DIVA music editor Laura Howard heads to Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre for a one-woman show about sapphic self discovery

WORDS LAURA HOWARD, IMAGES PIPPA RANKIN

Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre proudly re-opened its doors on 23 June with a pioneering, potty-mouthed lesbian love story and gig musical, Bloody Elle.

Writer, musician and actor Lauryn Redding has an immediate and undeniable charm, captivating her audience with ease as she introduces herself in the lead role of Elle, a self-proclaimed gobshite, full-time purveyor of Chips and Dips and part-time singer-songwriter.  

Lauryn lets DIVA in on the creative genius behind her one-woman show telling the story of Elle and Eve, a contemporary portrayal of first-love that puts their intoxicating passage of sapphic self-discovery in the spotlight, explaining that while the show may not be autobiographical, she has drawn inspiration from her own experiences. “I feel like I’ve been writing this for most of my life!” she says. “I actually put pen to paper 18 months ago, but some of the songs I wrote when I was in my teens.”  

Born out of a desire for more authentic, queer, female storytelling, Bloody Elle was ironically created during an enforced time away from performing, “I had an injury pre-pandemic,” Lauryn says. “Which meant I had the time and headspace to start writing what I’d been wanting to for years. It dragged me through a very dark time, and I hope it helps people moving forward now.

Lauryn Redding in her one-woman show, Bloody Elle

“Bloody Elle is truthful, raw and it doesn’t hold back. I wish I could have seen it when I was navigating all that messy growing up stuff.”

In the writing, Lauryn’s goal was clear. “I wanted to write an honest, epic and beautiful lesbian love story, with fit music and bags of heart.”

And we can emphatically confirm that Lauryn has more than delivered on her vision, offering up a refreshing performance that depicts female, queer representation with romance (✅), humour (✅) and heart-breaking moments that will resonate with all audiences (✅). 

“I wanted to see a lesbian love story that wasn’t set in the 1800s, that wasn’t fetishised for the male gaze, to spice up narratives or to be portrayed as a phase,” she says. “I wanted to represent our love as real, and amazing, and shit, and terrifying and brilliant – like everyone’s love is.”

Part gig, part musical, Bloody Elle is a fusion of Lauryn’s two main passions: theatre and live music. “I was a singer songwriter before I trained as an actor, and I used to gig all the time. I found the relationship between live theatre and gigs very similar, yet the demographic of audiences felt really different. I wanted to smash these two amazing worlds together.”  

The pre-show, interval and post-show sections are all sound tracked by Lauryn’s musical influences; Tegan and Sara, Brandi Carlile, Kae Tempest and Janelle Monáe, to name a few. 

“These queer artists resonated with my songwriting for this show. They all have the ability to transcend music into storytelling, and for me that’s what song writing is all about. To tell a story and to go on a journey.”

“Knowing that the team is creating something that’s never been seen before is one of the best feelings,” says Bryony Shanahan, Joint Artistic Director at the Royal Exchange. “It takes muscle, delicacy, bravery and also a load of faith from everyone involved. But with this particular piece, at this particular time, that sense of preciousness, of trying to bring this new, living, breathing thing to life, is intensified and even more of a privilege than ever before.”

Bloody Elle runs until 17 July

Like Lauryn, we are confident that DIVA readers will enjoy the relatable themes that Bloody Elle has to offer. In her own words, “If you like a laugh, live music, lesbians and want a night out where you can feel all the feels, then this is for you!  

“There’s something for everyone, and being in a space together that celebrates queerness is a pretty good tonic after everything we’ve all been through.”  

Bloody Elle – A Gig Musical is a Royal Exchange Theatre production in association with Rebel Productions and runs until 17 July. Get your tickets here.

Excited for the show? Listen to Lauryn’s Bloody Elle playlist here.

@howardoyoudo.

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