Paula Varjack presents
Why do we want the things that we want?
A playful critique of consumer culture through the lens of high fashion
Camden People’s Theatre, Battersea Arts Centre and touring
In November 2016 Paula Varjack found herself queuing at 4am outside a branch of H&M in east London to be the first in line to buy exclusive designs from Kenzo’s new collaboration with the Swedish fast fashion multinational. Five hours later she and twenty others were given ten minutes to shop a cordoned off section of the store. After paying at a till staffed by cheering applauding sales assistants, she emerged carrying the largest shopping bag she had ever carried. What is it about Kenzo?
In a world where you are who you wear, The Cult of K*NZO is an original, visually spectacular, endearing and accessible examination of consumer culture. It is also a very funny take on class, race, the ways we interact with the world, and the ways in which the world interacts with us. Whether you’re a dedicated fashion aficionado or couldn’t give a damn about designer labels there’s plenty to enjoy in this show.
The Cult of K*NZO interweaves the stories of one woman’s lifelong desire for luxury and the young Kenzo Takada’s dream of becoming a fashion designer. Kenzo was one of the first men to study at fashion school in Japan and one of the first Japanese designers to come to train and design in the West. Like the “she” of the story, he was deeply drawn to high fashion.
‘I usually buy my clothes second hand from eBay or charity shops’, said Paula ‘but a couple of winters ago I got up in the middle of the night so that I could be amongst the first to buy from H&M’s new Kenzo collaboration. I spent as much in 10 minutes as I usually do in a year! What was it about these clothes and this brand that made me act so out of character? I couldn’t work it out and felt compelled to explore it further; to make a show looking at what drives people to want things that are exclusive, that not everyone can have, and the stories we tell by what we wear’.
‘Fashion is an artform everyone is forced to engage with. Whatever we wear expresses something, even if it’s that you don’t want to be seen to show an interest in fashion’.
Incorporating storytelling, videography, sound design and choreography the show looks at how high end designer brands create desire, the tension between inclusion and exclusion, and the mysterious allure of high end. Why do we want the things that we want? What’s in a brand?
The Cult of K*NZO tours venues around England from February to May 2019, opening at Camden People’s Theatre just before London Fashion Week, with a further London show at Battersea Arts Centre.
Paula Varjack is an artist working in video and performance. Her work explores identity, community, and making the invisible visible, interested in the gap between what we feel and what we say. Show Me The Money, her previous show, explored the reality of making a living as an artist in the UK. She was recently shortlisted for the Oxford Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust award that promotes innovation in theatre. Her debut collection of prose and poetry, Letters I Never Sent to You was shortlisted for the Diva Literary Prize for Poetry and the Polari first book prize. www.paulavarjack.com
THE CULT OF K*NZO is written and performed by Paula Varjack, directed by Martin Bengtsson and produced by Daisy Dockrill. It was co-commissioned by Camden People’s Theatre and Battersea Arts Centre, and supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. Paula has performed at numerous arts festivals and cultural spaces including: WOW Festival, Glastonbury, Berlin International Literature Festival, The V&A, the Southbank Centre, Círculo de Bellas Artes (Madrid), Musicbox Lisbon and Majorca’s Es Balluard Museum of Contemporary Art.
Paula Varjack is an entertaining, erudite, witty and incisive interviewee. Contact Steve Forster as above for availabilities, review tickets and fabulous images.
Runs 70 mins. Age 14+ London and tour listings follow.
Tuesday 5 - Saturday 9 February, 9pm London Camden People’s Theatre, 50-60 Hampstead Road, NW1 2PY £12/10 020 7419 4841 www.cptheatre.co.uk Wednesday 20 February, 8pm Colchester Arts Centre, Church Street, CO1 1NF £pay what you can 01206 500900 www.colchesterartscentre.com Friday 22 February, 7.30pm Lincoln Performing Arts Centre, Brayford Pool, LN6 7TS £ticket price 01522 837600 https://lpac.co.uk Saturday 9 March, 7pm Leicester Attenborough Arts Centre, Lancaster Road, Leicester LE1 7HA £5 (4 for £15) 0116 252 2455 www2.le.ac.uk/hosted/attenborougharts Part of International Woman’s Day Festival Wednesday 13 March, 7pm Stockton ARC, Stockton Arts Centre, Dovecot Street, Stockton on Tees, TS18 1LL £pay what you can 01642 525199 www.arconline.co.uk Saturday 23 March, time Sheffield Theatre Deli, 202 Eyre Street, Sheffield S1 4QZ £price www.theatredeli.co.uk Thursday 4 April, 7.30pm Folkestone Quarterhouse, Mill Bay, Folkestone, CT20 1BN £10/8 01303 760750 www.quarterhouse.co.uk Thursday 25 April, 7.45pm York Theatre Royal, St Leonards Place, York YO1 7HD £13 01904 623568 www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk Saturday 27 April, 8.30/8.45 tbc London Battersea Arts Centre, Lavender Hill, London SW11 5TN £12.50/10 tbc 020 7223 2223 www.bac.org.uk Wednesday 22 May, time Newcastle, Northern Stage, Barras Bridge, NE1 7RH £price 0191 230 5151 www.northernstage.co.uk Thursday 30 May, 8pm Salford The Lowry, The Quays, Pier 8, M50 3AZ £12/10 0843 2086000 https://thelowry.com