Try to keep a hold of your heart.

Straight from Stratford, Shakespeare with Bite, is bringing their new fairy tale musical, Pickled Heart, to the London Fringe. I got a chance to ask Jessi Séguin, writer and director, some things about their production. See what she had to say about it and why you should definitely attend! 

What is your show about?

Pickled Heart is a new musical fairy tale written and directed by Jessi Séguin, with original music by Kristen Zaza. It’s the story of two siblings – the pragmatic Sean and the fanciful Maggie – as they journey through the Underworld on a quest to find Maggie’s heart after it has been stolen by Death.

Along the way, they must face their fears, reconcile their differences, and battle their disbelief, if they are to have a hope of saving each other and getting home in one piece.

Photo courtesy of Jessi Seguin

What drew you to the London Fringe Festival?

I’m a big fan of supporting local and that includes theatre. London isn’t home, but it’s home-adjacent. I’m from Stratford, but I want to be part of this theatre scene, especially as this area is starting to get some serious indie cojones. Also, the first version of Pickled Heart, the non-musical version, premiered in Stratford, at the SpringWorks Indie Theatre & Arts Festival and I wanted to share the latest edit with the people who loved it the first time around. Plus the full-circle symmetry of Pickled Heart’s journey to this point is fun.

What should audience members expect to take away from your show?

All the feels. Like, all of them. Bring a handkerchief. And whatever the equivalent for laughter is.

Why did you choose this subject to explore?

It wasn’t really a conscious decision. A playwright friend made an offhand comment about keeping our hearts safe in jars. It was coming up on the seventh anniversary of my brother’s death and I was thinking about the idea that the human body regenerates its’ cells completely every seven years, making me a completely different girl than I was when my brother died.

And suddenly I had this rather gorgeous and deeply personal play that looked at life and death and family and the cost and joy of those relationships. I’ve always loved fairy tales (anthologies of them was about all I would check out of the library when I was eight or nine) and this type of mythic, but oddly quiet story fits perfectly into a fairy tale setting, where the rules are always a bit bendy anyway.

When and where is your show going on?

Pickled Heart will be onstage at The Palace Theatre (710 Dundas Street):

June 2nd – 9:30pm
une 3 – 5pm
June 4 – 1pm
June 6 – 6:30pm
June 9 – 6:30pm
June 10 – 1pm

Tickets are $12 and are available online and at the door.

 What would you do for a Klondike bar?

I have, admittedly, gotten a bit snobby about ice cream since I started making my own. But there is something great about a simple ice cream sandwich, like the way they remind me of too too hot summer days and nights at the cottage with my cousins where we lived on ice anything, swimming, and musicals. So, while I wouldn’t risk life and limb for a Klondike bar, I’d…help someone put up a bookshelf or mow their lawn in exchange for one.

What was your last Tweet?

“Making magic is why I got into this #theatre racket! So excited to be sharing this story @LondonFringe in oh-so-short a time!” For reals. And it was accompanied by a picture of one of our Pickled Heart costume pieces – Death’s mask.

Take us through your morning routine in as much detail as possible.

Routine? Oh, yeah, I’ve heard of those. Insofar as I have one, it involves a lightly sweetened and heavily milked mug of Earl Grey tea, with vanilla added if I’m feeling fancy (something about that sweet, sweet bergamot essence really gets the creative juices flowing), scritcheling the ears of my supportive and literarily uncritical cat Elizabeth Bennet (Lizzy, for short, of course), and writing or doing things that writers have to do (like editing or sending out pitches and query letters). Sometimes, though not half so often as I should, I go for a bike ride or walk.

Do you think that the postmodern condition of cynicism towards metanarratives is itself a metanarrative?

I might need a word count and ticking clock to fully answer this question, but I will say that I find metanarratives a bit dull. Or more specifically, I find the consequence of the postmodern cynicism toward metanarrative – replacing grand, epic stories that speak to human history with small local stories – a bit dull. Lately, there seem to be a plethora of shows where people stand up and tell their (often true or true-ish) story, usually interestingly and very well, but I miss Big Stories.

Economically and culturally, I know why there are so many scripts and shows are written this way – it’s easy to tour a one-person show with a chair for a set and it’s a reflection of our ‘i’ culture – but it’s making for a very monochromatic modern theatre scene. I’ve tried to counter this trend with Pickled Heart. It’s a quiet, small, and deeply specific tragicomedy, for sure. But it’s not afraid of Big Questions and Big Feelings and Big Moments. And the score – it’s incredibly Epic.

What Fringe shows are you excited for this year?

All the ones I can get to. I’m pretty psyched to see Riding Hood (OrbitFriendly), with which Pickled Heart is sharing a venue – Palace Theatre – because it too is a fairy tale musical. I’m bringing some milk crates for Berlin Waltz (Devon More Music) and so I will definitely be checking that one out. And, of course, Pickled Heart! Mostly, though, I’m excited to connect with artists and talk theatre.

Want to know more about this little gem? Check out the site right here. And while you’re perusing, don’t miss Fuse’s Fringe coverage featuring interviews with different participating artists during every day of the festival!

For showtimes check out the Fringe schedule right here and don’t forget to grab those tickets!

Feature photo courtesy of Jessi Séguin


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