Friday, 1 July 2016

Exactly like Dramaturgy: Lotte @ Edfringe 2016

Joe Brown and Matt Whayman present 
August 4th-28th
15:10 (1 hr)
Underbelly, Cowgate (Venue 61)

Spoken word artist and actress Lotte Rice presents her debut one-woman show Exactly Like You, combining her gifts as a performer and a poet to present a modern story drawing on the electrifying songs of Nina Simone, directed by Fringe First Award winner Kirsty Patrick Ward (CHEF, by Sabrina Mahfouz).

A girl wakes to find a strange man in her bed and spends the day piecing together what happened the night before. Lost in a lonely city, she summons one of the twentieth century’s most inspiring figures, Nina Simone. This brand new show from Lotte Rice is driven by poetry and bubbling with wit.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

Good question! There are quite a few actually. Needless to say Nina Simone was a huge influence- I have always listened to her music but got particularly absorbed by her work just before I had the idea for this piece. I wrote a short play first- a spoken word performance piece really – which is what this play is based on. But also, I came to Edinburgh in 2014 and saw so many amazing female performers. Lady Rizo was one. The most fabulous woman with the most sensational voice just DOING HER THING. Also, Jessie Cave, an incredibly honest, observant and hilarious comedian commenting so brutally on the anxieties and neurosis that so many women share. Basically, lots of women doing their thing.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?

Beautiful serendipity really, and with help. My producers have been incredible at getting me into gear for making decisions, and my director has a fantastic network of brilliant creatives who she has admired or worked with before – lighting, sound and set designers.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I trained as an actor at RADA, which involved largely script based acting. Which I love! But I’d always secretly written poetry and short stories, and harboured dreams of singing and a few years ago I started tentatively putting some of my own work out. It was partly due to wanting to challenge myself. As an actor you never know how long the periods of thumb twiddling between jobs are going to last, so it became a sort of side hobby. But then when it was suggested I write a play, I thought the challenge would be a really great way of developing new skills and learning new things.

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

No. As I said, I am used to working collaboratively, bouncing off of other peoples ideas. This has been a very novel experience for me, a lot of time alone with my ideas, but luckily I have some fantastic producers who have been supporting me from the start, so it hasn’t been lonely!

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

I hope that they are uplifted and inspired. I hope that they are entertained. I hope that they are encouraged to take the time to listen to the music that they love more often!

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

I’m not sure I completely understand the question, but I will answer as best as I can! I was keen to create an intimate cabaret experience blending theatre, singing and spoken word for an audience who like to be taken on a journey and entertained. 

I am working closely with a sound engineer, who is doing some fantastic work with sampling bits of music and creating effects to help the audience understand time passing and the internal life of the character.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
I suppose storytelling and spoken word.

Lotte Rice graduated from RADA in 2011. She has since been taking the spoken word circuit by storm, regularly performing at scratch nights across London.

POP-UP Dramaturgy: Janis Claxton @ Edfringe 2016

POP-UP Duets (fragments of love) 
part of the 2016 Made in Scotland Showcase
National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, EH1 1JF (venue 179)
Aug 4, 5 (previews)
Aug 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28 |  15.30hrs (16.20hrs) | FREE - non ticketed

Award-winning choreographer, Janis Claxton, draws on her signature trademark of bringing high quality dance to public spaces in her latest work POP-UP Duets (fragments of love)

In partnership with National Museums Scotland and based around the theme of love, POP-UP Duets will be performed at the National Museum of Scotland in August as part of this year’s Made in Scotland showcase.

For a series of short, contemporary dance duets, Claxton has joined forces with the award-winning composer, Pippa Murphy and four world-class dancers - James Southward, Christina Liddell, Carlos J Martinez and Crystal Zillwood. The team also includes Clive Andrews (dramaturg) and Matthias Strahm (costume designer).

POP-UP Duets explore the interface of everyday gesture and action and detailed intricate partner dancing. Each duet will last five minutes and will ‘pop up’ throughout the Museum in various spaces. 

