Thursday, 30 July 2015

Richard the Dramaturg: Kolbrun Bjort Sigfusdottir

Pushing the boundaries of Shakespearean Performance, Brite Theater have re-imagined Richard III as a bold and engaging one-woman show. The fourth wall has been utterly obliterated, as you the audience take on the roles of all the other characters at Richard’s party in this intimate, exciting and moving production. Let Richard entertain you…but will you survive?

St. John's Chapel, Just Festival and Edinburgh Fringe
12-15th, 18-22nd, 24-29th and 31st of August | 2pm


 
What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Kolbrun Bjort Sigfusdottir (
Artistic Director of Brite Theater and Director): Richard III (a one-woman show) started with another production, Shakespeare in Hell, where Emily Carding played Richard III in one of the levels of Dante’s Inferno. We realized that not only would he not leave us alone but his relationship with the audience was much more powerful than of the other characters we had been working with. I, director Kolbrun Bjort Sigfusdottir, then had this idea of making it into a monologue where all the other characters were portrayed by the audience, which is a concept we developed in our residency at Tjarnarbio Theatre in Reykjavik.

How does this production sit in your usual run of work?
We’ve been working on unconventional stagings of Shakespeare for a couple of years now, and a lot of that has been gender-blindly cast, so it feels like a natural continuation of our work. This time we wanted to see how far we could take the audience inclusion and participation of our pieces. Having last made a promenade piece we wanted to see how we could get them involved directly without making that the sole purpose of the show. It’s a tricky balance, getting the audience to participate and telling them a coherent story at the same time, but we feel Richard III (a one-woman show) has a good balance.


What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
We expect them to feel part of the story as they have distinct roles to play, such as the one of Lady Anne or Buckingham or even the Major. But at the same time we hope that they get a unique insight into Richard’s character and the world he lives in. Furthermore, on a personal level, they might revisit their own experiences of betrayal, jealousy, bitterness or even family. 


Then there will be the hardcore Shakespeare fans who will hopefully get a kick out of figuring out how the adaptation has been put together. A few might ponder the impact of gender-blind casting. Most will hopefully just enjoy the story, its ups and downs and the utter charm of Richard/Emily.



The Dramaturgy Questions


How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
It’s hugely important, both because this work is text based and taking apart a text is always going to require quite a lot of dramaturgical insight and also because it is a well-known Shakespeare piece which means that most will come to the play with their own preconceived notions of what the play is ‘really’ about and how it should be performed. Having a broad knowledge of the highlights of the staging history of this piece has therefore been really important to us, so we know where we stand among the other versions and what makes this one different.

What particular traditions and influences would you acknowledge on your work - have any particular artists, or genres inspired you and do you see yourself within their tradition?
The adaptation is made from a rough cut and a concept made by me but then on the floor in rehearsals with Emily so one must account for our different traditions and influences here. I’m relatively new to Shakespeare, whereas Emily has a lifelong relationship with the Bard’s work, ranging from Cambridge Shakespeare Festival to performing at the Globe to seeing Propeller and Knee High and loving it. 



My background is in deconstructed and physical theatre making, devising and site-specific work influenced by She She Pop, Forced Entertainment, Gob Squad, Hotel Pro Forma, Complicite, Sarah Kane… So the traditions and influences are both highly conventional and hugely post-modern. I guess the common ground between Shakespeare’s Globe and Gob Squad is that the work never dismisses or forgets the audience, it acknowledges the live-ness of performance and the intimacy created between performer and audience. In that sense we are just continuing with the age old tradition of storytelling.

Do you have a particular process of making that you could describe - where it begins, how you develop it, and whether there is any collaboration in the process?
It starts with a piece of text and an idea of how one might approach it (physical, site-specific, character based…). It can be Shakespeare, it can be an article, it can be a love song, it can be a testimony, it can be a photograph. An actor is given that text and with it some sense of the world the piece is set in and what characters occupy it (character can be used in the loosest sense of the word). 


