The story so far told by Alison and Amanda

Tarte Noire Project Managers

Amanda Brown and Alison Fairlove had been working together for 10 years and we had long held the hope that it was possible to bring a group of women together to actively engage with women’s lives through Playback Theatre. A group emerged from the various strands of our training courses in Devon. In January 2007 we had our first meeting and talked together about the common themes that concern us as women. We come from different backgrounds, which include theatre and performance, therapy, social work, clinical psychology, fine art, hairdressing, management, counselling, training and education. We range in age from our 20s to our 60s. Many of us are mothers.

There were a lot of strong and passionate feelings at that first meeting. We were interested to gauge the emotional, social, political and spiritual climate of women’s lives today. We had a strong desire to uncover the collective voice of women and to create a place where women could speak openly and honestly together about their experiences and feelings.

Initially, we found this was more difficult than we imagined. Often, it seemed that women were reticent to speak openly in a public, women only arena, and unfamiliar with the deep reflection that Playback Theatre offers. This is slowly changing as women come back again and again, and as our audiences grow. We seem to be enjoying speaking openly together in this new way. The most common feedback we get is that women feel less isolated and reassured to know that women everywhere are grappling with similar issues and struggles in their lives – that we are not alone.

“I like that there is a mixture of people from different cultures and countries, it is a very mixed culture here at Women’s Group. I like that I can begin to understand what is going on for different women in their own culture. It is a good space where I can have face to face conversations with other women. I like how emphatic and understanding everyone is to everybody’s stories about their lives, it opens my eyes.”

Over these last years we have toured local venues looking at various themes for our performances. Our practise is to explore the theme within the company before taking it to our audiences. We both embrace and grapple with the different values and outlooks within our group, which fuels our growth and our capacity to tolerate and understand difference. This is the ground from which we reach out.


Alongside our work in local communities we have been developing Playback Theatre workshops and performances with women Refugee and Asylum Seekers. It has been enriching and moving for us to work with this group of women and hear their stories. We have also begun to work with women who have experienced domestic violence. We are very enthusiastic about this work and that the form itself is such a powerful, transformative, healing tool – that strong stories and Playback Theatre are a good fit in an all women setting. It supports and enhances a feminine way to relate and communicate.

Tarte Noire started with 13 women, and since then some have moved away, some have moved on, and twice we have opened our doors to invite new women to join us. 20 women have been part of the growth of Tarte Noire. At present we are 14 with two members in London and one just left for a year in Australia.