#Interview: Breaking Boundaries – Lorna Meehan on ‘Brazen,’ Idolatry, and the Transformative Power of Art


I’m thrilled to introduce you to this multi-talented artist, whose one-woman show, Brazen, serves as an enthralling exploration of idolatry, adolescence, and personal evolution. With her deft intermingling of spoken word, physical theatre, and an intricately woven narrative, Lorna Meehan crafts a compelling journey from the quietude of a seaside town to the bohemian rapture of Parisian streets—all through the prism of her enduring fascination with Jim Morrison and The Doors. Let’s delve into the mind of an artist who brilliantly epitomises the beauty of complex narratives and nuanced emotions

Brazen seems like an extraordinary blend of spoken word, physical theatre, and audience interaction. Could you discuss your artistic decision behind this multi-disciplinary approach?

I knew I needed to break the words up with other art forms to give the audience chance to digest and due to the subject matter of the show, music was a big part of that so it felt natural to use the music as a chance to communicate through the body what I wasn’t saying with the words as the story gradually gets more personal and revealing as I get braver. I always wanted to end the show with a collective celebration and to help the audience feel comfortable enough to get involved I knew I needed to gently break the fourth wall early on and keep drip feeding it so it wasn’t too big an ask at the pivotal moment. I think using cross-genre art forms allows you to challenge yourself and find different ways of connecting with your audience.

The show explores the concept of idolatry and teenage obsession, particularly with Jim Morrison and The Doors. How did you navigate the nuanced feelings associated with this, and what inspired you to center the show around such a specific cultural icon?

Brazen was the first solo show I created and its earliest incarnation was a collection of poems I’d written for/inspired by Jim Morrison since I was a teenager and it felt natural to weave them all together into a full narrative about the pivotal effect this man and his band had on me and a way of my acting and performance poetry experience coming together. It felt like a story I’d had inside me for a long time that flowed out fully formed. Jim was my first teenage obsession , I was an outsider at school and the only Doors fan. It felt like they were made just for me and my obsession led me to finding ways to evolve and be brave in my own way rather than conforming to the peer pressure from people I couldn’t relate to. Meeting other Doors fans was the first time I felt like I could be myself while I was still figuring out who I was. I never grew out of that obsession in that way I think girls get pressured into growing up and taking their posters down, it evolved with me. I feel like he had more impact on my life than a lot of the prominent people in it and that made me feel powerful, that I was creating myself  rather than being moulded by my environment that I didn’t feel at home in. I knew without having to meet him that he understood that, that he was speaking to that feeling through his art. He wasn’t asking permission or seeking approval like I’d been conditioned to, he was just letting rip and sticking it to the man and I found it endlessly fascinating.

The nature of “quiet rebellion” is a theme within your show. Can you expand upon what this term means to you and how it manifests within the narrative of Brazen?

I was always fascinated by how wild he was, how he just seemed fearless and brave and I struggled with finding my own way to be brave when getting drunk, taking drugs, being promiscuous didn’t appeal. It was just engaging with the music, dancing, discovering his influences at first that made me feel I was breaking out of my conditioning. I didn’t feel that typical need to imitate him. It felt like a provocative secret I didn’t need to share with people who wouldn’t get it. I think every time you feel seen by someone you never met and who will never actually see you, your saying to the people around you ‘don’t think you know me just because I’m right in front of you’, that felt like quiet rebellion.

You’ve described the show as an autobiographical one-woman journey. How does your own experience intersect with the broader themes of adolescence, music, and transformation?

I think music is one of those defining aspects of adolescence. When you find music that feels like ‘yours’ it maps that transition from liking what your told to like into creating your own autonomy and finding your people, especially if the people around you are into music/lifestyles you can’t relate to. It makes you feel seen when you’re still creating yourself.

In Brazen, the audience is invited to journey with you from a “lonely adolescence in a quiet seaside town” to “seductive alleyways of Paris.” What role does setting play in your narrative, and how does it reflect the inner world of your character?