We try it out on the floor. We cut what we don’t feel fits in this world. We try it again. We cut some more. We make sure it makes some sort of sense. We work on the staging and visual elements. We ask why we are staging this now – what relevance has it for an audience in 2015? We usually cut some more, rearrange a few things. We get an audience in. We ask them questions. We usually fix something. There’s probably a few more cuts to be made. We try again.

What do you feel the role of the critic is?
The role of the critic depends on which publication they represent and what they hope to bring their readers. If it’s meant for entertainment the critic must find a relateable way to tell an audience what the show is about and if it might be for them. If it is a publication that prides itself on dissecting its subjects then the critic must ask questions of the piece they are writing about, frame it within the theatre landscape, think of its goals and whether they are being achieved within the production and so on. The key to the role of the critic must be context, the one they are working within and the one the work is being presented as part of.

Are there any questions that you feel I have missed out that would help me to understand how dramaturgy works for you?
I think it’s important to keep in mind that every piece by every company will have a different need and use for dramaturgy. And I usually never realise what it is until I’ve gained some distance from the work. 


That’s why a dramaturg must stand outside a process, to view it with fresh eyes. It’s a challenge to do so with the work you yourself have created. In recent years, in order to get more insight into dramaturgy, I have made more of an effort to see absolutely everything I can. Nothing is done in a vacuum but it is easy to create your own creative bubble. I look forward to the festival as that’s when those bubbles start to burst and we start sharing our work. It’s then well really get a sense of the context of our own work I think. It’s an exciting time.



Brite Theater's Richard III(a one-woman show) awarded all awards at Prague Fringe 

 
We are happy to announce that our production, Richard III (a one-woman show) is the winner of the Creative Award (artist or company whose worked is deemed as being creatively exceptional), Inspiration Award (best new piece of work) and Performance Award (artist who has excelled in their performance at the festival, Emily Carding) at this year's Prague Fringe. This is the first time that one production receives all three awards.

The show started its journey in director Kolbrun Sigfusdottir's hometown of Reykjavik, where she and Emily Carding worked in residency at Tjarnarbio Theatre. This summer, despite being completely self-funded, our radical one-woman adaptation of Shakespeare's masterpiece has traveled to Prague, Plymouth, Exmouth, Barnstaple and Bristol, receiving praise throughout.





Madness of Dramaturgy:


Greenside @ Nicholson Square: 7 - 22 August (not 9,16,17) 1:45pm (60mins)

When a young Hollywood actress struggles to connect with Shakespeare’s Ophelia she desperately turns to method acting, but soon the boundaries between the theatre and her own reality become blurred. Amongst the bombs and sirens of blitz-struck London her stunning portrayal quickly becomes the performance of her life.

Method in Madness explores the pressure upon all actresses who tackle one of Shakespeare’s most enigmatic female characters and also presents the dangers of taking method acting too far. The play also highlights the rarely-hailed defiance of British theatre against the efforts by Nazi bombers to demoralise and divide a nation. Method in Madness fuses both Shakespearean text and new writing with physical theatre and elements of dance, all soundtracked by the haunting music of singer-songwriter Laura Marling.



The Fringe

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Method in Madness came from a fascination with Shakespeare's Ophelia. A more detailed look into the love interest of Hamlet, whose story doesn't receive the limelight it deserves in Shakespeare's play. Although Ophelia's story of losing her love, losing her father and finally losing her mind echoes that of Hamlet's, her story is bitty and full of holes. This started our obsession with the character of Ophelia and how she is portrayed, especially of her descent into madness. In 'Hamlet' in one scene she is fine and then in the next she is singing songs and collecting flowers seemingly to have lost her mind in the wings.


The theatrical nature and legacy of Shakespeare's plays and how they are performed brought us to setting the performance in a theatre. Following this with research into portrayals of Shakespeare's iconic roles, we stumbled across an anecdote of Daniel Day-Lewis. Whilst playing Hamlet, Daniel Day-Lewis, saw the ghost of his father parading in the wings and the show had to be cancelled due to the actor's troubled state. This brought us to the dangers of method acting and how a young actress could lose herself in the beautiful but tragic role of Ophelia and hence the start of Method in Madness. Therefore through Shakespeare's Hamlet and real life experiences the show was sparked into life.

