Isabel Adomakoh Young appears in Modest which is playing at the Kiln Theatre.
Performed by a cast featuring the UK’s hottest drag talent, this electrifying new play will break your heart and start a revolution.
Produced by Middle Child (The Canary and the Crow; All We Ever Wanted Was Everything) in collaboration with Milk Presents (JOAN; Trans Filth and Joy), Modest was developed with the support of the National Theatre’s Generate programme and is funded by Arts Council England and Hull City Council.
Modest is at Kiln Theatre 29th June to 15th July 2023.
You’re appearing in Modest at Kiln Theatre, what can you tell us about the show?
Modest is art history the way they don’t teach it in school. It’s a rollercoaster ride through the Victorian art scene, from top-hatted gatekeepers of the Royal Academy to talented woman artists in drawing rooms plotting how to infiltrate the gallery, to the penniless fan that’s barely allowed into the building.
It’s right up to date, with drag artists from the UK’s underground and a track list worthy of a DJ set, but it also underlines how deep into the past today’s injustices stretch. After seeing painter Elizabeth Thompson’s stratospheric rise and fall, audiences might be left asking how much has really changed, but they’ll have been treated to a great night out in the meantime. We’ve loved bringing this raucous, important show to cities all over England and we can’t wait to come to the Kiln!
What was it about this show that made you so keen to be involved?
As a performer, I usually find shows framed as theatre or cabaret, with little overlap. This production brings all the charisma, imagination and humour of cabaret but with the dramaturgy, script and historical grounding of what I’ll opt not to call a ‘straight play’. I’ve always wanted to do a musical, and the opportunity to work with much-lauded Middle Child and some of the best drag kings on the scene made this a no-brainer for me.
Tell us a little about your role in the production?
Most of the cast play double roles as the Royal Academicians and then Elizabeth’s peers, fellow aspiring painters who, along with her sister, ask her to carry their dreams on her shoulders, against a backdrop of patriarchy and suffragism.
My male character RA Two is a total nepo baby. He can’t make a decision for himself and has clearly cruised to the top by virtue of his influential family and devilish good looks. My other main role Frances is a black suffragette activist and painter whose creativity is stifled by the necessity to paint what sells. It’s an exciting challenge to flip back and forth from scene to scene – not least practically, as we’re sometimes transforming during 30 second changes!
What do you think you’ll find most challenging about this role?
The challenge with the RAs is to find a balance. They’re very funny and charming, and engage most directly with the audience, but we can’t let people lose sight of the fact that they are the perpetrators of, and beneficiaries from, the rancid heteropatriachal system that we see oppress many characters across the piece. Having them played by people who aren’t men helps that, and for performance, we used a sliding scale in the rehearsal room from light to dark to keep the whole spectrum alive across different moments.
Why do you think The Kiln is the ideal venue for Modest?
Modest touches on a broad range of issues, from gender to gatekeeping to activism to racism to self-expression and the powers that restrain it. I find it exciting that the Kiln is in Brent, the most culturally diverse borough in London. While I hugely hope openly queer communities will come and find solace and solidarity in Modest, I’d love to learn what people from different diasporas make of it too. The Kiln aims to ‘uncover our shared humanity’ and that’s something I really feel that Modest does.
What would you say to anyone thinking of booking to see Modest?
Take my word for it, you won’t regret booking! Bring your nan, bring your lover, bring your nieces and nephews. There’s something for everyone in this big-hearted, hilarious show. In fact, it wouldn’t be the same without you.