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Meet the theatremaker who wants you to celebrate the world’s amazing showwomen

Why do we talk about showmen and not show women? Marisa Carnesky looks to redress the balance with her fabulous show.
Marisa Carnesky Showwomen

Marisa Carnesky is currently touring showwomen in the North and Great Yarmouth.

And aren’t we lucky? The show stops off at The Lowry in March.

The word showwomen is not currently in the dictionary, whereas showman is.

Marisa Carnesky hopes to redress this in the name of balance but also give credit where it’s due.

We can all name great showwomen, such as Madonna, Grace Jones and Better Midler.

So, Marisa is hoping to put a spotlight on the great artists that feature in this unique show.

Her London and Brighton shows were a great success in 2022 and she headlined the performance tent at Latitude that year also.

We caught up with Marisa to find out more.

Showwoman may not be in the dictionary. But there are so many who deliver. Who are your favourite showwomen and why?

Yes, Showwomen is not a widely used term but seems so much more appropriate for our times than showgirl – in the show we also look at spelling it with an x – ie Showwomen, to include all women, non-binary and trans people.

I think my favourite famous Showwomen from the past would include Josephine Baker and Mae West who were multifaceted artists who had ownership and authorship of their image and their material.

In current times I think you could call Lady Gaga a leading Showwoman for her flair and bravado, but my faves would be Janelle Monae for her vivacious ballsy attitude and Peaches, who puts on spectacular shows with circus and dance performers.

What do you think makes a great show woman?

If the term Showwoman was equal to the term Showman it would mean three things:

1. The woman that runs the show (the boss)

2. A great performer and a woman with a certain flare virtuosity and bravado, a sense of spectacle.

3. And in the show, we do just that – we talk about making the terms equal and showing examples of women who do this and move beyond the idea of a showgirl.

Tell us a bit more about the show. What can audiences expect?

The show has been co-devised in collaboration with 3 other iconic and important showwomen of our times, Lucifire who has been making dangerous performances in the area of circus, clubs and sideshow since the early 90s, Fancy Chance, a comedian and circus performer and of the first and only women hair hangers in the UK and Livia Kojo Alour, retired sword swallower and now cutting edge spoken word and theatre artist.

Alongside my work as an academic, live artist and clown we weave our stories and skills with stories of comparable women in circus and variety from the past dating back to the 18th century, including Koringa who hypnotised crocodiles and climbed a ladder of swords, Lulu Adams the first woman clown and Florence Shufflebottom, sharpshooter and snake charmer – Leeds’s only answer to Annie Oakley and Miss Lala who was an aerial teeth hanger in the 18th century.

The show features amazing live stunts and heartfelt monologues with visual spectacle.

What was the last thing you saw on stage that you loved?

Meg Hodgson’s Moonface at Camden Peoples Theatre blew me away- a fantastic young feminist contemporary clown.

What are you looking forward to the most about being in Showwomen?

Being with my amazing collaborators and hearing the audience gasp.

You can see Marisa Carnesky in Showwomen: which is at the Lowry on 16th March and can be booked by clicking here

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