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is a fantastic festival for new work to be seen, and as an emerging theatre company it provides the exposure we need for our new pieces of work. In addition to this the audiences of the festival are willing to give new work a go and experience a show that may be a little different. Therefore with our new takes on Shakespeare classics portrayed through a new and exciting blend of dance language, new writing as well as that of the bard's, we couldn't imagine a more perfect festival and audience for our work.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
The unique quality of Method in Madness that resulted in the show being awarded Best of Fest (IYAF 2014), is how Method in Madness fuses Shakespearean text and new writing with physical theatre and elements of dance. Whilst being sound-tracked by the haunting music of singer/songwriter Laura Marling.

Entita Theatre is an emerging theatre company who are striving to create their own brand of physical re-imaginings of Shakespeare's classic texts. 


Method in Madness takes Ophelia's life and story and shows her deterioration into madness in a way unlike any other show, through a play-in-a-play, we see an actress falling down her path surrounded by the men whose stories put her there. This approach to a classic and unique choreography makes audiences think on Shakespeare's iconic character and the actresses who play her in a whole new light. The experience of our shows are all encompassing, from the haunting soundtrack to the choreography that comes more from the soul than from a cold rehearsal room. The audience can expect to be swept up in the whirlwind of Blitz stricken London and each struggle of the onstage actors.



The Dramaturgy Questions

Do you have a particular process of making that you could describe - where it begins, how you develop it, and whether there is any collaboration in the process?
Entita Theatre work collaboratively devising as an ensemble lead by Director Jamie Woods and Movement Director Katharine Hardman. The start point and inspiration to all our pieces and movement sequences originate from the original Shakespearean text. Allowing the poetry of the words to become that of movement in the body. Our rehearsals look at Shakespeare how it is meant to be explored - on its feet and how his characters resonate in our lives today.

The script for Method in Madness was written by Alex Doble and Katie Dunstan and then devised by Entita Theatre. The initial idea came from Entita's Artistic Directors and then was handed over to the creative minds of the writers, who took the idea and developed it into the piece of work it is today.

Doble and Dunstan worked alongside Entita's Artistic Directors to edit the script, as well as attending rehearsals to see the script up on its feet and where improvements could be made. They also worked closely with Hardman on translating words into movement, with some pages of dialogue being replaced entirely with choreography. Entita's writers work side by side with the creative team and cast, adding two more members to the Entita ensemble.


What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
The narrative of our script is quite clear and concise, it is however in the movement sequences that we allow the audience to draw meaning. Whilst a picture is worth a thousand words a sequence of stage pictures can speak volumes. I daren't say too much more as it is in these moments of movement and expression that we truly enjoy hearing what an audience has picked up and taken away from the show. 



Entita Theatre are the current Graduate Theatre Company in Residence at the University of Kent, run by Co-Artistic Directors Jamie Woods and Katharine Hardman. 

The company specialise in producing ambitious, physical re-workings of Shakespeare plays. They were awarded Best of Fest at the International Youth Arts Festival 2014 for Method in Madness, which was also shortlisted for the National Student Drama Festival 2015. 

Entita are presenting both Method in Madness and their new production Fall at both IYAF and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2015.

 Greenside @ Nicolson Square (Fringe Venue 209) Sub-venue: Emerald Theatre. 7 - 22 August (not 9,16,17) 1.45 pm (60 mins). Tickets: £6 previews 7 – 8 August. Otherwise £7.50 (conc. £2 off).

Is there anything better than Dramaturgy in its underwear? Tight Theatre @ Edfringe 2015




                                                
Tight Theatre presents




PUSSY 
IT’S NOT ABOUT CATS 


Five girls – one stage.

Is there anything better in this world than a pretty girl in her underwear?


