Interview with Jose Parra from Tomatoes Don’t Fly

What inspired you to become a performer?

I got interested in performing in my late 20s after getting into circus skills. Clowns like Avner the Eccentric or Fraser Hooper first inspired me. In 2009 I trained in Clown Through Mask with Jonathan Young and I loved discovering how beautiful, ridiculous and funny we can all be. During this training, I met Charlie Blowers, an art psychotherapist and performer, and joined her company Moving Pieces inspired by the company’s idea of creating performance based on one’s life experiences. I then found other performers interested in devising theatre this way, like Jamie Wood with whom I have created Tomatoes Don’t Fly.

How did the concept originate?

In 2019 Jamie and I both attended a theatre festival in Catalonia and the idea of collaborating in the making of a solo show came up. One day during the festival we found a big tomato smashed on the floor in the middle of the street and it feels like somehow Tomatoes Don’t Fly started. At that time we didn’t know what the show was going to be about but we liked the fact that a tomato can look like a heart, a red nose or be synonymous with shame. After returning from Catalonia we began the creative process using improvisation, images I had drawn during therapy sessions and endless conversations. 

How do you blend the playful elements of clowning with deeper themes of self-discovery and personal growth in the performance?

The show constantly moves between reality and fiction. The themes and characters come from a deep journey of self-discovery and personal growth but within that, we also make sure there is space for the playful elements of clowning. The different characters in the show are played with a heightened physicality as well as some of the costumes and text being ridiculous. Besides, there isn’t a fourth wall and the characters gently interact with the audience at different times. Also, there is plenty of room for improvisation and things to go wrong. 

Why should the audience make sure to catch Tomatoes Don’t Fly among the lineup of shows, and what makes it a unique and compelling performance? 

Last time I performed the show in London I received a quote from an audience member which I feel best answers this question: ‘I loved how available the performer was and how much I connected with him on a human level even though he was dressed in a ridiculous costume and was being so silly. I loved how playful and moving the show was. There was a moment when he was playing the motivational guru when I was deeply touched by the question “What are you afraid of” and I nearly cried, and I loved how this very serious question was also part of the silliness that the whole piece created. It made me feel really happy and nourished.’

You can catch Tomatoes Don’t Fly on Tuesday 23 July at 7:30pm. Book your tickets here.

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