Get to know Roann McCloskey, writer and performer of My Father the Tantric Masseur, in this Q&A.

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On Sat 24 October we’ll be joined by writer and performer Roann McCloskey with her show My Father the Tantric Masseur.

In this feel-good production that will have you laughing, crying and pondering the name you’ve given your genitals, Roann takes us on a journey of excruciating self-discovery as she navigates life as a post-#MeToo, queer, British-Algerian woman.

Get to know Roann a little better in this Q&A where she discusses life, lockdown and getting back in front of a live audience!

Hey Roann, what’s been the toughest thing about lockdown for you?

I was about to perform my second solo show and it was really gutting not to get to perform that show. It’ll be great to have the chance to do it with an audience and see if it was as bonkers as we suspect it might be!

What’s been your lockdown-life highlight?

I’ve been told I now make the best ever chocolate and walnut or pecan brownies! I also started Arabic lessons with my mum over zoom, which is an experience. She loves having a good old chat but forgets she hasn’t taught me any of the vocab to chat back! Essentially my favourite thing is learning silly phrases that will make my family laugh – e.g. ‘this is a head, not a watermelon’, which I suppose is a bit like, ‘this head is more than a hat-rack’. Mum also shared an inspiring mantra that has helped me during 2020, which translates as: ‘if you go slow you find peace, if you go fast you find regret.’ That’s what I’m trying to remember through all of this.

What will you do first when the restrictions are lifted?

Hug everyone I see – I miss human connection! And tour my show as much as possible, obviously.

Tell us more about the show.

It’s all autobiographical. I tell stories for an hour about sex, genitals, family and sexuality. There are lots of ideas explored within it, like the openness that comes with age within a family, and the stories about sex that aren’t so hilarious – that are a little bit sadder.

Did you always know you wanted to write about sex?

Yes – I’ve always loved the subject. When I was at uni or living in other cities or countries I found it’s always a subject that makes people loosen up. When you’re with acquaintances or colleagues and everyone’s had a glass of wine or two and you start talking about sex, you get a different impression of people – sometimes they come out with outlandish stories you’d never expect! It’s a good icebreaker.

The summer before I devised tantric, I was visiting a friend in Greece. While my friend was working I hung out with her friends and sometimes I’d ask them questions about sex over a coffee. Some would be shy, or giggly, or others would be really ready to share with me…it’s a universal experience whether you’re having any sex or not. It’s how we all got here.

Originally the show was all meant to be funny, but I realised it wouldn’t be authentic without me including the experiences of sex that weren’t so hilarious too.

Is sexuality fixed or fluid for you?

Everyone experiences it entirely differently and I can only speak for myself. For me, there’s a tension between how you should be and how you actually are. Society tells you about how things are supposed to be – but that isn’t always the way you actually feel. I find it’s ever-changing based on my surroundings as I work out who I am – and also around who society allows me to be. So in that sense I’d say it’s definitely not fixed.

How has your Algerian heritage shaped who you are?

When people meet me they tend to assume that I’m not totally English from the way I am, and yet Algerians see me as totally English. That can make it difficult to understand how you find yourself as whole, when you’re always described as ‘half-half’. Algeria has such a beautiful rich culture and past and I’m very attached to it. My mum is one of the most important people in my whole life and she is who she is because of where she came from, so it’s a really important place and culture for me.

How are you feeling about performing in front of a live audience?

This whole period feeds like a weird time vortex and of course I’ve missed performing. Ultimately this show is my baby – it’s my life in an hour and I’ll never stop being grateful that I get to share it with an audience.

What kinds of reactions to you get to the show?

In the bar after the show, a group of 45 year old men in suits told me they’d just spent the last hour since the show talking about their relationships with their dads. It’s really great when the show prompts conversations like that.

Several people have said the show has helped them think about sharing difficult sexual experiences that they’ve never felt able to tell others about before. I would never want to tell someone how they should deal with the things they’ve been through, but it’s great when people tell me that I’ve made them think about talking about their experience. I think it’s a sense of people wanting to feel seen and heard in terms of what they’ve been through, which takes courage.

What are you up to next?

My second solo show ‘Who Murdered My Cat?’ will be coming out next year, which will mean a lot after the Covid-19 delays. I’m also developing a sitcom called ‘Lights, Cameras, Couscous’ featuring my mum (of course) and a British Algerian working in live TV.

My Father the Tantric Masseur is at the Lawrence Batley Theatre on Sat 24 October. Tickets are £11. Click here to book.

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