Rosie Wilby has a formidable number of strings to her bow: she is an award-winning comedian, musician, writer, and broadcaster, treating important subjects such as feminism and sexuality with wit and charm. She is currently touring her solo show Nineties Woman, a multi-media journey through 90s feminism, blurring personal and political histories using video, music, archive photography, and, of course, the spoken word. Having won Planet London’s Theatre of the Year award and received bucket-loads of praise, it’s not one to miss. We caught up with Rosie ahead of her May 4th performance at the Exeter Phoenix to find out more.
Could you tell us a little about the genesis of Nineties Woman?
It came about over the Christmas holidays just over a year ago, when I was up at my dad’s in the North West and stumbled upon some old copies of Matrix, the university of York women’s newspaper I’d been involved with as a student. It started me thinking about feminism and whether I still felt like I was a feminist and how far we had come, as it seemed like we were still discussing a lot of the same types of issues – body image and media portrayal of woman, equal pay, domestic violence, women’s sexuality not being fully celebrated, and so on and so on
What kind of topics can we expect to hear about in the show?
The show mostly concerns my personal journeys – the one I made back then as I was discovering my own identity and the one I made last year when I was doing detective work about what happened to Matrix and the women involved.
All things 90s are particularly in fashion at the moment, so it seems your show is perfectly timed. Why do you think the 90s are so perfect to revisit now?
Things always seem to go in cycles; we’ve been nostalgic about the 60s, 70s and 80s, and now it’s time for 90s nostalgia. I’m not sure the noughties was so easily define-able as a decade, so I’m not certain these cycles will continue. It’s also fascinating to remember a relatively recent decade when, for most of it, we still didn’t have the Internet and mobile phones in wide usage.
How has your mindset on topics such as sexuality and feminism changed since the 90s?
I’ve become less of an idealist and more of a realist, and understood how long actual change takes… Not only legal change, but a change of attitudes.
Can we still be as radical as we could back then?
Surely there’s always space to be radical. It’s just that politics and legal changes have changed the boundaries. It was radical to be openly gay in the 80s and 90s as it was still a homophobic time, whereas now being gay is way more accepted and we can start having a dialogue where there’s space for people who are trans or genderqueer or polyamorous. Maybe they’re the radicals now.
Unfortunately, ‘feminism’ is being treated as a dirty word by many women in the public eye. What do you have to say to them?
I see feminism as believing in equality regardless of gender. What’s not to love?
Finally, do you have anything exciting planned after Nineties Woman?
My girlfriend has a big birthday this year and wants me to take her to San Francisco. We’ve never been so that’s a little adventure we are planning. We went to New York last Summer and I did some gigs there. It was fab.