Thursday, 25 August 2016

Daniel Kitson and The Three Unities: Introduction: The Unities

Written just after the 'Golden Era' of Athenian tragedy, Aristotle's Poetics has held an important place in the study of dramaturgy for over two thousand years. Often considered a response to Plato's condemnation of theatre in The Republic, it features a detailed analysis of the form and function of classical tragedy, contrasting it with epic poetry and setting out what appears to be an early handbook for script-writers. Although its precise meaning has been hotly contested - the definition of catharsis, the ideal outcome for an audience, is variously seen as social purification or a more personal appreciation - the Three Unities of Plot (or action), Time and Place have often been evoked as a measure of tragic quality.

Aristotle, teaching in the Hellenistic period, did have an acknowledged cannon to consider. The three playwrights of fifth century Athens (Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides) had achieved a status through their productions at the Dionysia and subsequent revivals. Aristotle explicitly identifies Sophocles' Oedipus Rex as a paradigm, and it is from examples of the unities are frequently taken from this text. 

The Unity of Action
"The plot, then, is the first principle, and, as it were, the soul of
a tragedy." (Poetics VI). 

Having established the central importance of the plot, Aristotle goes on to explain how it operates in Attic tragedy. The Unity of Action insists that there is only a single plot, and no subplots. Oedipus follows the journey of one man towards self-revelation - and the social impact of his ignorance and discovery. The Oresteia plays out the development of human justice through Orestes revenge. The Suppliant Women is concerned with the resolution of an appeal for asylum. 

The dynamism of Attic tragedy frequently depends on this single-minded focus on one plot. The limitations of the Athenian tragic format (three actors and a chorus, multiple productions in the same space on the same day) encouraged a purity of intention: overloading the actors with characters, exploring multiple ideas or non-choral interludes would stretch the capacity of the company. 

The Unity of Time
"Tragedy endeavours, as far as possible, to confine itself to a single revolution of the sun, or but slightly to exceed this limit, whereas the Epic action has no limits of time. This, then, is a second point of difference; though at first the same freedom was admitted in Tragedy as in Epic poetry." (ibid, Book V)

At this point, Aristotle appears to limit the action to a twenty-four hour period. However, this is part of a contrast with the epic mode, exemplified by Homer's Iliad or Odyssey, and Aristotle recognises that this is not a universal rule. A hint that early tragedies were more discursive, and the caveat 'as far as possible' reveals that this is far from absolute. 

Additionally, this is not written as a rule, but as an observation. Examining Oedipus, the passage of time is not as simple as suggested. There are choral interludes which cover passages of time - various characters are summoned, Creon goes to Delphi from Thebes (a journey of around fifteen hours on foot, according to Google Maps) and returns - and the appearance of a unity of time is actually carefully managed. 

Indeed, tragedies were made that attempted a wider scope: he dismisses various Theseids and Hercleids because they tried to tell a hero's life story. Sadly, these have been lost, and their quality cannot be assessed, but tragedy clearly existed in the Hellenistic period which broke this unity.

The Unity of Place
That all of the action must take place in a single location is another quality perhaps dictated by the format of the Athenian theatre. Scene changes were not easily managed, and the shortness of each tragedy encourages a single set. However, the classical play texts do support this observation. 

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Camille's Dramaturgy: Kamila Klamut @ edfringe 2016

A PERFORMANCE BY Kamila Klamut (Poland)
PERFORMED BY Kamila Klamut AND Ewa Pasikowska

directorial assistance: Mariana Sadovska, Carol Brinkmann Ellis, Vivien Wood, Alexandra Kazazou
music: Mariana Sadovska
lighting design: Bartosz Radziszewski
in the performance used fragments of Camille Claudel’s letters and poetry of Zuzanna Ginczanka
assistance with the english translation: Ewa Pasikowska
english translation editor: Anne Dennis
CREATED DURING AN ARTISTIC RESIDENCY at the Grotowski Institute in Wrocław, Polando by maciej margielski

Camille Claudel was a sculptor and artist. She was also the sister of Paul Claudel and the lover, creative collaborator and muse of sculptor Auguste Rodin. After the end of her relationships with Rodin she suffered a nervous breakdown and was confined to an asylum by her brother. She spent the last 30 years of her life there. Kamila Klamut’s performance, based on the poetry of Zuzanna Ginczanka and fragments of Camille Claudel’s letters, explores her life and work using text, sculptural costume and live music by Ewa Pasikowska.

