Nine Foot Nine premieres as part of the Breaking Out initiative at The Bunker Theatre. Daniel Perks catches creative producer of Sleepless Theatre Company, Josie Shipp, to discuss the work:

It was one of our Theatre Editor’s top picks for these spring months – in June, the Breaking Out initiative kicks off as part of The Bunker’s Summer Season 2018. A new programme by Artistic Director Joshua McTaggart, it champions new work from innovative theatre companies, with six shows all playing over the course of four weeks in a repertory style scheduling that is proving more and more popular on today’s fringe scene:

  • On Mondays and Thursdays will play Libby’s Eyes and Nine Foot Nine
  • On Tuesdays and Fridays will play No One Is Coming To Save You and Section 2
  • On Wednesdays and Saturdays will play Kiss Chase and GUY: A New Musical

Previously we interviewed Amy Bethan Evans and her show, Libby’s Eyes. Next up, we caught up with Sleepless Theatre Company‘s creative producer, Josie Shipp. Their latest show, Nine Foot Nine, examines the ever-changing labels of masculine and feminine in a world forever altered by gender balancing:

Breaking Out The Bunker

Describe your show in three words.

Really tall women.

How are you feeling about performing at The Bunker as part of the Breaking Out event?

It’s really energising being part of a programme which is made up solely of emerging companies – everyone’s fresh and so full of new and exciting ideas, which is such a great place to be. One of the perks of this is being able to share our knowledge and connect with other companies in the same place on the metaphorical ‘theatre ladder’. We’re particularly excited about working with Georgie Morrell who is the kick-ass, driving force behind Poke In The Eye – it’s so wonderfully refreshing to meet another emerging company that had the same ethos as us when it comes to accessibility.

Who or what are your inspirations, the things that give you the energy to keep going and making theatre/ acting/ being involved?

It sounds supremely naff and cliched to say that I knew I wanted to carve myself a space in the theatre world from a young age, but this doesn’t really make it any less true. What keeps me going (and I feel like this is such a pertinent question, as you really do have to be a driving force to stay afloat in the theatre world) is the feeling of creating a whole world from nothing. Theatre also has a huge social responsibility and Sleepless tries really hard to be an active part of the change that is happening throughout the industry – a particular euphoria is when audiences come out of the work my team and I have been working so hard on and continue talking about the show even when they’ve left the theatre. It’s then I know I’ve done my job well.

What are the future plans for your show? What is the dream after this run?

Nine Foot Nine is continuing full steam ahead after we close at The Bunker and travelling upupup North to the Edinburgh Fringe. It’s running for four weeks in the land of bagpipes, kilts and flyers at the Assembly Front Rooms on George Street. And after that, who knows…?

What is the best production that you saw in the last 12 months – can be any genre, style, in any theatre or performance space?

I would have to say the tour of Reasons To Be Cheerful, which I caught on its last stop at Theatre Royal Stratford East in October. GRAEAE do an amazing job of holding up their middle fingers to anyone who says D/deaf and Disabled artists have no place in mainstream theatre, and then proving them completely wrong! It was an absolutely smashing production, the audience was having the BEST time and I would recommend it to anyone if it comes back round again.

Is there anything else you want to highlight about your show/ theatre company/ production?

Everyone at Sleepless Theatre Company is a hugely passionate advocate for equality in the arts when it comes to bodies that fall outside our cultural ‘norm’, whether that be in regards to gender, ethnicity, D/deafness, Disability or otherwise. We also strive to make our work open to be enjoyed by everyone and I personally am very excited that Nine Foot Nine is going to be our first fully captioned show.

It’s not been an easy ride. We’ve been told so many variations on “First you have to be successful, then you can be accessible” which we utterly disagree with – everyone has the right to make mistakes, and new, emerging theatre is some of the most exciting theatre out there. Why not create these sort of stories that can be enjoyed by everyone? If being accessible is (for whatever reason) going to affect the quality of your work then try, fail, fail and fail again until it doesn’t. It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time, it’s about changing the way professionals and audiences interact with this concept of ‘disability’ – being wrong on the way to being right is a vital part of the process



Nine Foot Nine runs on Mondays and Thursdays from 11 June – 7 July 2018, one of the Breaking Out plays as part of The Bunker Summer Season. For more information or to book tickets, please visit the venue website.