“I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t get dumped, a year and a half ago”
I meet with Emily Howarth at a vegan café in Hackney on a surprisingly sunny Saturday. She’s got a large backpack with her and ukulele in tow. I’ve known Emily for a few years through our university drama society, and I remember seeing her first try-out of her new show Dumped at a uni variety night a year ago.
We reminisce about that first scratch performance: “I’ve never done any stand-up before, even though this isn’t really stand-up, but it’s more stand-up than I’ve done before. I’ve never sang in front of anyone, and I’ve never played ukulele in front of anyone either. I was sat next to my friend Liam [during the show] and I was like “Liam, can I do this?” Emily says.
Obviously, Emily took the plunge and Dumped has now formed into an hour long show which will be playing a mini tour over the spring, including at Camden People’s Theatre and Brighton Fringe. The self-proclaimed ‘one woman comedy-musical-shitstorm’ is a look into what happens when your heart gets shattered into a million pieces when dumped, and how soothing breakup songs can be in helping you heal.
“I’d listen to a song after I’d been dumped and it would speak to me in ways I couldn’t describe. You always hear of this happening to people with songs, but it never really happened to me before. But even songs as famous as ‘I Will Survive’ became so relevant to me. I’d never really taken the time and properly listened to it before, and it was just so comforting”
“When you’re dumped you just want to be pathetic, be the worst version of yourself, and breakup songs don’t judge you for that”
Naturally, after being dumped you become more aware of how many breakup songs there are around you, and how they can be defined. There seems to be two distinct categories of breakup songs: ‘I am sad’ and ‘fuck you’, and within these there are smaller categories, almost like you could make a flowchart to find the perfect song for your breakup mood. However, some songs are more undefined, including songs by Amy Winehouse and Joni Mitchell, as well as Ariana Grande’s smash ‘thank u, next’.
“I’m working on showing and not telling” Emily says as we tangent off about female artists not getting the recognition they deserve. “Very strangely, and I can’t tell you why I did this, I recorded voice memos to myself/to my ex-partner (after the dumping). I found them on my phone and it was literally like ‘hi, it’s day one…you messaged me and this is how you made me feel’. These memos are gonna be in the show as a structural thing because I’ve never made anything longer than 15 minutes before. Like, how do I sustain this feeling?”
I ask how making the performance is going, and how that’s been as a process as a solo performer. I remember seeing Emily post on Instagram about how she’s knitting together elements of the show.
“It’s a really strange experience making solo work and I don’t think enough people are talking about it. I want to be honest about how it’s going. When you’re doing something like this it can be easy to post your shiny well-edited poster but most of the process is hard and stressful. I’ve been trying to write this into the show, too, because creating solo work is a really absurd experience. Even the concept – why do we do this to ourselves? Nobody’s forcing me to do it; why am I making this show about this really painful experience I had?”
“But having this show as a focus and something to really pull me in has given me a sense of purpose. This is the kind of show I want to do but I wouldn’t have this subject matter if this hadn’t happened. Would I rather have been dumped and doing this show or not dumped and doing something else. It’s weird to think about. At the moment I’m really happy with it!”
Dumped can be seen in preview at Overlock Arts in Hackney on 12 April, at Camden People’s Theatre in June, and at Brighton Fringe in May. You can follow Emily on Twitter and Instagram @emilyhowarthWOW