“The last photo ever taken of Camille provided an impulse that directly influenced the final shape of the performance. It features Camille together with a friend who visited her in the hospital. I imagined that the visits, which didn’t occur very often during her 30 years in the asylum, may have evoked in her a cascade of memories – memories whose shapes I sensed and clothed in my own sensitivity”. Kamila Klamut

 What was the inspiration for this performance?

It was the story of an extraordinary artistically talented woman, who was unlucky to be born one and half century ago in Europe, in France in times when legal and social situation of women was not very good at all. The sculptress, Camille Claudel, the sister of famous writer Paul Claudel, long term collaborator of the most renown French sculptor Auguste Rodin, with whom she was connected by great unhappy love. 

Her unfulfilled relationship with Rodin and great difficulties she faced on her path to becoming an independent artist caused that Camille suffered huge nervous breakdown and was placed against her will in a psychiatric hospital by her family. She spent there the last 30 years of her life.

Is theatre still a good space for the public discussion of ideas?
How did you become interested in making performance?

Nothing will ever replace a face-to-face meeting of a human being with another human being and this is exactly what a theatre performance is. And of course it becomes a medium to voice ideas that provoke a response. 

There are performances that include the reactions to the messages transmitted from the stage directly into the structure of the piece. Other performances (like ours) are more like a sparkle that triggers further discussion after the performance.
The need to create theatre comes directly from a profound human need for a dialog.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

A performance is something very important for us, it requires time and devotion. The process of creating a performance goes hand in hand with a deep research, with weeks, sometimes months of work on music. 

We very often travel to places connected to the themes we are trying to touch, to meet people, speak to them, often make music together, or just to see the landscape of those places. At the same time we cultivate our skills as actors and musicians to finally gather all the treads, connect them and shape the final performance.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

We would like to take spectators on a journey that is full of emotions, that brings reflection, that tells a story of a woman imprisoned not only in a psychiatric institution but also in the patriarchal world. The world that's not at all a distant, perhaps Muslim country but that existed in Europe, in Catholic France just 100 years ago.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

Our greatest strategy is quality theatre. Theatre that grabs spectator's attention, that is absorbing, that opens a channel of contact between actors and the audience, that is a direct transmission from heart to heart.

Kamila Klamut is a co-founder of award-winning Theatr ZAR (among others at the 2012 Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, performance Caesarean Section: Essays on Suicide of Theatre ZAR won a Total Theatre award for Physical Theatre and a Herald Angel) and a regular collaborator with Song of the Goat Theatre and the Grotowski Institute.

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Aug 3 preview, 5–9, 11–13, 15–17, 19–21, 23–25, 27–28,  time 21:10

Venue: Summerhall, 1 Summerhall Place, Edinburgh, EH9 1PL
(Cairns Lecture Theatre)
SUITABILITY: 16+ (Guideline)

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

The Magnificent Bearded Dramaturgy: Tim Bell @ Edfringe 2016

Dame Nature – The Magnificent Bearded Lady

Moisturise. Oil. Comb. Repeat. Dame Nature is a bearded lady who has been looking after her facial furniture for as long as she can remember. Once the star of the show, now she spends her days in the depths of her dressing room contemplating the fading roar of the crowd, lost love and the merits of Phil Collins' solo work. A poignant, off-kilter show for people who don't like to judge a woman by her beard. Supported by Bristol Old Vic Ferment.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

The treatment of bearded ladies in the Victorian era is fascinating subject, but surprisingly little of it has found its way onstage. I was first attracted to the idea of what it might feel like to be judged solely by one aspect of your appearance, and, taking that further, what that might feel like to a performer who has been doing it for as long as she can remember. 

I love the idea of examining modern gender stereotypes through the world of Victorian music hall. And I love the stories of the inspiring women that often strode onstage in the face of great adversity. Combining them, fingers crossed, weaves a very rich backdrop to the show. 

How did you go about gathering the team for it?

