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This July and August 2024, She Said Jump's outdoor performance The Guy in the Luggage Rack will tour to festivals, outdoor and unusual spaces across the house network.

She Said Jump are a physical theatre company who create stories using original aerial equipment and drawing on theatre clown, circus, dance, mime and puppetry. They make work for indoor, outdoor and digital spaces, for audiences and participants. The company also collaborate and curate work with other artists. We caught up with Artistic Director and performer Maisie about The Guy in the Luggage Rack which is touring through house this summer to six outdoor venue spaces across the South East of England.

Can you tell us a bit about the history of She Said Jump, and how the name of the company came about?

Actually the show came first, and the company grew around it and to support that process - The Guy in the Luggage Rack was our first project as a company.

I lost my mum to cancer in 2016 and the shock and grief put a pause on the creative work I was doing at the time. I carried on performing for other people and teaching but had no drive to realise any ideas or lead any projects. It was the most significant event of my adult life and I suppose a lot of my energy was going into trying to comprehend that experience. It was at times a lonely one, but the connections I found with other people through sharing our experiences, feelings and thoughts on the subject were incredible... those who had also been through grief and loss, but also amazing friends who were able to empathise despite not having been through it themselves.

When I did start to have some energy to create again I felt very clear that that was the subject I wanted to explore, both my own experience of loss but also others'. It is such a universal experience, one that isn't spoken about enough but has the power to connect people. Physical comedy, movement and particularly aerial have been at the heart of my practice for some time... it felt important to me to find a way to weave humour in, and somehow the idea came up to personify the grief character, and in my head that was always going to be Malik (Ibheis my co-creator and performer, and now co-director of the company) - he is the perfect combination of scary monster and loveable, innocent clown. My dear friend and colleague Lizzie Muncey had been lending me her amazing comedic brain, helping me explore the early story ideas (on paper at first). In Feb 2019 Adrian Berry at Jacksons Lane gave us a few days of free space to explore some ideas the three of us. It was such a fun and playful time despite the sometimes very heavy subject matter. We were then offered a Transmission Residency later that year at Jacksons Lane and the company was sort of born of that time really.

The name... haha... well, it felt disingenuous to put the work out under my name as it had been a totally collaborative experience (with those two at the heart but many more besides). I won't lie, there was definitely a bit of brainstorming and then seeing what domain names and social handles were already taken, but I settled on this as a bit of a nod to my mum, who had always been such a massive supporter of my creativity and mad ideas, and a small handful of other women who had supported me so much me after her death and encouraged me get back to get back on with it all. I owe a lot to those women, and to Malik and Lizzie and everyone else involved in the work - a true team effort!

The Guy in the Luggage Rack addresses the themes of grief, bereavement and memory. The lead character Daisy wrestles a 6-foot invisible bald guy carrying a lot of luggage! What is your favourite part about Daisy’s relationship with him?

I love the fact that he really is totally benign and always has Daisy's best interests at heart, but in the process he's causing chaos for her all over the place and at first that's all she can see. Her experience of him (and of her grief) shifts over time. At first it's a bit like emotional whack-a-mole, she's determined to keep him at arm's length and get on with everything else, but eventually she's able to face him and not feel totally overwhelmed, and to let him take her back to memories of her mum and of the good times.

I particularly love the wrestling scene - it was one of the first physical ideas we came up with way back in 2019 and it's barely changed since then. It's so much fun, the 'Guy' (who we lovingly call Ian in rehearsals, though he's never named in the show) is the unfiltered version of what Daisy is feeling at that moment. Whilst her colleague reels off a whole load of well intentioned but inappropriate clichés about death and grief, Daisy fights a loosing battle to control him. Malik is so brilliant at playing that, and often genuinely surprises me in the moment, it's hard not to laugh out loud sometimes.

How physically demanding is the rehearsal and development stage of making the work?

It's pretty demanding because you are getting used to new equipment and new ways of moving - we use non-standard aerial equipment to help us tell the story, and that's become key to the way we work as a company. At the same time you're going over things a billion times to try and get it right, or playing improvs for so much longer than the scene they will eventually become to try and discover what the good bits are.

I always find when I'm doing something new at height I get 'fear grip', where you basically hold on ten times harder than you need to because you're not quite sure what you're doing yet, and totally exhaust yourself in the process! Over time you refine things and hopefully become more economical with your energy. Having said all that the creative process is so much fun that it brings a kind of energy of it's own which gets you through, especially when you discover a moment you really love and know will make it into the final show.

What are you most looking forward to about touring The Guy in the Luggage Rack this summer?

All of it! It's what it's all about - bringing it to audiences and seeing what people think and what connects. It makes the months of prep and spreadsheets and to-do lists worth it. It's a bit different every time - the things that make certain people laugh or the kind of response you get to a particular trick or story moment... I love that element of the unexpected in the relationship with the audience, which is so much more evident when you're performing outdoors and you can see people's faces. It magic!

And lastly, what would be your recommendation for anyone seeing the show, who then wants to try aerial?

Do it! I think a lot of people look at aerial skills and think somehow that it's out of their reach (excuse the pun) or that they would have to already be strong or would have to have started as a child. I didn't start until I was well into my 20s and I had zero upper body strength in the early days - that's not to say it wasn't hard work, but it's so rewarding when you see what your body is capable of. I've taught many, many total beginners over the last decade, of all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities... if it's something you feel drawn to, go for it (but definitely find a qualified teacher with a good safety set up!).

A huge thank you to Maisie, we can't wait to see the show out on tour this summer!

The Guy in the Luggage Rack tour

  1. A rig hangs tilted from the sky. On it a white woman holds a pink umbrella and looks worried. A bald white man smiles with his arm wrapped around a big brown suitcase.

    The Guy in The Luggage Rack