Writer, comedian and director Rachel Creeger spoke to JLife ahead of her upcoming show It’s No Job For A Nice Jewish Girl at the Whitefield Garrick Theatre (5th and 6th July) as part of the Greater Manchester Fringe festival.
Can you tell us about It’s No Job For A Nice Jewish Girl?
The show explores the conflict people experience when they have a dual identity. There are many people in the UK who have immigrant or refugee grandparents and parents, and it definitely impacts on your sense of self. The show is a bit of a homage to my amazing grandparents who each contributed in some way to my ending up in this unusual line of work.
It also looks at the journey to integrate the different sides of who you are, especially if you’ve grown up not being sure of where you fit in. I’ve worked in some really diverse industries and had some very bizarre experiences as the only practising Jew some of my colleagues and clients have ever met. It’s been great fun exploring this material in random pubs and comedy clubs all over the place!
How does your faith contribute to your work?
I grew up in Chigwell where my family was very active in the community. I now live in Barnet in Hertfordshire with my husband and sons. My faith is an integral part of my personal life and I really appreciate what it does for me and my family.
Having Shabbat is a huge gift as it gives you a chance to leave the craziness of your working week and exist on a more human to human level. Until I worked on the show Mancunian Rhapsody in 2015, I didn’t write much Jewish material at all, as I was always being pigeonholed as “Jewish writer and director” despite my work focusing on comedy and new writing.
I began to write a new play, Our Still Waters, about a group of Jewish women from different backgrounds and over the following year began to develop more of my own material around my experiences and history. During last year’s Edinburgh Fringe I became really excited at the idea of taking this further, and initially performed a very early version of this show at Limmud Conference 2016 to a packed out room.
What are your connections to Manchester?
I have a great fondness for Manchester as many of my longstanding friends are from the north, mainly those I met through Bnei Akiva. My husband also studied in Manchester and still feels very attached to the community. I have brought previous shows to the Greater Manchester Fringe, including my first full length play, the dark comedy Staffroom and Debra Tammer’s Mancunian Rhapsody which was nominated for the Best Comedy Show award at the fringe in 2015, and Ria Lina’s Dear Daughter which won that award last year. We have always been welcomed with open arms and I’m so grateful. The Greater Manchester Fringe is an extremely supportive organisation and I’m thrilled to be coming back.
Which do you love more, directing or performing?
I’m a bit of a Jack of all trades and I love writing, directing and performing equally, but each one will become my obsession at any given time depending on the project. I have been performing since I was a young child and feel very at home on the stage, but I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of bringing the best out of a script or performer as a director, and creating new writing myself. At the moment I am having a lot of fun as a full time comic.
What was the last production or show that really inspired you?
In March I saw the incredibly special show Lost Without Words at the National Theatre. A cast of elderly actors were given improvisation training and with direction from their facilitators they created a series of improvised scenes around suggestions and themes. None of them had ever worked without scripts before and the resulting performances were beautiful, poignant and most of all, hilarious!
You do a lot of work in the community, including writing workshops with WriteSpace Jerusalem.
WriteSpace Jerusalem was set up by Nadia Jacobson, with the aim of providing a range of good quality writing workshops for English speakers of all backgrounds and interests. I have worked with a whole range of groups through WriteSpace, from professional fiction writers, to trainers and presenters, and most memorably we ran a workshop for an Arab school in Shefar’Am using social media language to help the students develop their English skills.
I’m also currently working with Menorah Foundation Primary School in London who commissioned an original play for their Year 6 leaver’s production. I’ve devised the show with the children, taking on board their ideas and talents, and ensuring that the cast all have similar sized roles. Trying to please everyone is a bit of a challenge but I think we’ve got there.
What’s next for you?
I’m busy ploughing through the marketing and admin for my new show, and I’m hoping to keep honing it with a view to touring later in the year or early 2018. I will be finishing Our Still Waters and looking to get that produced once it’s complete. Mainly I’m looking forward to continuing to develop as a comedian and get my teeth into some new and exciting projects!
Visit Rachelcreeger.com or to book tickets to Rachel’s show at Whitefield Garrick theatre, head to Greatermanchesterfringe.co.uk.