Jenny Crowe - 100 Journal
When I first photographed Jenny Crowe for the 100 portraits project in 2016, it was a typical Cornish day. By this I mean heavy grey skies and unrelenting horizontal drizzle. For some reason we decided it’d be a good idea to go outside for the portrait and we found ourselves in ankle deep mud atop hill overlooking Mevagissey. It was a great spot for a portrait, it would have been even better had the weather been kinder. Ever the professional, or perhaps just humouring me, Jen gamely stood out in the gale and played her beloved accordion for the portrait.
This time round things are a little calmer, it’s a chilly April evening but the sun is bright through the trees. Infectiously funny, creative and endlessly positive, spending time in Jen’s company is always a good thing. I hope some of this enthusiasm comes across here. If not, I suggest you get yourself along to one of the Kneehigh productions she’s in this coming summer.
How have things changed for you in the last two years?
“Two years ago, I hadn’t yet done my first large project with Kneehigh. So basically, my dream for the last 27 years or so has been to work with Kneehigh on some level. I’ve known Mike (Shepherd, Kneehigh’s founder and artistic director) for 26 years and a lot of the old Kneehigh crew, but finally in 2016 I got a phone call from Simon Harvey (Kneehigh’s resident Associate Director & performer) asking what my availability was for July & August 2016, he’d like me to be in Fup which is the show about a duck (laughs).
The twist is that Fup’s coming back this year for two weeks at the Asylum at The Lost Gardens of Heligan. So we’ll do a couple of weeks there and then go on a UK tour to Liverpool, Southampton, Nottingham and Warwick.
Kneehigh have a great following locally, nationally and internationally so it’s great to be a part of something so exciting. The Times came to review Fup in 2016 and gave it four stars. I’ve been working hard on other theatre projects. They’ve varied a lot and each one brings its own challenges and joy. It’s all good stuff. For instance the Light Theatre’s The Magic Beanstalk; in 2016 I was trained by the amazing Sarah and Lyndie Wright from Little Angel Theatre in Islington. It was my first real foray into puppetry and since then, the amount of puppetry work I’ve had has just exploded. I’ve totally fallen in love with the puppeteering life! (laughs) Little Angel make beautiful wooden, leather, material and foam puppets, all hand painted and individually designed by Lyndie, which are incredible to manipulate.”
What’s next for you?
"I’ve got two different productions with Kneehigh this year, which is brilliant. So as I mentioned Fup is coming back and also a new production, Dancing Frog, the rehearsals for which start in a couple of days time. It’s a family show involving amphibians, what’s not to love? Working on a new show is all encompassing, you get so immersed in it, any new project I just throw myself in to it 120% and that’s the journey you go on. You have to, you have to sign up to that otherwise there’s no point turning up to rehearsals. Then Flo (Jen’s daughter) and I are going to be in Before I Wake with Scary Little Girls and the Minack Youth Theatre which will be at the Minack for a week and Heligan for 3 performances during May half term week. Flo and I are also at Heligan for two days for ‘Song for Will’. It’s Heligan’s story of the lost gardeners who left to fight in the First World War and never returned and those that did return. We are performing it on the centenary of the passing of William Guy.
Then a tour with Ed Rowe (Kernow King). It’s called The Archivists, kind of like the Cornish Caretakers (a production from summer 2017) but with less boxes... we’re touring schools and we just thought, for goodness sake, rather than take 17 boxes on tour, let’s re-write it with just one. We’re touring schools with that one and then taking it to Port Eliot Festival. So of course it’s going to be sunny and lovely, this particular year (laughs). After that the Asylum at Heligan kicks off on the 7th of August with Kneehigh Theatre’s Dancing Frog and Ubu Karaoke. I believe it’s going to be more of a festival feel this year. There’s going to be lovely Heligan food, a moveable bar, live band, art and the whole shebang.
It’s good to have work stretching ahead. Plans are afoot for 2019! I do get a little bit fidgety because, as we know, until the contract’s signed, nothing’s for certain. In the last two years I’ve also gained a teaching award, so I’m able to run Storytelling Workshops and Puppet Workshops. I pinch myself most days as I’m so lucky to call all of this my job.”