I'm tremendously lucky to be a Bristol Ferment artist; it's a network of theatre makers supported by Bristol Old Vic. They're a really inspiring bunch and it's through that network that I met Hannah Kew (my director). Because of the nature of the piece I felt it was important to have a women-led production team; designer Verity Quinn and lighting designer Penny Griffin are regular collaborators.

It is also essential to me that everyone is empowered to have a voice in the creative process that reaches beyond their specialism. Dramaturg Laurence Cook was recommended by a friend and having worked with him so closely on this project I can definitely see why. 

How did you become interested in making performance?

I've always been interested in making performance. After training as an actor, and taking a more 'traditional' path through the industry (appearing in some half-decent theatre, some passable television and some terrible films along the way), this became a reality when I met my long-time collaborator Harry Long. 

Together we formed Shanty Theatre Company. Harry and I both grew up in the countryside, and through Shanty we are interested in giving a louder voice to rural communities. We hope to tell the stories that make up the fabric of a place, spring from its history and are bound up in its myths. Since 2008 we’ve created 9 original pieces of theatre, performing in pubs, woods, schools, custom-made-whiskey-crate-nightclubs, theatres, residential homes and world heritage sites. 

Shanty is still going strong (we've got a busy 2017 with our friends over at Eastern Angles), but alongside this, a healthy creative partnership means developing your own voice as well.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?

I suffer from a particularly high pretentiousness-radar when talking about this stuff, which I think, in turn, informs the way we make our work, but here goes! 

We hope to demystify the creation process. Anything goes, and anyone can contribute; there is no ego attached to anyone's ideas. So collaboration and liberation of the performers are at the heart of what we nervously call our process. Because each time we create, we're looking to make a new process where our style matches the content. So I hope it's difficult to say we have one way of doing things. 

However, there are some constants. A lot of our content comes from play; improvisations, games, and the feeling of freedom in the rehearsal room. We aim to create a lot more material than we need. After that, it's a process of ruthless editing.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

This is a question that is constantly on our minds when making our work. Right from the get-go, there is a lot for the audience to get their teeth into. 

When they walk-in, they find a man, wearing a dress, with a hairy chest, and a beard, not to mention breasts. Playing a woman. It's a complicated picture. I hope that the audience will be drawn in by a character they warm to - even find funny - before discovering the darkness that is at the heart of coercive and manipulative relationships. 

Hopefully they'll question how they've felt about the character (and her situation) up to that point. And form some ideas as to what they'd like her to do in the future.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

I think the arc of the show moves from broad, entertaining and accessible comedy, which celebrates vaudeville, variety, and the traditions of Victorian carnival, to something darker and a lot more sinister. When we were making the show we often spoke about the audience realising two thirds of the way through that they are watching a very different play from the start. We use dance too. Mostly to 80s power ballads. But I don't want to give the game away.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition 

I think my practice has been influenced by the companies that I grew up watching: Complicite, Told by An Idiot, The Right Size. And Chaka Khan.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Dramaturgy Syndrome: Catriona Scott @ Edfringe 2016

The University of St Andrews Performing Arts Fund Presents

By Catriona Scott

“Society’s messed up, your parents need therapy… Montague. How do you spell that?”

Dr William Bard is not the most competent of psychiatrists. Unfortunately for him, his patients aren’t exactly model citizens either. From murder to sleepwalking, drug problems to hallucinations, Dr Bard will have to try and help kings, lovers and even an actual donkey – or maybe that’s just that pretentious ass Nick Bottom. 

What was the inspiration for this performance?

The inspiration for this performance came from a single joke about psychiatry, which forms the punchline of the script. The rest of the play emerged from discussion with friends and family as well as lots of my own ideas for how Shakespeare’s characters could work in this new setting; Macbeth seeing daggers in every Rorschach inkblot, for example.

Is theatre still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

I certainly think that it is, not only in exploration of new thought and ideas in contemporary plays, but through looking at older scripts, such as those by William Shakespeare, as an obvious example, in a new light. Although the audience collectively sees a show together, they will not all see the same things, and this leads to discussion not only of the performance itself but its intentions and the ideas behind it.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I have been acting since I was young, but I first began writing plays two years ago, as part of a student writing festival at the University of St Andrews. As part of this festival I wrote and directed my first play, and have subsequently written three more. 

