"Bringing sensible back with kind and caring leadership."
- Lotta Quizeen, 2017
Lotta is a woman on a mission. She’s also a little bit cross. She didn’t vote to leave the European Union and can’t understand where all the kindness has gone. Lotta is much more than a personality with big hair. She is a match for any of today’s politicians, and prides herself that, with only a modest budget and at a moment’s notice, she can organise a second hand uniform sale, a heritage cuttings mixer and an effective national rule of law.
LOTTA HAS TAKEN UP THE GAUNTLET. TODAY PUTNEY, TOMORROW NUMBER 10!
My name is Catherine Richardson, and I am an actor, theatre major, mum, wife, daughter, sister, political observer and person who is appalled at the current state of affairs and wants to make a difference.
On Saturday 22 April 2017, I attended a conference: Brexit the Stage: What Next for British Theatre and Europe(i). I sat through a day of opaque keynotes and conclusions, fuzzy concepts and no real solutions.
It was VERY FRUSTRATING! This is a momentous time in our political history that will alter the way the world functions now and for the future generations. We are caught in a Technological Revolution, which has altered our consciousness, shifted it to the right, and allowed media-savvy politicians to gain a manipulative stranglehold on the most trusting in society.
Can we Baby Boomers and GenXers continue to behave as if the world will end when we die? No! We are responsible and we have to figure this out. So what can I, a middle-aged, white, privileged woman, do to make a difference? How can I change anything?
My character, Lotta Quizeen, was born in my MA (Performance and Visual Practices, University of Brighton, 2012) where I looked at domesticity and performance, at feminism and action. I was brought up in post-colonial Central and East Africa, and supported my husband in his diplomatic career around the world. All along, theatre has been the consistent thread. This has given me a unique perspective. Lotta allows to me examine some of the women I have met on my journey through life; the big-bosomed memsahibs, booming of voice and pernickety of manners, the diplomats’ wives, the aspirational professionals, and the feminists who try to balance work, family, pleasure, duty and responsibility.
Lotta has taken on new life fuelled by the global political turmoil and in response to the UK General Election (The US Presidential Election was not lost on her either). Through her, I’m responding to the seismic shift from issue-based politics to personality-based politics accelerated by the world wide web and the smartphone. Instagram and Snapchat. Tinder and Grindr. Present day social media driven personality politics need have no relationship to truth, fact or evidence.
‘Style has triumphed over substance. Actually, it's worse than that: we have reached a consensus that style is substance’(ii)
I’ve already encountered resistance to this project. People have commented that I am cheapening the elections. I’ve been accused of ‘splitting the vote’ at a ‘crucial’ time for Britain (Facebook comment on Lotta’s page). I hope that these things are not true. I seek to show that personalities do not make politicians. Your responsibility as a voter is to understand your candidate’s policies and make sure that they will represent you, as is your democratic right.
May, Farage, Trump, Johnson - to me, they seem disconnected from truth, immune from audit of the prejudice they spout or of the slogans they cannot deliver. It’s not only what they says that draws people to them, it’s the packaging. And if the package doesn't deliver, blame the ‘other’, lie again.
“People don't believe in ideas, they believe in people who believe in ideas”(iii)
This is not an example I wish to set the next generation. My starting point is obviously a lie – Lotta is a fictional character. A mock autobiography of myself. It’s me pretending to be someone who is pretending to be someone with some power. You may choose to vote for Lotta the Great Pretender, but you do so knowing that she is not real.
I find myself going back over some of my favourite texts, oft called on for essay writing for my degree in Applied Theatre (ie theatre for social change) and my Masters in Performance. I’m looking again at Lacan’s mirror, at Foucault and power and at the origins of western philosophical thinking. Descartes ‘je pense, donc je suis’ and Hegel’s concept of ‘the other’. Both relevant to modern political self-invention, maybe to all political invention.
So why now? Well, with Trump threatening war in North Korea and dropping bombs on Syria; with Teresa May’s extraordinary stance on Brexit at any cost, and with the narrowing opportunities for my child‘s future; why NOT NOW? As blogger Paul Stoller says:
“But the real work of resistance is down in the trenches—organizing, making phone calls, and printing flyers. For scholars the work of resistance also means constructing a sustained social critique in op ed pieces, in blogs, in films, in poetry, in drama and in multimedia installations—all in a language accessible to the general public”(iv)
GO TO LOTTA! Chop Chop!
Lotta Quizeen’s first outing was at the Marlborough Theatre in the 2012 Brighton Fringe. Since then, she has written, directed and performed as Lotta at the Brighton (Marlborough Theatre: 2013; Otherplace at The Basement: 2015, Presuming Eds: 2016), Camden (Canal Café 2015) and Edinburgh Fringes (Surgeon’s Hall 2013), Battersea Arts Centre (2013), London Science Museum Lates (2013), London Theatre Workshop (2013), Studio-Theatre by the Lake-Keswick (2013), Upstairs at the Three and Ten-Brighton (2013), a flat in Hove (2012), a barn in Suffolk (2015), and a private mini-arts festival in southwest France (in French and English) (2012) and Supper Club at The Basement-Brighton (2012). During 2015 Lotta collaborated with The Thelmas on Pull Your Socks Up, Britain (jointly written with Serena Haywood), a one woman 45 minute piece looking at the ‘empty nest’ and women’s position in today’s society (reviews available on request).