Going on a tour of Jim Morrisons Paris and seeing a Doors tribute band was the first time I did anything on my own, it was the first time I went away without my family, first time I went abroad off my own back and the first time I was around people my age and older who felt like I had something in common with. That trip became the defining moment that crystallised the alienation I felt where I was growing up and peeled back the veil of the bigger wider world. The before and after of that trip to Paris became the narrative backbone of the story of the show because it was the before and after of me, I was different when I came back, I just felt a little more brazen and home felt less and less like it could contain me which was exciting.

Giovanni ‘Spoz’ Esposito praises Brazen as “powerful, funny, and poignant.” How do you balance these different emotional tones to create an engaging and impactful experience for the audience?

It seemed to happen naturally as I just started writing the actual events that inspired the poems. I wanted the transitions from the poetic language into the storytelling to flow into each other, almost without the audience realising. I wanted it the arc to be that just when you start to think you know how the shows going to go, it subtly shifts into what’s really going on under the ‘hero worship’. I wanted to be candid about the whole journey which inevitably led to that friction between what I want the truth to be and what it actually is and humour and nuance inevitably flowed out of that.

Your debut poetry collection, Caterpillar Soup, includes poems from Brazen and your other shows. How do you see your work in Brazen complementing or dialoguing with your written poetry?

Caterpillar Soup is essentially twenty years in the making, marking five periods in my life of intense transformation and the content of Brazen very much documents that first and in a way easiest transition , from child into young adult. It was the least volatile and painful and because of it I handled the others better than I would have otherwise. I think because when you get into a band like The Doors, a contradictory man like Jim, that young you are tapping into the darker side of the psyche, your shadow self, things you don’t necessarily have vocabulary for yet and it stays with you, makes you less afraid of coming up against those uncomfortable truths again and again as you evolve. It felt naturally to start the collection with Brazen as it sets the tone for transformation that the rest of the collection consistently comes back to.

Mid-20th century artists and thinkers—such as Susan Sontag, who explored the intersections of art and culture—offer profound insights into the role of fandom and idolatry. Have such thinkers influenced your work on Brazen?

I remember reading something Caitlin Moran said about music and young girls and how when bands like The Beatles were quite scathing about their young adoring girl fans it was doing them a disservice, because it wasn’t the intellectual male ‘muso’ fans who made the Beatles the biggest band in the world, it was the screaming girls and where else could groups of girls be that free, seen, find solidarity with each other in the same way in that time? It wasn’t for anyone else, it wasn’t even about the band/the idol, it was about them having this collective experience of wild hysteria through them. That really stayed with me, I knew how good that felt. I felt like I moved through idealising him into seeing him as only human at the same time that I was seeing me more clearly without rejecting parts of myself that didn’t conform to social ideals. I think that’s why we need idols, to put on a pedestal they will inevitably fall off as we grow and learn to accept all parts of ourselves, especially the parts we think other people won’t love or understand.

As someone deeply involved in both theatre and poetry, how do you see the two forms enriching each other? Does your theatre work inform your poetry and vice-versa?

They definitely speak to each other in a way that evolved very organically. I always wrote poetry when I was acting in theatre but it wasn’t until I stared seeing performance poets that I realised I could ‘perform’ my poetry and the more I did that, the more I learned how to play ‘myself’ on stage, the more natural it felt to extend the poetry slot into a full hour and tell a story as me. But a version of me I could tweak for the audience. It was fascinating to push the boundaries of where the character of me ended and where the authentic me began when I was in front of an audience telling them very personal truths about myself, realising that a lot of them were very universal. Poetry can give away and conceal at the same time in a really fascinating way and putting theatrical conventions around that felt very provocative and magical.

Finally, how do you envision Brazen contributing to a more inclusive and welcoming artistic community, particularly for those navigating questions of identity and belonging?

I hope that what people take away from the ethos of Brazen; ‘sometimes the wildest thing you can do is be yourself’ is that identity can be as fixed or as fluid as you need it to be at any given time and that nobody has the right to curb your wildness as you try and figure that out for yourself.

You can catch Brazen, written and performed by Solo Theatre Maker, Lorna Meehan (Dir. Zak Marsh)
at the Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton, 16th November, 19.30.

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