Renowned for bringing dance to public spaces and new audiences with a particular interest in the ‘accidental audience’, Claxton has created works for zoos (Enclosure 44 Humans), parks and museums and galleries (Chaos & Contingency). 

Credit: Roy Campbell-Moore

What was the inspiration for this performance?

I am interested in bringing dance dance to public places for unsuspecting audiences. I like to surprise audiences by bringing beautiful and high quality dance to them that is surrounded in love as we all need love in the world and in our lives and I wanted to do that through dance. 

I also wanted to find ways of creating really interesting partnering duets with material that evokes meaning and emotion rather than a series of lifts & tricks. 

How did you go about gathering the team for it?

I gathered the team through long term collaborators. I brought in Clive Andrews as dramaturg as I knew the dance piece needed some added acting skills and dramaturgy. I have worked with the composer Pippa Murphy on several occasions since 2006 and most recently on Scottish Opera's Anamchara for the 2014 Commonwealth Games where we made a love duet. 

One dancer from that project James Southward has worked with me since 2013 and the others have taken my classes and workshops and we share a mutual interest in each others work. I need to work with dancers who excite and interest me. The designer Matthias Strahm designed the costumes from Chaos & Contingency. I have a really awesome team. 

How did you become interested in making performance?

I don’t feel I ever became ‘interested’ in making performance but I was just born a dancing thing! I really believe that performance is about sharing and as far back as I can remember I started to share my dance - as a performer and as a teacher. 

Before the age of 3 I would beg to join my older sister's ballet class and on my 3rd birthday  I was finally allowed to start. I immediately ran to the front of the class and started leading it! I starred my own small dance school at the age of 14 with 30 students each weekend. I choreographed from a very early age and the only reason I wasn’t expelled from high school was because they needed me to choreograph the gymnasts routines and the school musicals! 

Which I did - to Patti Smith & Laurie Anderson confusing everyone. But the core of my dance, including choreography and performance is my teaching. That has always been my starting place for sharing the joy of it all. I always wanted others to experience the power and healing that I felt with dance. I spent many years teaching tens of thousands of folk in many countries. And I think this is what lead me to bring dance to public spaces and large audiences. 

I learned through my work with the Zoo (Enclosure Humans) and Chaos & Contingency that there is a very large audience of contemporary dance lovers who just don’t know it yet. They will likely never pay to go a theatre but they do love to experience dance as audience.

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

I have lots of different ways of making performance but with POP-UP Duets, I am working with some new processes of creating partner material between two dancers. Every duet will be totally unique and depends on the material and specific energy between the two dancers.  

The dramaturg's role becomes important to support the development and enhancement of the unique energy and ‘story' that each couple creates. For this work I am working more closely with a dramaturg than in the past and together we are finding ways to support the dancers development of emotional connections throughout the works. Loads of fun and challenges all round!

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

I hope the audience will experience a sense of love - any aspect of it. I hope they have a visceral response to the work and enjoy the beauty, power and flow of the material and music. Pippa Murphy is composing the music alongside the creation of the duets. The dance and music are intricately entwined and this makes for a very strong and moving interdependancy between the visual & auditory realms. Some audience members  may be surprised at what we are doing in public. 

There are 4 dancers - two females and two males and we are creating work for every possible combination of the dancers. The audience will see duets between men and women as well as between two men and two women. The duets express love and romance and with the various couplings the work transcends the usual heteronormative narrative of typical dance duets. 

Also I want the audience to experience the three dimensionality of dance. We flatten dance in the proscenium arch format. I feel we watch enough flat screens in life these days and I want to bring back the three dimensions of the dance. For this work I am creating material that can be viewed from every direction. This is really exciting. I don’t know if I can ever create dance for one front again after this! 

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

I considered the idea that we will be dealing with a lot of audience who don't know about contemporary dance - what I call an unsuspecting audience who are not there specifically for our performance but stumble across it. The shortness of the duets addresses that. 

