Bestowed on her during a Greek baptism ceremony involving a cauldron, a frightening priest and a lot of olive oil, Brigitte Aphrodite’s eccentric moniker is in fact her real name.
The self-styled feminist showgirl took ‘Aphrodite’ as her own name at a baptism ceremony that she describes as a “kind of torture”. It was originally the name of her grandmother, and after the ceremony Aphrodite set about imbuing it with its classical connotations of love, beauty and pleasure.
Aphrodite is bringing My Beautiful Black Dog to Hackney Showroom this month, her musical play whose title went through a similar process of re-appropriation.
“I always see the beautiful in life, and I’m bloody ambitious, so all that time that I wasted in bed, I was so angry and guilty, and self-hatred and worthlessness and all that stuff – the frustration of the wasted time – it became something that I had to write about,” Aphrodite says.
Part gig, part theatre show, part tidal wave of glitter, My Beautiful Black Dog is based on Aphrodite’s own experience of depression (originally referred to as the ‘black dog’ by Winston Churchill), which she says is still hard to talk about. But she is determined to open up the conversation.
“People really want to talk about mental health,” she says. “So if it’s in a way that is palatable but also makes you think and feel, the more we’re going to help everybody as a nation to accept it, and probably save lives.”
Mental health was a theme at this year’s Edinburgh fringe, with a number of performers and comedians deciding to tackle the stigma that surrounds it.
Coupled with Jeremy Corbyn’s recent appointment of a shadow minister for mental health, the issue that affects one in four people in the UK every year is becoming less of a taboo subject.
Many have described Aphrodite as brave for making the show, though for her it was an integral part of her recovery.
“Part of the process of beginning my recovery was making it, because I’ve always expressed myself through poems and songs, so it was the best way,” she says. “And the rewards have been massive. I understand myself much, much better.”
Aphrodite is a keen supporter of emerging artists. She mentored a student at Clapton’s BSix College a few years ago for the charity Arts Emergency, and even did a fundraising gig for them on the second highest peak of Mount Kenya, huddling up to comedian Josie Long, her tent-mate, to endure the extreme conditions at high altitude.
As for this show she says: “It’s like watching a gig but it’s a piece of theatre, it’s sweaty, it’s messy, its totally rock’n’roll.” Tracks from her forthcoming studio album Creshendorious will be released to accompany the show’s tour.
My Beautiful Black Dog is at Hackney Showroom,Hackney Downs Studios, Amhurst Terrace, E8 2BT from 18–20 November.