We’re joined for a Digital Pint today just one day before the Edinburgh Fringe 2022 launches officially into action. What better way to spend our time than with Emily Aboud, Writer/Director of BOGEYMAN which is heading to the Pleasance Queen Dome this August.
We joined her for a Rum on the rocks and a chat about the demonisation of Vodou, colonial pasts and presents, as well as capitalism and community. It’s a belter of an interview which barely even describes her fun show, filled with music, movement and laughter. Check it out!
Jake: Hey Emily! So you’ve written a show which was inspired by feeling haunted while you were living in London. What do you mean by this and how has it fed into BOGEYMAN, the piece you’ve created?
Emily: Quite a depressing answer I’m afraid. I’ve always felt quite edgy about living in this city that was built on the legacy of Empire. So much of the wealth of this country is founded on murder, colonialism and mass exploitation so I suppose I’ve always been a bit haunted by the landmarks of London/Bristol/Liverpool etc because I know how they were afforded.
It goes further than that as well – the class system in the UK is wild, there are rich families who have been rich since the 1700s, from owning plantations. They’ve never had to give that money back and frankly, their descendants are running the country. I suppose the injustice of knowing that much of the wealth of the old money in this country are from directly exploiting countries such as my country, Trinidad & Tobago, I had a lot of rage and nothing to do with it.
Jake: The show spends time speaking about a Vodou Ceremony kicking off the Haitian Revolution and also a man haunted by ghosts in the present day. How was it blending those two worlds together and exploring how we perceive the past?
Emily: I think, and this is a gross oversimplification, that the opposite of capitalism is community. I was super inspired by the history of Vodou, how it differs from Christianity and what that gathering meant for the enslaved Africans who met there. This was a meeting to discuss freedom and solidarity, using a religion that is an amalgamation of their West African religions and Christianity. I found it incredibly inspiring, the focal point of rebellion being a community gathering. I think in the modern era, it’s really hard to find ways to connect with one another – I feel that capitalism is making us separate and white supremacy is making us argue about what makes us different instead of what connects us.
There’s a lot of big themes here, it’s also just a really fun show with movement and song and music and laughs – we are just also highlighting the importance of (what I believe is) the most important revolution in modern history. I feel like a lot of Europeans like to think that enslavement was abolished because of morality but actually, it was a combination of fear and economics. I think it’s very deliberate that the Haitian Revolution is barely taught in schools – it would ruin their whole self identity if they were teaching children that enslaved people were actively revolting for hundreds of years.
Jake: You describe the show as ‘genre-defying’, it sounds very interesting from a technical perspective but what does it mean for the audience and what can they expect?
Emily: In the UK, when someone goes to see a “play”, they are expecting naturalism, they are expecting a 4th wall. That’s nothing like the theatre we make in Trinidad, or the theatre I grew up making. The play is technically a history play, but it’s funny, which would make it a comedy. However, there are a lot of themes borrowed from horror movies, which might lead someone to define it as a thriller. And then! There is movement and some brilliant prop work and music. I think thematically everything fits perfectly, but there is a lot going on genre-wise. The most important thing is that it’s playful!
Jake: You mention that Vodou has become demonised through Western stories – what sort of perspective did you take in trying to address that in the show and what do you hope the audience will walk away thinking about Vodou?
Emily: I am perhaps the most violent atheist I know. I’ve seen first hand how Christianity affects Trinidadian policies – how religion is preventing reproductive rights and LGBT+ rights. And given that I think most major religions have been a means to control people by fear, I was really interested in why the West has always been so terrified of Vodou? It has to be related to a fear of Haiti, a means of discrediting an island of brave revolutionaries.
At the time, Europe pushed the belief that it was impossible for an African to have political thought so naturally, they had to make Haiti “demonic” or “supernatural”, something outside of the norm that equated to the devil, to discredit them. Instead of realizing that the true devil were the colonizers.
Jake: Now that we’re gearing up for Fringe season, what are you most excited for?
Emily: I think the atmosphere of the Fringe is absolutely wonderful. Everyone’s very friendly, everyone’s making art and Edinburgh is a walkable city. Incredibly boringly, I’m just looking forward to not being on a hot tube, having really nice tap water and cheaper pints!
Jake: Fitting with the themes of our magazine, if your show was an alcoholic beverage (think cocktails, shots, beers, be creative!) what would it be?
Emily: Our show is probably a rum on the rocks. It’s smooth and strong and packs a lot in one sip. Conversely, there’s a bit of history to it – there should never have been sugar cane in the Caribbean, there should never have been rum, but we acknowledge the past and celebrate the present, we enjoy a good Caribbean rum (only if it’s Caribbean owned!)
Jake: Anything else you want to tell us about, Emily?
Emily: Please stop voting for Tories, please join a union, please organize! We are stronger together than apart!
You can catch BOGEYMAN between August 4th and 29th, except on the 15th and 22nd, at 15:55 in the Pleasance Dome – Queen Dome. Tickets are available through the EdFringe Box Office.