Fiona-Jane Weston creates one-woman and cabaret shows that often focus on women in history. She tells Giverny Masso why she feels it is essential to tell wartime stories from a female perspective…
Tell me about your recent shows.
20th Century Woman uses poetry, music and spoken word to tell the story of the journey women have taken from the early suffrage movement to now. I’ve also done a show called Loving London, which tells the history of the capital in less than two hours. Over the past few years I’ve focused on wartime women. Women’s stories from the First and Second World Wars should never be allowed to fade into history. Without women, the war would not have been won, and people don’t realise that. Not only did we run the country, but many women risked their lives just as much as men.
What shows do you have coming up?
On Armistice Sunday (November 11), I’m doing a special show called Wartime Women at the King’s Head Theatre in London. The show uses songs and poetry to pay tribute to real women’s stories, to mark the centenary of the First World War. I’ll also be performing as part of poetry event Beyond Words at the Gipsy Hill Tavern in London on November 6.
What is your advice to someone creating a one-person show?
Learn to prioritise and know where to find people who can help you. It’s a slow process. Find someone you can work with who really understands the genre you are talking about. I’m actually in the process of setting up a cabaret and theatre consultancy service that will help people to create and manage a small-scale show, and give them the different skills they need.
How did you first become interested in performance?
A dance teacher came into my school when I was four, and I found her so fascinating to watch. I took up dance training – but my body was not very flexible. Through the course, I learned that what I love to do is portray emotion and character. My parents were rather ruffled at my career choice and encouraged me to take a more academic route. I took modern Asian studies when living in Australia, then I went to live in China and learned Mandarin. Even then there was this drive towards the performing arts because my thesis was about minority theatres in China. I took a job in the foreign aid department and performed on the side. The two careers started clashing at one point.
How did you get into cabaret and making one-woman shows?
In 2011, I won a scholarship to study cabaret at the International Conference for Cabaret at Yale University. I came out of that feeling as if I really knew what I was talking about. I did my first cabaret in New York, and it went well. I ended up combining my love of history, especially women’s history, with cabaret.
Training: International Conference for Cabaret at Yale (2009-10), various training while living in Australia
First professional role: Actor in Dimboola by Jack Hibberd (in Australia)
Agent: Meredith Westwood
Wartime Women takes place at the Kings Head Theatre in London on November 11 and Beyond Words takes place at the Gipsy Hill Tavern in London on November 6. More details on Fiona-Jane Weston’s upcoming performances can be found at fionajaneweston.com