Rebecca Phythian is incredible. A true triple threat and then some, she is not only multi-talented but also a staunch supporter of mental health support, the rights of the marginalised and providing opportunities for emerging artists. As one half of Blue Balloon Theatre Company, Rebecca runs regular open-mic nights across Manchester, making space for new and emerging artists and showcasing the talent of the North-West.
Though she is just in her twenties, Rebecca has firmly established herself as an important member of the Manchester spoken word scene; her poetry is evocative, thoughtful, sensual and witty -- often all at the same time. She has been published in The Buzzin' Bards anthology and has been featured on BBC Upload with her work; she also performs in her own one-woman show, Pill, all about the trials and tribulations of menstruation.
Her upcoming collection, Perfect Mess, contains the innermost workings of her mind, presented in a hilarious and thought-provoking way.
Want to know more about this absolute powerhouse? Read on...
Can you describe your work in five words?
You are a woman of many talents – can you give us a brief outline of the Life of Rebecca Phythian up to the present day?
Where do I start? My background is in performing, from studying Musical Theatre at Pendleton College to studying Acting at The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. At LIPA, I was awarded the Andrew Lloyd Webber Scholarship and selected to represent the Institute at the Sam Wanamaker Festival 2017, which took place at Shakespeare’s Globe – two things I still pinch myself over!
Shortly after graduating, I was performing in a show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and it was during that trip that I was first exposed to spoken word in a tiny bar in a corner of Edinburgh. From that point, I knew that it was going to become a part of my life but to what capacity, I didn’t really know. I started writing alongside working professionally as an actor-singer but only started sharing my words publicly in late 2020. It’s become an integral part of who I am as a creative, along with being a plant mum.
Blue Balloon is your non-profit project that you run in partnership with Jas Nisic – what is it all about?
Ah, my lovely theatre company! I founded it in 2016, during my time at LIPA. I wanted to give people the kind of support and encouragement I had received whilst I was in training when it came to creating my own work. It started with research and development workshops for my play Pill, and when I moved back to Manchester in 2017, Jas, my best mate, jumped on board. Since then, we’ve worked incredibly hard to create an inclusive platform for creatives to develop and showcase original work. How far we’ve come amazes me every single day and I’m so proud of what we do within our community.
What is it that attracts you to spoken-word poetry?
It’s self-expression in one of the purest forms, I think. I know that when I go to an open mic and get up to perform, I am, in many ways, baring my soul to strangers through my words and performance, but that makes it all the more special and intimate. I think the way someone chooses to write and deliver their poetry can tell you all you need to know about a person.
Sweet or savoury?
What’s your favourite poem from the pieces you’ve written?
That’s surprisingly tough to answer as I have a few favourites for different reasons. The first one that came to mind was I Am Not a D*sney Princess; I think it says a lot about me as a person and my personality. I also grew up on Disney films so being able to write about these characters that I know so much about was an all-round joyous experience and very nostalgic.
The other that comes to mind is Game Face, which was a short poem written in response to one of Blue Balloon Theatre’s weekly writing prompts. It’s about speaking your words, your truth and the importance of that -- both for yourself and other people. Although I write poetry and it’s very personal, this poem emphasises that it isn’t just for me and how a person's words and actions can influence other people.
Who influences you and your work?
Harry Baker, Mary Oliver, Mike Garry and Charly Cox are all poets who have influenced how I write poetry and choose to utilise my words. Their writing lifts from the page before you’ve even read it aloud! Not to mention the poets and creatives I know and have met within the North West of England – I think each of them, in different capacities, have allowed me to find my voice and where I fit.
I also find influence from my family, but especially my Mum. She’s got such passion and determination within her and I think that energy has rubbed off on me and the way I write.
Finally, and it might sound really cheesy -- but my partner. He is incredibly kind and generous in his nature and I always think that, if I can try to write with half as much openness and generosity, then my words could really make a difference.
What advice can you offer to anyone who is struggling with their confidence when it comes to performing?
First bit of advice I’d offer would be to read your words aloud to yourself or to somebody you love and trust. I think this is sometimes much harder than reading to a bunch of strangers, so if you can do that, then open mics and other public performances will seem much easier to tackle.
My other piece of advice is this: know that there is nobody in this world like you. Your voice is incredibly unique. Your truth is within you and you owe it to yourself to speak it for others to hear. You never know who, in hearing your words, could be impacted for the better.
Perfect Mess drops in early 2023