I have created works that will last for 5 minutes and giving audiences a chance to quickly receive the visual and aural information and an easy option to either say and watch more or move on in the museum. Making 9 short stand-alone duets is harder for me than I originally thought it would be - trying to make compact pieces that will keep the dynamics and the drama going. 

Dance is a visual art so having performances at a venue such as the National Museum of Scotland is good as we will attract people who are interested in looking at visual pieces of work. I want to open up people to the moving visual art of dance. 

By doing work in unusual spaces, sometimes our audiences don't realise that they are watching a performance until it is nearly half way through and often without realising they become part of the performance. The juxtaposition of the performance next to e.g someone reading a book is of value to the work and to audiences.

Another strategy is the use of gestural language - not in a making gesture dance way but everyday interactions that evolve into full blown choreographed partnering that still holds the intimacy and connection of the ‘normal’ interaction of a couple. I feel that audiences relate to what they can do, what is normal and I am working with taking this ‘normal’ beyond the everyday into gorgeous dancing and drawing the audiences into that experience. 

I sometimes feel dance alienates audiences with tricks and material that seems impossible and unachievable. My strategy is to draw audiences in and delight them. 

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
I see my work very much as contemporary dance but also site-based performance.

Janis Claxton (UK/AUS) is a Choreographer, Movement Director, Teacher and Producer based in Edinburgh where she is Artistic Director of the award-winning contemporary dance company - Janis Claxton Dance. Constantly winning plaudits on the basis of quality work, Claxton has been described by critics as “someone to look out for on the dance circuit” (Dance Europe) and “an intelligent dance maker she is” (The Scotsman). 

The company creates choreographed  works for touring in small to mid-scale venues and site-specific performances for unique spaces. She is currently Choreographer-in-Residence with Creative Edinburgh. 

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Dramaturgy by Niggle: Richard Medrington @ Edfringe 2016

JRR Tolkien’s
Leaf by Niggle

At the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016 and part of the Made in Scotland Showcase 2016

Scottish Storytelling Centre, Venue 30
Aug 4 Preview 17:00 Aug 5 -28 (not 10, 15, 22, 23) 17:00 (75mins)
Aug 17 17:00 BSL interpreted performance

Performed by Richard Medrington
Soundtrack composed by Karine Polwart and Michael John McCarthy
Directed by Andy Cannon; Lighting by Gerron Stewart; Design Support by Ailie Cohen; Movement support by Janice Parker; Stage Management by Elspeth Murray

Puppet State Theatre Company returns to the
Credit Brian Hartley
Scottish Storytelling Centre for this year’s Festival Fringe, as part of Made in Scotland, with its acclaimed new production of JRR Tolkien’s little-known short story, Leaf by Niggle

This solo storytelling show, created and performed by Richard Medrington, draws on Richard’s personal family history as an introduction to Tolkien’s original story. 

Surrounded by ladders, bicycles and heirlooms, Richard Medrington (Jean from The Man Who Planted Trees) recounts Tolkien’s miniature masterpiece with a beautiful soundtrack composed by Karine Polwart and Michael John McCarthy.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
I first read the story Leaf by Niggle back in 1992 and was so struck by it that I approached the Tolkien Trust and asked for permission to turn it into a puppet show. At that time the answer was a polite no. Over the next twenty years or so the story stayed with me, even seemed to pursue me at times, so in 2013 I approached the Trust again and this time they said Yes! In short the inspiration was a fascinating story with as yet unplumbed depths that I have enjoyed swimming in.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
Some old collaborators from previous shows, a friend whose work I had long admired but with whom I had never worked, a musician whom I had worshipped from afar, a producer who was just great and who brought on board other fine people she had worked with in the past, and a beautiful woman who for some reason doesn’t totally object to being a company manager and my wife.

