on the 31 January as part of the VAULT festival. Tickets here.

Naughty seems like such a fascinating show, could you delve into the premise for us?

Naughty is a power game between the patriarchy and a six year old clown in pink crocs. It’s a one-woman comedy exploring the sexualisation of young girls and infantilization of women. Through audience interaction, bodily fluids, clowning, jelly, & reckless scooter driving; the semi-improvisational piece develops into the absurd. Pushing at the boundaries of the male gaze, exploring the limits of what this six year old character might be allowed to do.

Is this show heavily based on personal experience?

I tend to develop ideas by using objects as stimulus, and then I add the topic afterwards. In this case, the object was jelly. I wondered what would happen if ‘my clown’ discovered jelly. I was introduced to clown by Goze Saner (a genius!), who told me a clown would do the unrealistic before the realistic. So what happens when a clown does the absolute last thing you’d expect with loads of jelly? Come see the show and find out!

I developed the show from that, then based on my personal experiences with older men ‘complimenting’ my  ‘childlike’ appearance. A man once said to me: “You look 15, but I like that. I like women that look young”. The show has become my way of taking ownership of my own body. Confronting the disturbing image of innocence and youth as sexy.

I think it’s so powerful to see you take quite a heavy subject and turn it into an empowering and demanding production. Do you feel a certain amount of pressure taking on this type of topic?

First and foremost: the show aims to entertain, but the project has also proven to be quite empowering for me. The stage allows me the space to put my foot down. I don’t talk much in the show, the topic isn’t explicitly said – it’s hidden in between the lines. I make people laugh and then they realize what they’re laughing at. It makes people uncomfortable, but that’s the point. 

Naughty is your debut solo show – what made you want to turn this particular story into a solo production?

I’m trained as a solo performer and clown as part of my degree at Goldsmiths University. I love working as a solo performer, but I can’t stress enough how important an outside eye is. In 2021, I worked closely with Frankie Thompson (an extremely talented artist and one of my favorite clowns) on Naughty and the show would not exist without her brilliant directing. The show is constantly developing, and I keep discovering new things whilst performing. Due to the nature of clowning, the show can only evolve with an audience.

Previous reviews have described the show as ‘importantly’ making your audience ‘uncomfortable’, is there anything you hope audiences will take away from seeing Naughty?

To expose and dismantle the sexualising male gaze, because I am sick of it.

You’ve produced theatre in both Norway and the UK. I’m interested to know, are there any cultural differences you’ve had to adjust to whilst producing and performing theatre in either country?

As I don’t really speak in the show,  it’s not been too hard to tour between the two countries. I discovered fringe theatre when moving to London. I also didn’t know I was a clown until I lived here. As the UK is bigger, there’s more opportunities for freelancers and there’s a big clown community. The first ever Oslo Fringe took place in 2021, and this has been an absolute game changer. Super exciting to be a part of the beginning of this and really excited for the future of clowns and freelancers in Oslo.

You’ve had such an interesting and varied career so far, are there any moments that you are particularly proud of? And do you have any particular goals for the future?

I went to the Edinburgh fringe with the show last year, and I found it extremely overwhelming. As a producer of my own work, it’s a lot to juggle and a lot of pressure. I decided right before I went up there that my main goal was to make friends. I love my clown and queer community, and I don’t want to lose that. I think one of my goals for the future would be to work hard to make sure that community can continue to exist. For that to happen, I think there are a lot of changes that need to happen in terms of how things are run (eg. fairer pay, more queer spaces etc).

Our thanks to Anna Marie for finding some time to chat. You can catch Naughty when it plays at VAULT Festival 2023 on 31 January. Further information and bookings can be found here.

About Bethany Chandler

Bethany is a 24 year old London-based (wannabe!) writer who currently survives on coffee and theatre trips. Although she has no formal theatre experience, she likes to think that the expertise of her thespian friends and flatmates are slowly starting to rub off on her! Her writing experience so far has been largely magazine-based so she’s really looking forward to using this opportunity to develop her writing in a much more creative atmosphere.