Content Note: Mention of mental health issues and Bi erasure.
Each August, the city of Edinburgh fills to the brim with shows and talent from all over the world for the Fringe Festival. With Bi depictions becoming more commonplace in tv and film, we wanted to see what the Fringe Festival had to offer. We spoke to the Bi talent telling our stories through comedy and theatre this summer. Each had a different voice and perspective to share and proved bi people are a diverse and talented bunch. We caught up with some of the creatives behind these Fringe shows and sat down to talk about all things bi.
📸 Photo credit: Ali Wright
Algorithms is a tragicomedy one-woman play about turning thirty, online dating and laughing off bisexual tropes. As Sadie Clark’s debut play, we sat down to chat about mainstream ‘bi-ness’, the importance of telling our own stories and our shared love for Bridget Jones.
*Algorithms is written and performed by Sadie Clark
Q – Your depiction of a bi character felt as though you did it for a bi audience as well as a non-queer audience. What made you why you chose to incorporate Bi-ness into your show?
Sadie Clark: I knew I wanted to have a bi character because I realised I was bisexual when I was 26. When I had the realisation I looked back and thought god there’s been loads of times I really fancied women but didn’t think it was real or significant because I didn’t realise that bisexuality was a thing. I felt if I’d seen a character that was just bisexual and it wasn’t a big deal, that might have helped? I wanted to write a mainstream show, where the character happened to be bi and address those things that do come up.
📸 Photo credit: Ali Wright
It felt true the bi experience and life when your female character kisses another woman on a date and says ‘almost immediately I’m surrounded by men’.
SC: “There was a really nice groan when I did the line, from someone who had obviously been in that exact same position as well.”
SC: “That’s happened to me so many times, where a guy has come up and been like thinking that me kissing a girl is for their amusement or their viewing. So little things like that I wanted to include. I remember I had a friend who’s gay say to me ‘[the play] doesn’t feel queer enough, what are those strange and weird things she does that are really queer?’ And I was like well she doesn’t really. She likes singing in the street and she’ll say the wrong thing sometimes or be really honest in an awkward situation. I think so often [bi people] feel as though we’re not queer enough.”
It feels wrong to try and identify people through visual cues or how they act. It puts people in a box, feel like they have to play into a stereotype, what do you think?
SC: “Maybe they have loads of piercings and a shaved head and they are straight?”
Exactly. Do whatever you want to do.
SC: “I hope the message that comes across [in Algorithms] is that whoever you are it’s okay to be yourself.
Q – How has your experience been as a bi creative at Edinburgh Fringe?
SC: “I came up to the Fringe thinking I’m going to be a little minority as a bisexual creative, but there are so many other bi creatives that are here. [I’ve had] so many audience members saying ‘ah it’s so great to see that bi representation’.”
📸 Photo credit: Ali Wright
*Algorithms also showed at The Pleasance London 8-10 October as part of the Best of Edinburgh season.
With less focus on the politics of bi-identity, Collapsible is a one-woman feverish, bitterly funny monologue from award-winning Irish writer Margaret Perry. The protagonist’s story is about not fitting into the mould society gives you and what happens when everything crumbles around you. She also happens to be Bi.
📸 Photo credit: Holly Revell
*Collapsible is written by playwright Margaret Perry.
Q – Collapsible is a serious play about a character going through a difficult period and dealing with mental health issues, that just happens to be Bisexual. It felt important as a bi audience member that those aspects weren’t intrinsically linked, that her sexuality wasn’t contributing to her mental health issues. Was it intentional to normalise her bisexuality in this way?
C: I do feel like queer representation in theatre is mostly gay men, there’s increasing representation of queer women. But you rarely ever see bi women. And so often queer stories are coming out stories. I wanted to write a story that wasn’t about [their sexuality].
Q – Normalising bi people in theatre is important for us to experience as bi people. How would you like your bi audience to feel leaving Collapsible?
C: To know that you can have a great love of your life and [their gender] doesn’t have to mean you are gay or straight. I’d want them to feel held, and safe.
📸 Photo credit: Holly Revell
was part of the High Tide Disruption: The Future of New Theatre series at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It also ran at Dublin Fringe 17-21 September and will be at Bush Theatre in Feb/March 2020.
The Unfortunate Bisexual
The Unfortunate Bisexual is a much cheerier experience than the name might suggest. Comedians Rachel Wheeley and Cerys Bradley, who also performed on the main stage at our Bi Pride event, explore their sexuality on stage and answer the important questions surrounding bi-ness with graphs, charts and anecdotes involving Prince William and Michael Phelps. Even though their experiences are wildly different, they share a silly sense of humour and the combination of their voices work well together, making their bi audience feel at home in the company of funny people just like them.
*The Unfortunate Bisexual is a comedy duo made up of Cerys Bradley and Rachel Wheeley.
Q – How did you both find each other and come together to create ‘The Unfortunate Bisexual’?
RW: I started doing stand-up comedy partly because I hadn’t come out yet. I started writing stand-up about being Bisexual, and I had to come out to everybody so that they could come to my show and see me talking about it.
CB: We met at a BBC comedy heat. It happened not long after I had come out to my parents. So I had all these ludicrous things to talk about.
RW: I thought there’s someone who can stand on stage and talk about how they are bisexual and I hadn’t come out to anybody. Cerys was quite instrumental in giving me a kick up the arse. If it wasn’t for Cerys I wouldn’t be here.
Q – I think the audience appreciated that ‘The Unfortunate Bisexual’ gives two unique depictions of bi-ness, the show felt like it was for the bi community. Was this intentional in creating the show?
CB: Rachel’s material mirrors mine but then is also very different from mine. Putting this show together did make me feel closer to the Bisexual community than I ever have. I felt like a story within a lot of stories.
CB: We started running a night called the Big Old Bisexual Cabaret in London, where we get lots of Bi or Pan or Queer performers. We have drag, burlesque, comedy, magic. They have been super celebratory. The bisexual audience really is up for anything, it’s been really good. We can be silly for two hours.
RW: We’re trying to be celebratory [of bi-ness]
Q – It’s great to see shows about Bi people made by Bi people.
CB: It’s really nice when the show means a lot to people. We had a preview in London, we arrived on the day and they said we’d sold out. Seeing that many Bisexuals in one room was amazing. Having conversations after the shows is really cool, a guy came up to me who said ‘it really meant a lot to me’.
Q – How do you want Bi audiences to feel and take away from experiencing your show?
RW: A badge.
CB: Give us money and take a badge home.
If you get a chance to see ‘The Unfortunate Bisexual’ or go to the Big Old Bisexual Cabaret, be sure to pick up a badge and support them. Or if you missed them check out more about their work via the links below:
they/them | website
she/her | website
Cerys’s new project is free comedy classes for LBGTQ+ women, femmes and non binary folk. See londonfriend.org.uk for more details soon.
In their individual ways, each of these shows challenged the misconceptions or myths surrounding Bi people. It’s important to see our stories being told by people who identify as Bi, or Queer, or Pan or Poly. Be sure to check our fellow unicorns out, and keep an eye out for what they do next!
*Disclaimer* Interviews have been edited slightly for clarity and length.