How did you become interested in making performance?
Started when I was five and was given the starring role in Peter and the Wolf. I remember the teacher saying “now Richard is going to play the part of Peter because he likes acting”. Not sure where she got that from but it’s true. Well, I like telling stories anyway. And framing them in interesting ways.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
No. A much bigger team was involved. I have done a lot of one-man shows in the past, with minimal assistance, and then ten years of collaboration on The Man Who Planted Trees with Rick Conte where I played the straight man to his comic creation Dog. This was partly going it alone again, and partly having the reassurance of a large and capable team. 

Then there was the surprising stage in development when we realised that this wasn’t going to be a puppet show after all! Somehow, we just couldn’t make it work with puppets. We tried to adapt the story – to cut down the word count, move scenes around - but in the end it seemed that the best thing to do was to keep every word, in the same order and trust Tolkien’s skill as a storyteller. (We did change one word that’s no longer in common usage and removed four words that reflected 1930’s gender inequalities.) 

The “adaptation” now mainly consists in the framing of the story. There is a prologue, during which I talk about the set elements and props, most of which are objects from the family attic. All these elements turn up later in the telling of the story and “earn their keep”.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
A stimulated imagination. A challenge to think. A feeling of safety. 

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
Lovely music, interesting visual and aural elements, without overwhelming the eye or the mind. 

We considered and rejected ideas of a walk-through installation, although in a sense the set does turn into that at the end of the show, when people are keen to look at the props and talk about the story. (Probably haven’t answered your question).

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
Story theatre? Is that a tradition?

Leaf by Niggle is considered by some to be Tolkien’s most autobiographical work, springing from his fear of not finishing The Lord of the Rings. In 1939, as war clouds were darkening, he woke up one morning with the story almost complete in his mind and wrote it down.

Niggle is a struggling artist who is trying to complete his magnum opus, a painting of a curious tree. He isn’t sure when he will need to set out on his journey, but he is worried that he won’t be able to finish the painting before it’s time to leave. 

Leaf by Niggle is often seen as an allegory of Tolkien's own creative process, and, to an extent, of his life. It is a tale of transformation, which examines the relationship between an artist, his creation and his community. 

Richard Medrington is the artistic director of Puppet State Theatre Company and for the past nine years the company has been touring the world with its much lauded production of Jean Giono’s The Man Who Planted Trees.  

This new adaptation of Leaf by Niggle is a reflection of Richard’s long held ambition to perform a staged version of the story. In 1993, Richard gave an acclaimed one-off storytelling performance of the piece at the Carberry Festival and has nurtured hopes of performing it to a wider audience ever since. 

The Fabric of Dramaturgy: Abi Zakarian @ Edfringe 2016

A powerful new play by Abi Zakarian exposing the shifting roles and expectations of women in today’s society asking how, if ever, they can be fulfilled.

Performed by Nancy Sullivan

On tour 22 June – 22 July 2016 I Edinburgh Festival Underbelly 4 – 28 August

Leah has lost her friends, family and dignity. Forced to move for a third time following a harrowing court case, she is sorting through all the stuff that has accumulated in her spare room: clothes she doesn't wear, books she doesn't read, things she doesn't need anymore. 

Leah relives painful events in her past as she desperately tries to unpick just where it all went wrong and who is really to blame. FABRIC is a hard-hitting play that deals with the aftermath of a rape.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
Tom, Nancy and I were interested in producing a piece that reflected on the inherent inequality of women in our society and what those inequalities result in; how they shape society and attitudes. 

We spent a lot of time coming up with exercises to test Nancy in
everyday life so she could gather information about how she was treated in certain situations, or to behave in a certain way and see how people reacted.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
Tom and Nancy had worked together before (Tom directed Nancy in Fastest Clock... by Philip Ridley) and they wanted to work together on a one woman show. They approached me through my agent, and after an initial meeting with Tom where it was clear we had many similar ideas and inspirations I joined the team as writer.

