Q&A: Heather Milsted
We spoke to writer and performer Heather Milsted who is currently performing Period Dramas at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe. After a childhood obsession with history, blood and period dramas – of both kinds – Heather Milsted became increasingly frustrated by the lack of discussion of all things menstrual in both the history books and popular culture. She speaks to us about creating the show she always wanted to see:
- Heather, congratulations on your first debut hour at the Fringe! How are you finding it?
It’s been amazing, thank you - an absolute whirlwind! It feels like the fringe has its own ecosystem that the rest of the world can’t quite penetrate and it’s been great to see so many fantastic shows!
- How did you come upon the topic of periods through history? What was the writing process like?
I actually started getting my period when I was 9, so it was before I had started watching period dramas on the TV and I genuinely thought they were going to be about periods and was honestly devastated when I found out they weren’t. So I guess for me it’s always been something playing in the back of my mind! I then went off to study history at uni and again was disappointed by the lack of discussion of anything menstrual so I started digging into the research back then in sort of 2017 time, but it wasn’t until I went off to drama school that I started putting it all together and trying to create a show from it! The writing process was an interesting one here, as it was very research led - I’d delve into the history and then see what stood out from each period of history and the form for the cabaret act would spring out of that, for example one of my acts is a tongue in cheek burlesque that plays on ideas of Victorian morality. I was also lucky enough to ave my director Jessy Roberts, also act as the dramaturg for the piece and she was brilliant at going through the script each rehearsal and holding me back from getting too stuck into all the facts!
- Can you tell us a bit about the reaction you’ve been getting from audiences?
Yes definitely! The audiences have been really lovely - I’ve had some parents and their teenage children come up to me and thank me, some audience members have gotten quite emotional at parts and others have come up to me afterwards and started asking more questions about periods and moon cups and all the different options, which is great because that’s exactly what we wanted to do - open up the conversation! It has been quite interesting flyering, however, lots of people sound quite interested until I get to the word menstruation and then I’ve had lots of ‘that’s disgusting, ew gross, absolutely not’ responses, but I guess really that’s why we wanted to do the show anyway, to try and help change those perceptions!
- Being half-way through the Fringe already, what have been your highs and lows? Would you do it again?
Oooh highs and lows of the fringe, I think the lows have sort of come through exhaustion, on the rainy mid-fringe days, before you’ve gotten to the days off and your voice is wearing thin, but the highs have definitely been those conversations with audiences after the show, as well as seeing everybody else’s brilliant work, and climbing Arthur’s Seat of course!
- What tips would you give a newcomer who is taking on their first solo show?
I would say try and get a team around you, so you’ve always got support if you need it, and if that’s not possible, then link up with all the other wonderful solo shows, because there’s definitely been a really lovely network that sprung up this year! Also, take it as it comes, there will be shows that aren’t what you think are your best, but there will be others that truly are and it’s so amazing to get to spend every day performing a show that you love!