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SPIN - Edfringe 2023

In an attempt to understand the occasional cruelty of the universe, the great philosopher David Rose once pondered, and I quote, "I don't know what kind of carnage I inflicted in my past life to deserve it. I must have been Dracula...or a Spin instructor". If you've ever been so deep in the trenches of the war with your own body image, that you decided to attend a Spin class, you'll be aware that most instructors have a minion of Satan energy to them. I don't want to generalise, of course. Hashtag "not all spin instructors". Maybe you like Spin class, that's cool babe, you do you. What I think we can potentially all agree on is that the phenomenon of Spin, and any other fitness craze to sweep the culture, is part of a much more insidious and dark capitalist project. The business model of the health, weight and wellness industry is based on the idea that the more you hate the way you look, the more money there is to be made. It's a viciously effective strategy and we are all susceptible to it.

It's these ideas and the absurdity of them that writer and perfomer Kate Sumpter explores in her darkly comedic solo show, SPIN.

Pedalling headfirst into the toxic world of fitness, SPIN starts out as an ordinary spin class, and slowly evolves to question how complicit we may or may not be in fatphobia, toxic fitness culture, and a society that jumps on trends to make money, no matter the emotional cost. SPIN explores the dark underbelly of the fitness world that pressures many of us to strive for an unattainable and unhealthy ‘ideal’.

We chatted with Kate to find out more about the creation of SPIN.

Can you give us a sneak peek into your show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe? What can audiences expect when they come to see your performance?

SPIN is an absurdist adventure into the world of toxic fitness culture alongside an inspiring spin instructor. Performed on a spin bike, this world premiere solo show is a darkly comedic takedown of a capitalist society obsessed with attaching morality to our bodies. Spoiler Alert: It’s our society.

The Edinburgh Fringe is known for its vibrant and diverse atmosphere. How do you plan to engage with the festival audience and create a memorable experience for them?

Like an actual spin class, SPIN is direct address to the audience so there is no escape for either the ‘Instructor’ nor the audience – well, not literally, we won’t hold you hostage. BUT the beauty of the Fringe is audiences are ready to buy into the wackiest of situations. SPIN asks us to think about our own complicity in toxic fitness culture and social media beauty ‘standards’ by watching the Instructor discover her own faults while in an inescapable situation.

As a performer at the Edinburgh Fringe, what are you most excited about? Are there any specific aspects of the festival that you are looking forward to exploring?

I’m really excited to connect with other artists, watch new pieces and continue to be inspired by the creativity and brilliance within the community. I will likely be sweaty and exhausted for most of the festival, but that won’t stop me from cramming in as many shows as possible between performances!

Your show incorporates elements of feminism and women's experiences. Could you share how these themes are woven into the narrative or performance? What inspired you to explore these particular topics?

Regardless of what their body looks like, most women I know have experienced feelings of shame and judgement from themselves and/or others. SPIN is about how that poison seeps into our brains. From nearly the beginning of our lives we are told what is ‘good’ or ‘healthy’, these beauty standards are forced onto us through a completely false and capitalist driven narrative. I chose to explore these topics after working in a gym in London for a few years and watching myself, my friends and family members all battle with body image and reaching for a completely unrealistic and arguably unhealthy ideal.

Have you encountered any unique challenges or obstacles in the industry? How do you navigate these challenges, and what advice would you give to other women pursuing careers in the arts?

Being a 6'1" actress presents challenges for sure. It's hard to get auditions for anything other than aliens or warrior women (not that those aren't fun to play!) I was embarrassed by my height for a long time but now I see it as a strength, and if people have a problem with it I can understand it as their lack of imagination. I wish I could go back and tell my younger self to make more of my own work instead of wasting time trying to fit into other people's box of 'ideal actress' (which doesn't exist, btw).

What do you hope audiences will take away from your show, especially in terms of the feminist and women-centric themes? Is there a specific message or emotion you aim to leave them with?

I hope that women leave SPIN feeling seen and and loved. I also hope that it helps some audience members to recognise some of their own implicit biases and think about how we can all do better, I feel that’s what working on the piece has done for me.

Introduction and edit by Louise Oliver (Editor, Persistent and Nasty Blog)

Show Details

Date(s): 2nd - 27th August (Not 9th / 21st)

Time: 2.20pm

Venue: Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose

Twitter: @3heartscanvas

Instagram: @3heartscanvas

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