How did you become interested in making performance?
I worked for many years as a picture editor for several newspapers; one project I worked on was a book about the Iraq war in 2003; which was compiled as the conflict was ongoing. I had to edit the raw images as they came in – it was so disturbing that at the end of each day I thought I would go blind. 

I was struck by this idea of psychosomatic blindness (which I later learnt afflicted many soldiers returning from the trenches after WWI) and decided to write something about it. This became my first produced play A Thousand Yards.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
It was a different route from a normal commission in that the project came with a director and actor attached but the opportunity to collaborate was great – being able to observe Nancy and her mannerisms allowed me to create the character of Leah in a different way.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
Personally I hope the audience will respond to the challenging subject matter in a way that allows them to question previously held notions. The subject matter is not easy to tackle and it may provoke extreme reactions. But this is good if it forces us to confront and discuss it.

Nancy Sullivan (The Rise and Fall of Little Voice and Les Miserables) stars as Leah in this premiere production directed by Tom O’Brien.

Full tour dates are: 22 – 25 June, EM Forster Theatre, Tonbridge; 2 July, Theatre Royal, Margate; 5 July Old Fire Station, Oxford; 6 – 7 July, Mercury Theatre, Colchester; 8 – 9 July, The Cryer, Carshalton; 11 – 14 July, New Wimbledon Studio, London; 20 July, The Hawth, Crawley; and 21 – 22 July, Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury and Iron Belly, Edinburgh 11.55am 6 – 28 August.

This brand new play was developed by TREMers and is supported by Arts Council England.

Creative team

Directed by Tom O'Brien

Set & Costume Design by Alyson Cummins

Sound Design by Max Pappenheim

Lighting Design by Zia Holly

Recommended for age 15+

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Verge of Dramaturgy: Quentin Beroud @ Edfringe 2016

Verge of Strife
Assembly George Square (Studio Two), Edinburgh, EH8 9LH
Thursday 4th – Monday 29th August 2016, 14:15
Jonny Labey (EastEnders, In the Heights) leads this poetic and spirited ensemble production, based on the life and works of WWI poet, Rupert Brooke.

A man who exploited and despaired at his ability to play the parts required of him is put centre stage for the first time in this dynamic production.
On his death in 1915, Brooke was feted as ‘the voice of England; his patriotic sonnets had caught the imagination of a people in the early days of the war with his voice of early-war naivety.

His poetry depicts the struggle to find a voice capable of expressing all he experienced, a struggle shared by all young contemporary artists caught amongst the conflicts of human nature.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
Rupert Brooke led an incredible life. By the time he died at 27 he was held up as a war hero despite never having actually seen battle. It's an irony that sums up Brooke's many contradictions nicely. 

One of the reasons the play is so good is that it doesn't shy away from the darker sides of his life; it is interested in the hold he had over people, how he could charm and manipulate some of the most gifted men and women of his generation, who also populate our play. We want to conjure up the spirit of that age, while creating something new.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
The producer, Arsalan Sattari, the writer, Nick Baldock, and I have known each other for a while now. We have worked together developing other scripts, but we felt this was the right one for Edinburgh before any form of touring or transfer. With the commemoration and the centenary of WW1, we felt this was the right time to tell this story. 

We've assembled a great team to help us do that, with a fantastic
cast, led by Jonny Labey. Ben Newsome Casting brought Jonny in to read, and we were really struck by his talent and work ethic - he was always willing to try new things out, and I knew he'd be perfect for leading our talented ensemble cast - which we built at a separate casting session, around Jonny.

How did you become interested in making performance? 
When I was a kid I would read a huge amount, and as I got older I started to be interested in film, but the theatre has always had an incredible hold over me. When I got the the chance to go onstage, I found connecting with an audience the most amazing thing. 

Making them laugh or cry or lament - all the clichés about stories and going on journeys with those watching you, come alive. Now as the director, I'm back where I started - in the audience, (hopefully) enjoying the show. 

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
This show requires a balancing act. There's so much historical material to deal with Brooke and his contemporaries- he was part of an extraordinary generation - but at the same time the script demands, and this is how I like to work anyway, that we take a fresh approach to it. 

