– VAULT Festival 2022 has now been cancelled – Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to a true tale of excitement, danger and very sharp claws. Unveiling the true story of a forgotten woman in history, Tiger Lady acts as a powerful vehicle to amplify under-represented voices. Mabel Stark, the queen of the circus in the time of the greatest show on Earth, was one of the first ever female tiger tamers, and the only woman to step into the ring with seven tigers.
From Les Enfants Terribles Award-winning theatre company Dead Rabbits (The Dragon, Love Lies Frozen in the Ice), hear the tale of a woman fierce enough not to be forgotten. The crowd loved her. The men loved her. The tigers loved her. It’s a tale of fame, danger and desire, of terrible heartache and pain – the scars on her body are not as deep as the scars on her heart. Combining fast-paced and innovative physical theatre with an incredibly moving love story between two humans and a tiger, Tiger Lady is about being different, facing society and the tragedy that comes when a person has a displaced notion of being happy. This tragedy is all around us so in this respect a story from the beginning of 20th century, that seems like such a distant world, comes back to haunt us and to remind us to look at our lives and our desires more closely.
Natisha Williams-Samuels will bring to life America’s most ferocious big cat tamer, Mabel Stark. She is joined by Antonio Victorio as Al G, James Parker as Louis, Chloe Waddilove as Maggie, Abayomi Oyinide as Art Rooney and Edward Breckenridge as Rajah the tiger.
Company Director Kasia Zaremba-Byrne (Lionboy, Complicité) combines physical playfulness, puppetry, object manipulation and music to engage audiences in an inclusive and transformative way. Playing with the metaphor of big cats as the old guards of White Privilege, she is keen to amplify under-represented voices. She comments, I search for stories that are of the real people, often a bit removed from present time as to keep a little distance from ourselves, from what we take for granted. Often these stories have a hint of nostalgia, some half-remembered memory that our imagination is pulled in. Often the stories are from the perspective of women, often forgotten, or viewed from the perspective of under-dogs, even though they showed immense courage and perseverance in difficult circumstances.
It is a true story that is full of tiny details, and I had to navigate with the cast to find what story we wanted to tell. I always create with and through the people I work with. Starting with the designer and those who help me with the structure, I then going into the room with the actors and really find what is the heart of the story for them too.
Dead Rabbits Theatre Company, formed in 2016, prizes itself on simplicity invention. Using three ladders and big canopy parachutes to create a vast landscape of changing images and visual magic, Dead Rabbits allows audiences to imagine the world through simplicity and movement. The company aims to retell amazing true stories of the unheard, unknown and excluded.
Tiger Lady is at VAULT Festival’s Studio 25th to 30th January 2022.