‘We do actually wrestle.’ Fake Heat on their new show at Vault Festival – Interview
We caught up with character comedians Janina Smith and Josephine Timmins aka Fake Heat on their wrestling theatre comedy I’m OKayfabe.
Tell us about ‘I’m OKayfabe: A Wrestling Comedy’. What should an audience expect?
There’s a reason why we put both ‘wrestling’ and ‘comedy in the title – we guarantee both in bucket loads. There are two nightly guest comedians who offer up some hilarious running commentary, and yes, it’s important to establish, we do actually wrestle.
The first time we ever did the show back in 2018, Joey broke her nose in the first 5 minutes of the show, so we can hint at the possibility of blood but cannot promise it.
It’s also an exploration of the stereotypes placed on womxn by society, and has some uncomfortable moments. But we think those moments stand out because for the rest of the show everyone’s having a stupid, fun time.
At one point there is an appearance by wrestling tag team duo The Umbilical Bros. We’re going to let you decide what to make of that.
What or who are your comedy influences?
Oh, so many!
Janina has finally started watching Curb Your Enthusiasm so naturally won’t stop banging on about Larry David. Joey’s in love with This Country, partly because it resonates with where she grew up, but mainly because the creators, Daisy May and Charlie Cooper, have got past so many hurdles to create something unspoiled and beautiful.
We’re character comedians, so we’re naturally drawn to them. Julia Davis is incredible.
All of the League of Gentlemen lot are doing brilliant things independently. Across the pond the SNL crew – Kate McKinnon, Kristin Wiig, Maya Rudolph… Melissa McCarthy recently put in an oscar worthy performance in Can You Ever Forgive Me!
It’s such a privilege to have had some superb guest comedian commentators appear on our show. Joey Page, Sarah Keyworth, Tom Mayhew, Tamsyn Kelly, Matt Winning, Trevor Lock – catch a show of theirs on any given day and you’re going to have a fantastic night.
Tell us about Burning Hearts Fighting Entertainment and how you started.
Burning Hearts Fighting Entertainment is a female identifying wrestling collective that runs regular training sessions in London. They hold big matches every so often, pitting the Wildheart Rebels (the faces/goodies) against the Hellfire Furies (the heels/baddies).
On our first training session we were so nervous that they’d take one look at the gangly, trembling, quite possibly hungover idiots at the door and instantly turn us away, but they couldn’t have been more welcoming.
There’s a mix of ability and fitness but the sessions take this into account. The great thing about wrestling is that the more you work with other people, the more you’re going to get from it – it’s such a collaborative endeavour.
Sadly we’re kept away from the next match (Rebels Rising, Saturday 21 March) because we’re doing our show, but everyone should go and see it (having seen our show earlier in the week, obviously). And if you can, go train with them! We guarantee you’ll love it.
Your show deals with female archetypes wrestling each other. What’s your message for womxn in 2020?
We’ve tried really hard to resist messages or advice. No one wants to come to the theatre to be preached at, but more importantly our message would be that we have no message. We wrestle these archetypes against one another to see who comes out on top but we hope to show that there is no clear answer. There is no ‘Good’ or ‘Evil’. There are so many expectations placed on womxn to be the right type of womxn. But what is that? We certainly don’t know. All we hope to do is honestly show the messy reality of being a human and perhaps in doing so, share with our audience that its OK to be a bit of a mess sometimes, and that its OK to not have all the answers, especially in a world where societal bias may currently swing in a different direction.
What we do try to offer is a shared story. As the #MeToo movement proves, sometimes it’s just really important to hear other womxn voicing their experiences and not holding back because they’ve grown up being told they should keep quiet. And we’ve had so many womxn come up after the show to tell us how they identified with a particular character’s struggles. It’s not always the same character! Those are always really magical moments, because it allows us to have a chat with an audience member that echoes the discussions we had when deciding to create the show, making the conversation that bit bigger.
But you don’t have to have a shared experience to come and say hi after the show – we will also accept people approaching us to tell us we are outstanding wrestlers/actors/comedians/people.
What are your favourite London haunts?
Janina has just started performing as a Drag King (Richard Energy) so has been frequenting The Glory in Hoxton, which is a fantastic place to see new and experimental queer performance. It’s also a fun and inclusive place to party. Dalston Superstore does an excellent drag brunch.
Joey is from Yorkshire and Janina is from Eastbourne so we love a local pub, but they need to obey a strict set of rules to become a favourite. There must be:
– floors covered in carpet that hasn’t changed since the 70s
– minimum 3 slot machines that are never played
– the lingering smell of detergent mixed with pre-smoking ban smoke (can usually be found in aforementioned carpets)
– at least one person who has a walking stick and a carrier bag.
That’s how you know if it’s a real pub or not.
If you haven’t experienced live wrestling, we can’t recommend it enough. Burning Hearts, EVE and Lucha Britannia all offer incredible nights where you’ll spend the entire time cheering and booing your guts out – just stay away from the “splash zone” up front if you don’t want any wrestlers landing on you when they’re thrown out of the ring.
We don’t eat out that much – you can usually find us bundled up on Joey’s living room floor sharing a takeaway and watching a film that’s so bad it’s good. Does that count as a ‘London Haunt’? It’s certainly one we frequent often!
I am Joint Editor at To Do List. I like free, cheap & offbeat London, especially: cabaret, art, theatre, pop-ups, eating out, quirky films, museums, day trips, social enterprise & much more.