PUSSY is a grotesquely hilarious exploration of what it means to be a young woman growing up in today’s society. The five young female performers combine physical theatre, song, guttural soundscapes, Beyoncé lyrics and more to create the distinctly physical style of
Tight Theatre. Through this physicality the five girls explore taboos of female adolescent sexuality, how society shapes female perceptions of appearance and the ultimate need for sexual satisfaction.

PUSSY dives into the media-fueled, sexualized world of the teenage girl. Exploring the uproarious contradictions of a culture in which a lipstick can be both worshipped and weaponized, where feminist popstars promise to ‘keep it tight, keep my figure right’, and the female body is a grotesque battle ground over which the public and private self fight for control. Tight Theatre tread the line between silliness and severity, adding their personal voice to this multi-faceted discussion of femininity and feminism in society.


Laughing Horse @ Counting House Ballroom (V170) 6-19th August 

11.30pm (45 mins)


We have answered the questions that we think are most relevant to our show.
What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
The audience can expect to feel LAUGHTER but leave with a deeper understanding of the complexities of being a girl today. The audience will see the five female performers explore sexuality and femininity through Tight Theatre's physical style, with an accompanying soundtrack of contemporary pop music, such as Destiny's Child or Iggy Azeala.

The dramaturgy questions

 
What particular traditions and influences would you acknowledge on your work - have any particular artists, or genres inspired you and do you see yourself within their tradition?

 Our two greatest artistic influences are Pina Bausch's Tanztheater Wuppertal and Impermanence Dance Theatre, the former being one of the leading dance theatre companies in the world since the 1970s, the latter a young break-through company, also performing at Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year. We largely admire the two companies for the same reason, namely their blending of theatre and dance. 
Bausch's work taught us to push our bodies to its limits - even if it means falling to the floor over and over again, so be it! Impermanence taught us to be playful and outrageous with our work, that wild improvisation can spark movements beyond our usual repotoire and that facial expression brings a movement to life, particularly in creating comedy. 
What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?

Audience response is crucial to our devising process and we often find that feedback shapes and directs our rehearsals months after a work-in-progress showing. Sometimes we feel we’ve finalised the content of the show, perform it, and then start working on a whole new idea sparked from our conversation with audience members. Our piece draws on our personal experiences but we always strive to make it accessible to a wide audience. 

We often get asked if a male audience can relate to Pussy, given its emphasis on representation of the female body – our aim is to make open theatre that deals with social issues in a humorous and entertaining way in order to engage with a mixed audience and, though Pussy concentrates on female experiences, its exploration of gender conformity is a subject that speaks to both men and women. We had the best time performing at Brainchild festival recently and really appreciated getting feedback from people who were watching Pussy with completely fresh eyes!
 
Are there any questions that you feel I have missed out that would help me to understand how dramaturgy works for you?
The only other question that I feel would be helpful is in relation to how our use of material visuals, i.e. set and costume inform our work. Due adopting the style of physical theatre it was important for us to keep our space as bare as possible, making us utilise our bodies and voices to convey our intentions. This also means our piece is easily malleable to different stages which has become important when performing in different venues.

Costumes were crucial as they had so much potential to contradict what we were trying to convey and it was a process of elimination until we finally came up with what we believe show us as ‘trying to be sexy’ but ultimately failing. We accomplished this through wearing underwear, but the underwear; particularly the knickers are over-sized in an almost baby-like fashion. This when couple with frumpy layering of other garments we feel has created a look that we feel is integral to our show.

Neil Butler @ Ian Smith Festival CCA 2015

And so my next guest, Neil Butler, is someone that I have known for a while: when I worked on The Skinny, he was one of my neighbours in The Briggait. I know that he is always up to something intriguing... actually, I am not quite sure how to introduce him... so, Neil... can I let you introduce yourself?

Neil:

Hi Gareth - my background is as an artist and performer but most of my work is around creating events and commissioning artists through my company UZ Arts thats based at the Briggait.

Gareth:
Once again, my knowledge has come up short. It's lucky you are here to help me out. I am going to start off with my sneaky dramaturgy questions first: do you think that it is a relevant thing for me to ask you about? What does it mean to you?

