Motherhood, getting back to work and writing a show

Maria Teresa Creasey

Maria Teresa Creasey

The beginnings of Degenerate came over a bottle of wine in Greece, as all the best ideas do, on my family’s first-holiday post-pandemic. (My husband loves these ideas…) So, I messaged Director Rebecca Reeves right away and said: “I’ve got this crazy idea for a show. Let’s go try some open mics and work some material there. I realise we know nothing about this world at all. What’s the worst that could happen?”

My reasoning was it would give us a place to get on stage and force our hands to start creating again and in doable bite-sized chunks. Most importantly, it wouldn’t require full days of rehearsal because, with four small children between us (and jobs), full-day unpaid rehearsals were not a luxury we could afford.

We started work, wrote our first five minutes and got the bug. I went on stage that first time and I kid you not, the fear, THE FEAR. I mean I have been on stages before in London, Glasgow, and New York but this was different, weirdly exhilarating and so new. And that is how the seed of Degenerate was planted, but it also turned out to be a completely new way of working for us and a very swift learning curve.

Rebecca and I met during her time at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama when she was working on her PhD. I had just finished three years in Glasgow at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and had been working as an actor in various film/theatre/television bits, and voiceovers. I was recommended by a friend to come and meet Rebecca for some R&D work and the rest, as they say, is history.

We continued working together at Central on very serious things like Chekhov and Gertrude Stein. Looking back at it, we always had a comedy backbone running through the work – we just weren’t aware at the time. Full disclosure: we both share an unhealthy love for Stewart Lee. (Don’t tell him.) So we were doing Chekhov, but we always leaned into the laughs and the humour.

We had our first (and last) public performance at Camden People Theatre during the Calm Down Dear festival, when I was eight months pregnant and ready to pop. That was over six years ago and afterward, we took a break. Turns out that having two babies and finishing a PhD takes a lot of your attention, not to mention a pandemic.

At the tail end of lockdowns, as schools were opening for good, we got to work. We started writing feverishly over Zoom (between nappy changes, chicken pox, Covid, and school drop-offs), called ourselves ‘this is not a test’, and started taking those bits to open mics. We learned so much and loved it.

We’re both pretty proud of where we have come since our first five minutes of material, although we are still very new at it. Some small remnants of those initial bits are still in the current incarnation of the show, but every time we put it in front of an audience it finds new feet.

As it stands, Degenerate (Work In Progress) has turned into a show that directly responds to what we were going through, in real-time, when we were making it. The show is about a mother going back to work, approaching midlife, still being relevant, her ambition as she ages, taking back her narrative and a vampire (did I mention the vampire?). It’s a swift experimental dark comedy hour, think The Very Hungry Caterpillar meets David Lynch.

We are beyond excited to take it to the amazing Vault Festival during its 10-year birthday season! We hope it speaks to the power of transformation at any age… with a little bit of bite. Let’s get batty.

Degenerate (Work In Progress) takes place at the Vault Festival on Tuesday 24th January, Wednesday 15th February, and Sunday 19th February for tickets and more information click here.

You can follow this is not a test theatre on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Website: this is not a test.

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