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

As this particular play had already been performed in St Andrews under a different title, the approach to this show first began with editing the script in order to polish it and have it fit the Fringe’s runtimes. Having done this we held auditions, cast the show and rehearsed for two weeks in July prior to our move to Edinburgh. 

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

I hope that the audience will have a good laugh, as the show is intended to be light hearted and entertaining, as opposed to a serious, in depth discussion of the problems many of Shakespeare’s characters face. I also hope they will experience lots of moments of recognition, not just from the more obvious jokes and puns but other references within the show - in terms of props, for example, such as Lady Macbeth using hand sanitizer throughout the first scene.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

I tried to ensure we dealt with some of Shakespeare’s most famous characters, and also tried to ensure that none of the jokes were too obscure. One of our reviews has stated that a basic understanding of the outlines of the plays referred to would be useful, but not essential to the audience’s overall enjoyment of the piece. In the writing process a lot of jokes that could have been too obscure were cut, and even the play’s title was changed in coming to the Fringe – when the show was first performed it was titled Antic Disposition, in reference to Hamlet’s putting ‘an antic disposition on’; that is, pretending to be mad.

Shakespeare Syndrome, a one act comedy, explores just what happens when several of William Shakespeare’s most beloved characters show up at Dr Bard’s office.  How will Macbeth respond to the inkblot test? Is Richard III allowed to use the disabled parking space? 

Will Hamlet ever be allowed to finish his soliloquy? Though this be madness, there’s no method in’t.

After a sell-out performance at the University of St Andrews, Catriona Scott’s new play Shakespeare Syndrome brings mystery and humour to the usually mundane world of a psychiatrist’s office. In the true spirit of Shakespeare, this energetic and refreshing family-friendly production makes no promises to explain the thoroughly inexplicable actions of his most colourful characters, but it is guaranteed to entertain, amuse, and bamboozle.

Friday, 12 August 2016

MacBain Dramaturgy: Dood Paard @ Edfringe 2016

Summerhall (Venue 26) ​
Aug 12-14 8.55pm

Macbeth and Kurt Cobain and Lady Macbeth and Courtney Love inspire MacBain a pitch-black comedy by Gerardjan Rijnders about unbridled ambition, hunger for power and an addiction to intoxication and ecstasy which opens in Summerhall’s Old Lab on 5 August. Dood Paard’s triptych of hilarious interviews with the pop stars, a freaky fast-forward puppet version of Macbeth which results in a merciless symbiosis of the grunge couple Cobain-Love and the Thanes of Cawdor. A crazy journey into the world of two seriously troubled people who are trying to escape from their mental prison, as the loneliness howls through the room and the attempts to reverse the inevitable end are heart-breaking.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
The author, Gerardjan Rijnders wrote the play for two Portugese actors. A pitch-black comedy about unbridled ambition, hunger for power and an addition to intoxication and ecstasy, inspired by Macbeth & Kurt Cobain and Lady Macbeth & Courtney Love. He was so happy with the idea and the text that he asked us to read it. We were blown away and immediately  decided to stage the play. The combination of the superstars and the play Macbeth was very inspiring.

How did you go about gathering the team for it
We asked composer Wessel Schrik to make soundscape. He used to be a big fan of Cobain and Love and he made versions of songs of Nirvana with instruments from the time of Shakespeare. He also made a soundscape that represents the walking advancing wood with trembling cutlery and copper plates. Julian Maiwald made a freaky lightshow.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance? 
We work as a collective, which means that we do the directing, the dramaturgy and the set design together.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
The audience will be a witness of two seriously troubled people who are trying to escape from their mental prison in brief and concise sentences. The loneliness howls through the room and the attempts to reverse the inevitable end, are heartbreaking.
What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
During the rehearsals we add two scenes to Macbain and made a triptych with a hilarious interview with the pop stars, a freaky fast-forward puppet version of Macbeth with children's toys that would give some context to the last part, the merciless symbiosis of the grunge couple Cobain-Love and the royal couple. 

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
We love to work with Shakespeare and we have done quite a lot of his plays, Titus Andronicus, Othello, Julius Ceasar, Coriolanus,.. We also staged the Jew of Malta of coeval Marlowe. Besides we also work with newer  plays  and develop new texts in collaboration with playwrites..