So rehearsals are about marrying the historical and the new, inspiration and creation. This is very much an ensemble piece, we're creating the story together, everyone's invested in making the play something fresh for the audience. So in that sense it is fairly typical - that feeling of collaboration, of building something together, is something I like to foster as much as possible.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
Brooke was a complex and often unlikable man, but as I've
researched him more and more I find myself falling under his charm more and more - his combination of wit, naivety and self-deprecation make it hard not to. Hopefully the audience will go on a similar journey. 

Most of all, I hope they understand why we're making a play about him, and enjoy the play, whether they like Brooke himself or not.

 What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
Nick Baldock's script is really brilliant at capturing the different facets of his personality, so we really get a complex character, which is always interesting to watch on stage. Then the other characters in the play offer us glimpses into a world that was changing rapidly; strong women and men, all of whom were captivated by Brooke. 

I also think it's important for this story to be told in an unexpected way. Brooke's poetry was controversial and pushed boundaries in his own time - he wrote a sonnet about vomit - and his story needs to be told in an equally creative way. This could easily have been an Edwardian drawing-room drama, but I think far more interesting to use the best elements from that genre and blend them with a more innovative style of story-telling. That's why Edinburgh, and a Fringe audience, is the perfect place to debut Verge of Strife.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition? 
I take inspiration from things that I like in all traditions. The exciting thing is figuring out what works together, and constantly learning from other theatre makers from all backgrounds and approaches. Theatre is a collaborative medium - learning and experimenting are paramount.

Based on his letters and told through his poetry, Verge of Strife goes back to Brooke’s early years, looking at the young poet who embraced Socialism, atheism and the counter-culture of Edwardian England. Described as ‘the handsomest man in all of England’ his looks, charm and wit left a trail of bruised
egos and broken hearts right to the upper echelons of British society.
His life and inspirations are reflective of so many classic and contemporary artists and reveal an extraordinary man whose star burned incredibly brightly during his short lifetime.
Director Quentin Beroud (Richard II, House of Parliament) comments, I’m amazed we haven’t explored Brooke on stage like this before - he was a mystery that everyone around him, and even he himself, seemed to be constantly trying to figure out.

Nick Baldock’s brilliant script is an amazing moving portrait of a flawed genius who's been sidelined by history in a way that he never was during his lifetime. Brooke’s poem are the backbone of the piece and I want to build an ensemble piece around the poet and his words, flashes of his life that reveal more and more about him. I’m really looking forward to putting Rupert Brooke back where he belongs – right in the forefront of people’s minds.
To encapsulate the many facets of Brooke, the creative team gained access to his poems and private archived letters in King’s College, Cambridge, where Brooke was a student.

Nick Baldock
Nick Baldock is a Cambridge University and Yale graduate with a PhD in History. He went on to train at New York's American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) and is an alumnus of Royal Court's Young Writers' programme. Nick is a playwright, lyricist and librettist. His latest musical, an adaptation of Shakespeare's The Winer’s Tale, was performed at a rehearsed industry reading in New York early 2015, composed by Leo Hurley, following the success of The Better Part in late 2012. His work has been seen in London, New York and Boston, most recently at Manhattan's Duplex Cabaret in late 2014. Nick’s future work includes Mrs Fleming & Mrs Mallowan, about a meeting between Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, Nothing to You, a thriller set in an alternate reality of 1949 and two other commissioned pieces.
Jonny Labey

Jonny can be seen in the role of Paul Coker as a regular in EastEnders. He was nominated for the British Independent Film Awards best newcomer as David in Soft Lad (Brown Boy Productions). Jonny trained at Bird College of Dance, Music and Theatre Performance. Theatre credits include: Graffiti Pete in In The Heights (Southwark Playhouse); Eddie Cochran in Rock'n' Roll Heaven (UK Tour); White Christmas (Dominion Theatre).