An Interview with Aletia Upstairs

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Aletia Upstairs has been waiting for the Fringe to warm up to her satisfaction before she makes her deliciously grand entrance this weekend…


Hello Aletia, so where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
Aletia: Hello Mumble! I am from Cape Town and I’ve lived in London for 11 years.

You are currently in the 4th year of your PHD – can you tell us about it?
Aletia: My PhD is close to its end now. It’s entitled ‘An Imaginative Exploration and Performative Manifestation of the Richard Demarco archive’. For this reason, over the last four years, I’ve spent a lot of time at the Demarco European Art Foundation at Summerhall and a lot of time with Richard.

As a performer, what are the key ingredients to your style?
Aletia: Vintage songs, cabaret songs, jazz and singing song-writing. One could say acting through song with visual engagement and audience participation.

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Last Fringe your ‘The Artist as Explorer’ went down really well – how did you find the experience?
Aletia: ‘The Artist as Explorer’ was a collaboration with Richard Demarco about his legacy. I wanted to create a piece about his legacy as it was my final practice for my PhD I am doing on his archive. My favourite part of the practice was using his words as lyrics for my songs. The fact that we got a five-star review for that was certainly based on Demarco’s involvement. The songs from ‘The Artist as Explorer’ have now been recorded and will be released as an EP by the end of this year.

What have you got for us this year?
Aletia: ‘A Queer Love of Dix’ which will be on at The Planet Bar, at 6pm on the 11-14th and 19th. It’s a brand-spanking-new show that I created over the last four months since Kevin Short (Shortcut Productions) asked me to part of his new Ed Fringe venture this year. The title was his idea. It’s a catchy one for the Fringe. Set in the world of expressionist painter Otto Dix, (Julia Berber – Anita Berber’s fictional sister) sings Weimar cabaret songs and relates the Weimar period to contemporary events. I’m also doing another show, called ‘Bilbao is not in Spain’, a collaboration with Doctor Woof, on the 15th to 18th at the Planet Bar, also at 6pm. This cabaret show is about living life as the authentic you.

How did ‘A Queer Love of Dix’ come about?
Aletia: The starting point for this show was a call-out from a London venue, with very specific criteria to create a show about Cabaret and the Weimar Republic, focusing on Jewish Composers, which I applied for, but it didn’t get selected. Kevin Short from Shortcut Productions, who was my venue captain when I did ‘Mata Hari’ at the Fringe in 2013, contacted me and asked if I wanted to be part of his Fringe Season at the Planet Bar. I actually said no at first! I had performed at the Fringe four times and enough is enough! Or is it? I told Kevin that I had written a very vague proposal based on the criteria supplied by the London venue and I already knew most of the songs. This kind of show is something that I had wanted to do for a very long time as it really fits my performance style, so he managed to talk me into it. He’s been a friend since we met at the Fringe. That’s one of the amazing things about the Fringe — you make great friends. The difficult part was writing the text which had to relate the events of the period of the Weimar Republic to contemporary events…and the character. Because this was such a last minute decision, the poster image is a Dix painting rather than an image of me. It was a new process for me – starting to work from the poster image backwards. Am I going to be her – Anita Berber? How am I going to work with this image and give it a reason for being there? Another challenge was the German accent. I studied German for this show. It helped me with the pronunciation, understanding the German lyrics and of course, the accent, but I also had to study the accent separately.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the show to somebody in an Edinburgh street, what would you say?
Aletia: If you want to hear good singing and wonderful music, find out how the Weimar Republic relates to our world today and sing along – in a German accent – to some classic cabaret songs, come see it!


A Queer Love Of Dix

Planet Bar

Aug 11-14, 19 (18.00)

by Alex Coley.jpg

www.aletiaupstairs.com

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