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As ThickSkin Theatre prepare to bring their brand-new show Peak Stuff to CFT from 15 February, we caught up with Associate Director Hetty Hodgson. Hetty has a connection to CFT, and shares how this has shaped their career…

What is your role on Peak Stuff?

I am the associate director on Peak Stuff. I work alongside Neil Bettles (the director) and the rest of the team to support the creation of the show. This could mean working as a springboard for creative ideas, communicating with designers and the rest of the team, supporting Meg Lewis (the performer) with their performance (and their many, many, many lines) - and more practically, helping everyone know where they're meant to be and when. Every day is different! I'll also be there for the whole tour - making sure the show continues to look, feel and sound how we want it to as we bring it to lots of very different venues. I'll be facilitating workshops across the country and being part of post-show conversations.

Two performers sit on the floor of a rehearsal studio, side on to the camera. The performer on the left has short dark hair and wears matching sage green leggings and a crop top with a cropped white t-shirt and checked yellow shirt on top, rainbow stripey socks and white trainers. They are looking ahead and speaking with one hand lifted. The performer on the right has shoulder length ginger hair and wears a green sweatshirt under black dungarees with yellow trainers. They hold their arm outstretched and look down at a script on the floor.
Performer Meg Lewis (they/she) and Associate Hetty Hodgson (they/she) in rehearsal for Peak Stuff. Image: Ray Chan 2024

What have you enjoyed about working on this show? What’s different about this project?

It's been an absolutely incredible experience working on Peak Stuff. The show is performed by one actor, playing three characters alongside a live drummer and electric underscore. The process towards making this has been unconventionally brilliant in so many ways. We've been developing music, performance and storytelling together from the beginning of the process, as well as having video and lighting designers in the room from much earlier than usual. This has been especially important as most of the show is being operated live from the stage by Matt, the drummer. Making the show in rehearsal venues where we were able to have our full set and tech in place from the start has meant there has been much more space for collaboration between disciplines. We've been able to develop the show so that all aspects of storytelling, across design, music and performance, are speaking to one another.

I know you have a connection to CFT yourself. Why do you think audiences in Chichester will enjoy Peak Stuff? What can they expect and look forward to?

I think Peak Stuff will be pretty different from anything people have seen before in a theatre. Exploring consumerism and our relationship with stuff through three totally different characters there is something everyone can relate to, as well as something for everyone to be challenged by. Whilst the themes and issues the play explores are huge and could be overwhelming, Billie Collins's magic as a writer means these are also extremely personal and intimate, as well as sometimes very funny! With live drumming throughout, as well as spectacular visuals through video and lighting, the show is an all-consuming, stimulating rollercoaster of an experience - imagine theatre meets gig. And we can be sure that there'll be a lot to chat about in the bar afterwards, on the way home or even months later.

A drummer sits behind a drum kit, playing with drumsticks. He is looking off to the left, concentrating intently.
Matthew Churcher (he/him) in rehearsal for Peak Stuff Image: Ray Chan 2024

What was your involvement with CFT?

I've been visiting family in Chichester since I was a child and it's now where my parents live. It's where I was lucky enough to see my first theatre shows, in fact my first theatre memory was seeing Just So Stories in 2004, when I was 6 (!) and it's been such a huge privilege to get to spend time seeing so many brilliant and personally transformative shows since then. But I was lucky enough to really get involved in CFT in 2020 when for two years I became part of the first Youth Advisory Board. As part of this, alongside Hugh Summers (and with help from the rest of the YAB) I wrote a proposal for an Artist Development Programme at CFT. It has been really exciting to see this come to life with the pilot for the programme having launched in the last couple of months.

Two performers  and the director sit on the floor of a rehearsal studio. The two performers  look down at scripts  and the director has a tablet in front of him. The actor on the left sits up on a low stage, with one knee hugged to their chest. They are concentrating on the script. The other performer  has their back to the camera, looking at the director, who sits in between the two. He is looking intently at the performer  in front of him and speaking to them, with one hand lifted.
Performer Meg Lewis (they/she), Director Neil Bettles (he/him) and Associate Hetty Hodgson (they/she) in rehearsal for Peak Stuff. Image: Ray Chan 2024

What did you gain from this experience and how has it supported you to get to where you are now?

Being part of the Youth Advisory Board taught me so much about the wider infrastructure of a theatre building and the industry and gave me an understanding of the ins and outs of why decisions are made and how. This has been pretty invaluable going forward and working with large organisations in my work. It was also a hugely empowering experience - we were invited to say what we thought and believed and to be heard to put our ideas into action. I was mentored by the incredible Georgina Rae, who was the Director of Projects and Planning, and she has been absolutely invaluable to me as a springboard and all-round champion. More broadly, I have been lucky enough to see such a broad range of work at CFT over the years which has been the biggest catalyst for me making theatre now - and I am so, so hugely grateful for it.

If you’re ready for this boundary-pushing new show, Peak Stuff comes to the Minerva from 15 - 17 Feb. Don’t get left out of the conversation…