Why We Tell The Story: In Conversation With Camila Robinson-Rodriguez

If you ever meet Camila, there are two things that you should notice about her in no time at all.

  1. First, is that she bears an uncanny resemblance to Fleabag but in a way that is difficult to describe.
  2. Second and most importantly, is her passion for art and activism.

Earlier this year, Camila collaborated with dancer Krystal Dawn Campbell to create a devised performance of Dirty Laundry, a gripping and compelling new play about the harsh realities of fast fashion production. In this interview, we discuss the cost of fast fashion, how her views bleeds into her work as an artist and the importance of having a ‘why’.

Name: Camila Robinson-Rodriguez

Role: Actress, Writer, Theatre Maker, Facilitator

Favourite Show/Play: There are too many to say! I do remember seeing quite a few shows at the Young Vic and being blown away. A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing which was performed by the brilliant Aoife Duffin had me crying on the train home. Angels in America at the National Theatre too, what a show.

Favourite Part About the Theatre: When it punches you in the stomach. As a performer, I secretly like it when things go a tad bit wrong on stage – I think it’s quite exciting. 

Q: What exactly is fast fashion all about?

A: Fast fashion is essentially the mass-produced clothes we see on our high street. It’s a model of producing clothes so they are made quickly, cheaply and designed to be short term disposable items.

If you take a step back, fashion looks a lot less glamorous. The garment workers who make our fast fashion clothes often work in terrible conditions and are abused so that collections are finished on time. Children are known to work in these factories or from home and many mostly female garment workers have died at the hands of fast fashion. The human and environmental cost of fast fashion brands like Topshop, Boo Hoo and Misguided, to name a few, is too devastating to ignore.

Q: What impact has your awareness of fast fashion had on the type of creator and performer that you want to be?

A: It’s widened my awareness of the other negative lifestyle choices I make and a whole Pandora’s box has since been opened! As a creator, it solidified the kind of theatre maker I want to be and the type of content I would like to produce. When I started researching fast fashion I was so horrified that I needed to express it in an artistic way. Luckily, during my fast fashion discoveries a friend suggested we do a show together and I found the perfect medium to express my horror and create awareness.

Making our work in progress version of Dirty Laundry was extremely difficult but also exhilarating. It made me fully realise the importance of knowing your why. Why am I doing this? Why am I putting myself through blood, sweat (so much sweat) and tears? Without understanding your why, I don’t think your work will have a heart and by the end of the process you definitely won’t!

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Q: How was your experience of working on Dirty Laundry different to other ones you’ve been involved in before?

A: This project was my scariest yet. Creating and performing your own work about something you genuinely care about can make you feel very vulnerable. I’m used to being a performer where I’ve felt safe in the director’s vision and the team, or a writer where I work solo. Also, I’ve never worked cross-disciplinary and as it turns out actors and dancers speak very different languages!

I would recommend making your own work as a great form of training. Creating something yourself forces you to discover your voice as an artist. This process has taught me more than any other project or training has ever done. It pushed me outside of my comfort zone which is where the growing pains begins. Luckily, I was working with a good friend who is excellent in her craft. When I was feeling vulnerable or uncertain, I knew I could trust her to push us through. Working with people you respect and trust is absolutely key!

 Q: For anyone who wants to be a more ethical consumer, what should they be doing to make a difference?

A: Before you do anything to make a difference, know your why. Our culture is set up to work against ethical and sustainable consumption. So you really need to understand why you care in order push through all the tempting BS out there.

I would first suggest watching ‘The True Cost’ documentary. The first time I watched it, it changed my view of fast fashion. The second time I watched it, it changed my life. Stacey Dooley also has an eye-opening documentary called ‘Stacey Dooley investigates Fashion’s Dirty Secrets’. Once you learn the truth about fast fashion for yourself you are less likely to want to participate in it.

For anyone thinking, just tell me what I can do already, the simple answer is to shop less. I’ve seen this on Instagram and I think it’s a great saying, “Buy what you need, want what you have”. So, if you need something the best thing to do is see if a friend, sister or mister can lend or give it to you. The second port of call is pre-owned items or buying from ethical brands. You can find some great pre-loved items on de-pop and the ‘Good On You’ app is helpful for ethical brands. Lastly, if your only choice is buying fast fashion then please try and shop from an “ethical” or “green” collection. Fast fashion isn’t going anywhere so the least we can do is tell the companies that we support their ethical option and want more ethical options.

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Q: Who are your inspirations?

Mark Thomas (English Comedian, Performer and Activist) – I love him, some of his plays include ‘Cuckoo’ and ‘Showtime from the Frontline’. I find Safia Minney’s (Social Entrepreneur and Author, Founder of People Tree Clothing) journey incredibly inspiring too. I’m also thankful for and inspired by female writer-actors like Michaela Coel (Actress, Writer and Performer. Known for her TV series Chewing Gum) and, of course, Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Actress, Writer and Performer. Known for TV series Fleabag).

Q: What drew you to acting and led you to discover that it was something you wanted to do professionally?

I found acting incredibly liberating. I remember acting out very intense, angry monologues as a young teenager and discovering that I had all these emotions locked inside of me. They finally had an outlet! I never thought of not doing acting professionally. For a long time at school it was the only thing I was really any good at. Plus it was fun.

Q: What are you working on next?

Krystal and I are currently applying for R+D opportunities and funding to develop Dirty Laundry. I’m also writing my own play, so watch this space. Performance wise, the next thing I’m in is a big movement piece about identity and community in Shoreditch Town Hall.

Thanks for reading! And a huge thank you to Camila for the interview. If you’d like to see more of Camila, here’s her social media links:
Instagram: @camila.roro
Twitter: @CamilaMRobinson

 

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