Brighton Fringe preview: Manic

Raina Greifer brings her solo show, Manic, directed by Pippa Thornton, to Brighton Fringe next month.

It combines spoken word, puppetry, and theatre to ask whether it is possible to say you were violated without implicating a partner.

Manic won the best solo show at FUSE International 2022. The Brighton Fringe show is co-presented with Sweet Productions.

We asked Raina to tell us more about this deeply personal show and her experience on the fringe.

Where: Sweet @ The Poets

When: 5-9 May, 6pm

Ticket link:

Production photo for Manic

What’s the best thing about being part of Brighton Fringe?

Being in a hub of other artists is always really special. It’s so cliche to be like “omg i love everyone” but also omg i love everyone!!!

I did Edinburgh Fringe Festival and found it excruciatingly difficult. Maybe I’m just a bit bitter but I feel like a lot of the spirit of fringe had gone.

It’s too pricey to be filled with glowing spirit; I am filled with bad box office sales and unreciprocated Instagram shout outs.

It’s so sad to see these massive Twitter threads of people leaving a festival feeling so depleted and like they never want to perform again.

My friends are sick of me moaning about it, but like, come on !!! Artists should not be going into debt performing at your festival !! That can not possibly be an unpopular opinion !!

So far, I have found Brighton Fringe to be really accessible and inviting. No one does a month long run of shows (or at least that I know of). It’s not cheap, but the risk doesn’t feel as big.

In fairness, it is where I met JD Henshaw, who took the show on as a co-production with Sweet Venues.

JD is also an also an amazing writer/director whose show The Final Girl will also be doing a run, which everyone should definitely check out.

I’ve never done Brighton Fringe so who knows what the best part will be, but I bet it will be not feeling so overwhelmingly upset that I can’t have a drink with the artist I’ve been Instagram stalking for a year.

Manic is a short solo cabaret piece about sexual inequality, which previously received positive attention at FUSE International and the Bath Fringe. Where did the initial idea for the show come from?

I started the show in a puppetry class I was taking which looked at how puppets can be used to play with silence and identity.

For our final project, I made a short piece where I asked questions to the man who assaulted me. I wanted to explore the idea of how we interact and ask things of traumatic memories and what the repercussions are when they can’t respond.

I realized I wanted to make a show about bad sex and the way it can often intersect with experiences of sexual assault after watching What The Constitution Means To Me by Heidi Schreck.

There’s a roughly 30-second moment in the show where she talks about a time when she had sex with a friend of hers but is genuinely unsure of whether she consented or didn’t.

Grey area consent happens constantly, and what sex education teaches us is just not sufficient for how people live sexually active lives. This was the first time I heard anyone begin to vocalize feeling unsure about how consentual the sex they were having was.

Considering that was how I had felt about all of my sexual experiences, it was incredibly validating to hear that I wasn’t alone. I wanted to contribute to those stories and potentially offer some of that validation to someone else.

Described as ‘hilarious’, ‘heartbreaking’ and ‘harrowing’, Manic has to tread a careful path through some serious subjects. How do you hope audiences might respond to your approach?

The show gets heavy at points and covers some really difficult topics, but for me the show ends on a note of hope. Sex can be really difficult to talk about, but spending years wondering if it is okay to feel violated after an uncomfortable sexual encounter is a lot worse.

At the core of all my work is the belief that there is a world where bad sex as we know it does not exist. I hope for a lot, I hope audiences think it’s good and new and well written but ultimately I hope they leave feeling that it is okay to give space to your feelings of violation and it is okay to build a safer sex life for yourself.

Manic uses poetry, testimony and word play to make its point, including reference to the work of radical feminist Catherine A MacKinnon. It also includes non-binary people in its space. Was this a conscious decision from the start?

Kind of! Catherine MacKinnon is always referred to as a radical feminist but it is really important to say she is not trans-exclusionary and has shut down any suggestion that her work is so!

Catherine MacKinnon’s text Sexuality was pivotal in how I understood consent, it gave me a language to talk about my sexual experiences which I hadn’t found before.

The show explores events in my life from roughly 2016 – 2019. In 2021 I soft launched as non-binary, but considering my femme presentation and some gendered language in the show, audiences usually interpret me as female.

I am very proudly queer and was a bit worried that would get overlooked considering the show solely focuses on my relationships with men. The feedback from our non-binary and queer audiences that the show has resonated with them has meant the world to me.

I got to do a performance in Newton Abbot last year for queer young people, and hearing them interact with the show made me want to cry!! I saw one person pull on their friends arm and whisper over “lol it’s literally me”, I’m so glad they appreciate my terrible Photoshop and jokes about Michael Cera.

What’s next for Raina Griefer and for Manic?

We’re gonna be touring all over the UK baby! May – July, we are jet setting across on the luxurious National Express. I am so proud of this debut tour and you should definitely come out to say hi!

Manic tour dates:

Harlow Playhouse 19th May – Harlow
The Poly 25th May – Falmouth
Exeter Phoenix 27th May – Exeter
Front Room 2nd June – Weston Super Mare
Camden Peoples Theatre 6th June – London
Theatre@41 8th June – York
The Kings Arms 15th -16th June – Salford
Tom Thumb Theatre 23rd – 24th June – Margate
Theatre Deli 6th – 7th July – Sheffield
Theatre Royal Plymouth 8th July – Plymouth
Tobacco Factory Theatres 15th July – Bristol
Pegasus Theatre 21st July – Oxford
The Nutshell 28th July – Winchester

What do you think?

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