Interview: By The Balls Theatre Company on Goodbye ’89, ‘The show is pretty funny, if we do say so ourselves!’

by Jim Keaveney

By The Balls Theatre Company, comprised of Ellen Trevaskiss, Alice Berry, Michaella Moore, Rebecca Fox, Martha Caidan and Ophelia J Wisdom, bring the tales of six activists on New Year’s Eve 1989 to the VAULT Festival’s Cage this week in a love letter to pioneering activists of the ‘80s.

The young company, created just last year at East15, took time out from rehearsals to write a collective response to our questions about the inspiration play and what it’s like to take it to VAULT Festival.

Q&A with By The Balls Theatre Company

What can you tell us about By The Balls Theatre Company and Goodbye ’89?

So By The Balls Theatre Company was founded sort of by accident, we were all on East15 MA course last year, and for one of our semesters we had to create a show in 7 days. The process involved pitching ideas and forming companies among the cohort, and we were sort of thrown together at the last minute. Having never worked together as a group, we had no idea how we would gel as a company. We are an all womxn, queer theatre company, and we realised early on we wanted to create stories that gave voice to people missing from the centre stage of our theatre industry.

Goodbye ’89 is a love letter to the pioneering activists of the 80’s, who were fighting a long-standing Conservative regime under Margaret Thatcher. The show takes place on New Year’s Eve of 1989, in a run-down flat in Earls Court. A ragtag group of “Whores, Dykes and Strays” are preparing for the biggest protest of their lives, will a crisis of faith derail their plan?

What was the original inspiration for the show?

Our original reference point was the Blood Sisters, a group of queer women in San-Francisco who led blood drives for the gay community in the height of the AIDs crisis. We also discovered early on just how dangerous the 80’s was for womxn, especially those deemed by society as having “high risk lifestyles” i.e sex workers, those in the LGBTQ+ community and womxn of colour. There is a lot of amazing media telling the stories of the struggle of gay men during the HIV/AIDS crisis, but we couldn’t find much media highlighting the humanity of these womxn at the time.

What’s it like to be bringing the show to VAULT Festival?

SO EXCITING! We feel so lucky to be part of such an incredible event that highlights so many underrepresented voices. The support of VAULTs has been immense, with so many workshops, events, and opportunities for growth as a theatre company, we’ve felt really held by VAULTs, as the first major festival we’ve taken part in. We couldn’t have picked better! The venue is accessible, and SO BEAUTIFUL, the graffiti in the toilets is a personal highlight… Heartbreakingly, this may be the last year of VAULTs, so if you can donate to save this festival, please do- #SAVEVAULT

How do you think audiences will react?

The most fun part of theatre is that you’ll never know how the audience will react, but we would love for our audience members to leave with motivation to see and uphold the womxn in their life. We really hope that audiences will see the humanity in these womxn, and maybe even do a little research into the real people that were out protesting and marching in the streets at this time. We also hope that our audiences will laugh, because the show is pretty funny, if we do say so ourselves!

How would you describe the show to some considering buying a ticket?

The show is hilarious, with real heart and grit. We truly live up to our company name, and Goodbye ’89 really does grab you by the balls. You can bring a pint, maybe a friend, or even your mam, and celebrate New Years Eve like it’s 1989.

Goodbye ’89 is at VAULT Festival for four performances across 18 and 19 March