Interview: Netflix, 25th March 2023

Sometimes in the pit of despair, inspiration emerges. I was now in the fourth year of being stalked, by a woman, whose only skill greater than her ability to harass was her ability to evade the law. She had somehow just obtained my mobile number and I was in the peak of my career at that point, having just come back from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where I had won the Edinburgh Comedy Award for Monkey See Monkey Do. A show which tackled the sexual abuse I suffered when I first got into the industry.

It was a big moment for me. Coming clean with what happened after so many years suffering in silence. But any good feeling in the Fringe’s aftermath was tempered by my phone ringing every single minute of every day where I was met with a whole gamut of Martha’s emotions from hurled insults to deep expressions of love and longing. It was too much for anyone to bear.

So, it became my life. Listening, logging, and annotating every single voicemail she ever left me in the hope of bringing it all to an end. Praying that she would say something incriminating so that the situation could be dealt with properly and effectively.

In the height of it all, I would go to bed at night and still hear her in my ears. Her voice swirling around my head. Her words leaping around my eyelids as I tried to sleep. Sometimes it was like she was there in the room with me. In the bed beside me, even.

I remember during a particularly long night of unrest; the idea came to me.  To stage this whole ordeal, one day, when the time was right. What an opening, it might be, to layer the voicemails on top of one another and shoot them around a stage in a wash of projected light. A cacophony of oscillating words and sounds bending and mutating along with her different emotional states. Mirroring her madness. Mirroring my madness. I mean… what better way to start a show than to plunge the audience straight inside the horror of it all?

When I decided to debut Baby Reindeer at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2019, it had been two years since Martha was out my life and I was facing an entirely new pressure. The court of public opinion.

It felt like a risky thing – to do a “warts and all” version of the story where I held my hands up to the mistakes I had made with Martha. The foolish flirting. The cowardly excuses as to why we could not be together. Not to mention the themes of internalised prejudice and sexual shame that underpinned it all. The graphic details of the drugging and grooming and sexual violence I had experienced only a few years before.

I imagined picket lines outside the venue forcing me to shut down. Telling me that what I was doing was wrong. That she didn’t have a voice. That I was the real perpetrator of harm and she the victim. That storylines of internalised shame are not helpful, anymore, and that my descriptions of sexual violence so extreme that… surely I was complicit in it somehow? These were all legitimate fears and not without merit. But equally I could not shy away from the truth of what had happened to me. This was a messy, complicated situation. But one that needed to be told, regardless.

The show sold out that month and by the end I was performing two shows a day just to cope with demand. People came up to me at the end and would tell me things like “I didn’t know whether to punch you or hug you” and “I felt sorry for you, then I hated her, then I hated you and I felt sorry for her” and to me that was the biggest compliment the show could get. All I ever wanted to do was capture something complicated about the human condition. That we all make mistakes. That no person is ever good or bad. That we are all lost souls looking for love in our own weird way.

The show was commissioned by Netflix in April 2021 and here we are three years later (almost to the day) ready to release the exact same themes to the world. The exact same moral quandaries. Only this time, on a much larger scale. In a lot more detail. To a wider spectrum of people and an audience two-hundred million times the size.

I would be lying if I said I was not back exactly where I was all those years ago in 2019 at the Edinburgh Fringe. Fearing the worst. Praying for the best. Hoping that in amongst all the messy, complicated, fucked up, themes Baby Reindeer throws at you, that people might take notice of its beating heart.

Baby Reindeer drops on Netflix April 11. The trailer is available to watch right now below.

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