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News – ‘Up Her Sleeve’ heading to Edinburgh Festival Fringe!

Ahead of its official debut at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe next month, Britain Uncovered had the pleasure of attending Esme Michaela’s one-woman show, 'Up Her Sleeve', at an intimate preview event held at the Kings Theatre in Chatham at the beginning of July. Here’s an exclusive sneak peek of what audiences can expect.

In conjunction with the Jury’s Out Theatre Company, lifelong actor and creative, Esme Michaela, is set to debut Up Her Sleeve – a one-woman performance exploring the themes of sex, gender and feminism – at the upcoming Edinburgh Festival Fringe taking place in August.

The production is a dark comedy where, upon the diagnosis of a common ovary disorder, a gregarious 22 year-old recounts the various sexual revelations that shaped her from a scatterbrained child to a socially aware woman, through an imaginary therapy session with her egg.

The new production is being presented by the Jury’s Out Theatre Company, an entirely female-run company of creatives, actors and crew, and it champions all women, their work and their voices. Founded in 2020, the group’s aim is to provide an exciting, insightful and educational look into its experiences, while tackling taboos and keeping audiences entertained in the process.

A riveting, fast-paced coming of age production that depicts a girl trying to figure out exactly what life is, Britain Uncovered found the 50-minute performance to be a fascinatingly candid and relatable look into the battles an adolescent female encounters in the modern world; and Esme’s winning performance (in the role of the show’s only character, Daphne) took us on an emotional rollercoaster that was just as poignant as it was hilarious. Although this glimpse at the internal struggles a young woman faces in the modern world is presented in a relatively light-hearted manner to begin with, it ultimately ends up touching on some incredibly emotional, complex and important issues that many in the audience will surely be able to relate to.

Actress Esme Michaela pictured at the premiere of 'Up Her Sleeve' in July 2022
Esme at the 'Up Her Sleeve' preview night on July 2

Addressing this notion with Esme at the conclusion of the evening’s festivities, one theatre-goer enthused: “Absolutely everything you’ve presented in the show this evening has been going on throughout the four generations of my family – and everything you’ve said is very accurate, from my mother’s generation right the way through to me and my granddaughters today. And it has been put in a way that everybody can understand. It’s quirky, it’s fun, and it’s really to the point.”

At the conclusion of the preview performance on the night of our visit, Esme returned to the stage – along with co-writer, Molly Exley-Kidd, and director, Melissa Holmes – for a fundraising raffle and a 15-minute Q&A session in which the trio fielded questions on a wide array of different topics, including how the idea for the production first came to light.

Speaking on how the concept of the show came to mind, Esme explained, “I have Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and I was driving home from rehearsals one night, and I suddenly thought about the idea of someone talking to their egg. That’s it! And then I got home, and I sat on the sofa with my lovely girlfriend for several hours and wrote it all down.

“It’s always important to me to write something that will speak to people with unrepresented stories, because I feel like there isn’t the education or media representation that covers ovarian health.”

Melissa Holmes, Esme Michaela and Molly Exley-Kidd at the premiere of 'Up Her Sleeve'
L-R: Melissa Holmes, director; Esme Michaela, actor and co-writer; and Molly Exley-Kidd, co-writer

Molly added, “I’m a proud, angry feminist and a big believer that we should be doing the most we can to educate and support the next generation. Up Her Sleeve is based on real things that have happened to us and our friends – including the absolute horror when you first have your period (in which I literally screamed and thought I was going to die). All of those little bits of the show are made up of things that have actually happened, and hopefully, it will strike a chord with lots of people and they will be able to relate to it.

Reflecting on how it feels to perform in a production that she had written herself (with the assistance of both Molly and Dan Schwartz, the play’s third co-writer who resides in Los Angeles), Esme exclaimed, “It’s terrifying! It feels like there’s a lot more pressure, because it’s me – but also, once I was actually doing it, it was really fun. Because it’s me, I guess.”

Check out the slideshow above for more behind the scenes images from the exclusive preview evening in Chatham

Once Up Her Sleeve has ended its run at the Edinburgh Fringe, Esme and her team are planning to adapt the production so that it can be taken on the road and toured around schools, and the group feels as though its educational qualities will be of particular benefit to young adolescents currently going through many of the things that happen to Esme’s character during the performance. Following this, the group is also hoping to adapt the production into a long short film, so it’s clear that the show is far from over once its doors close to Fringe Festival audiences on August 27.

Asked by the audience about the overall message that they would want students to take away from the production, Molly noted, “We want the play to be a comfort, so whether you’ve got PCOS or another ovarian disorder, we want it to be a comfort and for people to find solace in that shared experience. But also, when you do come on your period and you’re like “WTF”, and when you’re figuring out your sexuality and everyone’s really confused… we basically want people to watch it and feel a little bit of comfort that other people are going through the same things that they are.”

And speaking about period poverty, another critically important women's health issue that's dealt with in Up Her Sleeve, Esme explained, “Period poverty is a massive theme throughout the show. And lots of people think that ‘period poverty’ means not having access to sanitary items. But it’s literally just knowing what is going on with your period. So many people are in period poverty without knowing, because they could have a heavy period, go to the doctor and get put on the pill, when it’s actually something a lot more serious. So we want people to know that is also going on.”

The 'Up Her Sleeve' programme pictured in front of the stage set-up at the Kings Theatre in Chatham

Up Her Sleeve debuts at the Edinburgh Fringe on August 5, and will run nearly the entire month, with the show’s final performance at the festival taking place on August 27. For dates and times, along with details of how to book tickets in advance, head on over to the official Edinburgh Fringe site. Tickets range from £6.50-£8, and we’re told that a Crème Egg is also included with the price of admission – so what more could you ask for?

We would also recommend checking out @esmemichaela and @jurysoutheatre on Instagram, and you can also donate to the Up Her Sleeve fundraiser by clicking here.

About Esme

Having attended a local theatre group from the age of 4 to 18, Esme has been immersed in theatre and the creative world for nearly her entire life – and shortly after leaving school, the actress headed for the bright lights of New York City to advance her career and train as an actor at a further education institution. After graduating from the prestigious New York Film Academy in 2019, it wasn’t long before Esme started working in off-Broadway theatres on a number of diverse and high-profile productions; but with Covid-19 and its resulting lockdowns having an impact, Esme ultimately made the decision to head home to the UK - and the NYFA alum has been busy working on this brand new production ever since.

Up Her Sleeve is the latest and perhaps most noteworthy addition to an already impressive resumé, and we would like to wish Esme and the entire team the best of luck with the show, both in Edinburgh and beyond. Having experienced it for ourselves, we can safely say that audiences attending this year’s Edinburgh Fringe are in for an absolute treat!

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A black and white headshot of actress and performer, Esme Michaela

Shortly after returning to the UK in 2020, Britain Uncovered had the good fortune of crossing paths with Esme during an online Body Love Sketch Club session – and in addition to her passion and enthusiasm for raising awareness of the female health issues covered in Up Her Sleeve, it quickly became apparent that Esme is just as passionate about raising awareness of eating disorders and other body image issues also.

As a result, we ended up having a really fascinating interview with Esme, which you can access in our archives by clicking here. Her unique viewpoints on so many critically important subjects - including the body image pressures actors face and have to contend with while up on stage - made this one of our best conversations in the site’s history; and we would definitely recommend checking it out if you haven’t done so already!

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