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Interview: Taking Aim at The Big C

At Least I’m Not Bald

We first met Valery Reva during last year’s Camden Fringe, when she was performing her show In|secure. It was an emotional punch of a show as she revealed the mental anguish of being a Ukrainian living away from home. So when Valery got in touch about her new show, we were more than delighted to find some time to sit down with not just her, but also colloborators Kapil Redekar and Benita C. Lambrechts, to chat about her latest show, At Least I’m Not Bald, which is heading to EdFringe this August, with a single evening at Lion and Unicorn Theatre on 14 July for those stuck in London!

Lovely to meet you all. Maybe a round of introductions to get things started then?

VR: My name is Valery Reva, I’m an actress from Ukraine based in London and writer-performer of At Least I’m Not Bald.

KR: My name is Kapil Redekar and I am the director of the show. I am originally from Mumbai, India but currently based in London.  

BL: My name is Benita C. Lambrechts, and I’m a Norwegian actor and creator based in London. I’m thrilled to be the Movement Director for the show.

What can audiences expect from your show then?

VR: A story about the ‘Big C’, the letter that terrifies many. However, the statistics says that 1 in 2 people will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime. So I find it very important to talk about the fears out loud and discuss on stage, although it’s tricky to find the right form. This show is what I’d call an adult fairy-tale – I went for this form as the diagnosis makes you feel as vulnerable as a child. 

KR: This show offers a unique blend of humour and hope, it takes the piss out of life’s miseries while inspiring the audience. Viewers can expect an engaging journey filled with original music, creating an unforgettable experience that combines wit and heartfelt moments, making them laugh and reflect on life’s ups and downs.

BL: The audience can expect a heartfelt, imaginative and intriguing story infused with physicality and humour. 

Where are we going to be able to catch the show then?

VR.: We are performing in the Lion & Unicorn Theatre, a beautiful venue in the heart of Kentish Town. I had the privilege to present my debut play in|Secure there last year, and had a wonderful experience, so the choice was obvious – it’s one of the theatres you come back to.

And in Edinburgh we’ll be performing at C Alto – a new C Venues location just around the corner from the Royal Mile, so surely no need to explain why we chose it, right?

What was the inspiration behind the show?

VR: This spring I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Out of the blue. Without any symptoms or pains. I was lucky the tumour was found at an early stage and the surgery was performed the following week but the shock that comes at the moment of getting the diagnosis is impossible to put into words. All your life, dreams, plans fall apart in one second. You are left vulnerable and alone in the middle of despair. At this moment, the patient needs help and support, although few people understand how to provide it. Your loved ones are just paralysed with anxiety and can’t do anything to actually be there for you. I decided to write a piece that would get rid of the stigma and unpack the question – what is cancer and what you can actually do to help the one that needs help. 

What was it that attracted you to this project?

KR: In my opinion, every experience you have in your own life can be channelled and be projected in your own unique way for other people to pluck out anything they want from it. As long as your intent is pure, people’s experience is bound to be good. I thought this project has a lot to offer for the people who will watch it.

BL: As a Movement Director, I found the script’s visual imagery captivating and was excited to create a physical language to enhance the storytelling. The show features multiple roles and universes, offering a unique challenge in distinguishing them through movement.

What is it you hope the audience think after watching the show?

VR: That love stands longer than fear. And also – to book a full body check-up.

KP: I just want the audience to enjoy the show, to be present with it in the moment. What they think after the show is up to them. There is never a fixed interpretation for an abstract painting.

BL: I hope the audience leaves feeling uplifted, encouraged and entertained.

If you had to describe your show as a meal, what would it be, and why?

VR: I’d say it’s a lemon cake – bitter but sweet.

KR: It’s a world cuisine. It is a show made from people around the world who were raised in different cultures, speaking different languages, facing different problems. Yet they have come together to make a show that is for the world.

If you had to describe your show as a colour, what would it be, and why?

BL: I would describe the show as the colour green, symbolising both sickness and nature, health and healing.

As always, our thanks to Valery, Kapil and Benita for finding the time out of their busy schedules to chat with us. You can catch At Least I’m Not Bald at Lion and Unicorn Theatre on 14 July, tickets available here, and then Edfringe at C Venues from 31 July to 11 August, further information and tickets available here.

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