Neil:
Not a lot-I rarely work with dramaturgs.


Gareth:
Another great question from Vile. Moving swiftly on -  I know that you worked with Ian quite often... am I right in thinking that he was involved in your reasons for being in Scotland?


Neil:
Ian was my closest friend. We met when we were students. I was organising a contemporary art festival with Roger Ely with a lot of performance and live art (People Show, Lumiere and Son IOU, Lol Coxhill +++) and promoting bands like the Clash, the Damned, Souxie and Psychic TV. 


Ian got involved in the Festival and when I set up the Zap Club he helped build it and became the MC. We performed a lot together making performance art, music and an an art /cabaret act called the Wild Wigglers. 

Then in 1988 I was invited to Glasgow to create festivals and events to prepare Glasgow for European City of Culture in 1990. Ian worked on the festival and then ran away to join Archaos Circus for a few years before coming back to set up Mischief. From then on we worked on many projects together developing them through 'hothouses' or residencies and presenting them through one off events (crashing a space ship into Kings Street Car Park for the Millennium) or in the festivals I was involved in.

Gareth:
I've banged on about Ian's influence on me - but what would you say is his quality that you enjoyed the most?

Neil:

A huge influence. Ian was incredibly inventive, producing remarkable and utterly unique ideas that commented on the world he saw. His work was often comic but also serious and insightful. He was always generous in his relationship with other artists. He had a real rapport and affection for the public too. And with all that incredible imagination he was utterly businesslike in the way he managed his company and a very traditional pipe and slippers kind of Dad at home- although he didn’t smoke a pipe but liked to pose with one occasionally


Gareth: 

What are you doing as part of the Festival? What can we expect from you over the weekend?

Neil:

I’m there to enjoy Ian's work and the event that Angie created. I am also performing in the Death Cabaret. A reworking of a piece that Ian enjoyed -now called “Getting Slated”. Its a performance lecture during which I create an installation around near death experiences and the artists who have influenced me - including of course with Ian!



Gareth:
Cool: are you going to nip into my office for a drink over the weekend? I have absinthe...

Neil:
Delighted - it makes the heart grow fonder.

Gareth:
In terms of the work you do, is their any particular inspiration or tradition that you would say connects with your work?

Neil:

I include about 20 artists that have influenced or intrigued me in Getting Slated from Duchamps to Beuys and Richter but I probably first got involved with art because of John Lennon and Yoko Ono and reading about Guy Dubord and the Situationist International when I was growing up. I’m sure they pushed me towards performance art and experimental work and the avant-garde, if people still use that expression.



Gareth: 

And what about Ian's work? Where does he fit in?

Neil:

We shared a delight in myth making and encouraging artists and the public to invent their own realities. Ian inspired that and practised it throughout his career- "gently warping the underlay of the fabric of society…"

Gareth:
I've got one of my abscesses today - don't ask where - so I might be a bit cloudy. Can you do my job for me, and tell me what questions I ought to be asking, if any? I want to go a good job of this but... well, you know me, so I might as well stop the professional act...


Neil:

(Stunned silence)

Oaken Dramaturgy: Tim Crouch

AN OAK TREE
by Tim Crouch

10TH Anniversary Revival - Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Aug 4 – 16  

Performed by Tim Crouch & guest
Co-directed by Karl James & Andy Smith

Man changes tree into daughter.

Two men meet three months after the death of a girl. One is the father of that girl. The other is a stage hypnotist and the person responsible for her death; he was driving the car she stepped out in front of.

In the three months since the accident, the Hypnotist has lost his ability to hypnotise anyone. His act is now a disaster.

In the three months since the accident, the Father has transformed a tree next to where she died into his daughter. She is more physically present in the form of that tree than she ever was when she was alive. It’s like he’s in a play where nothing seems like what it is anymore. It’s like he’s in a play and he doesn’t know the lines. His life is now a disaster.

These two men meet when the Father volunteer’s for the Hypnotist’s act. This is the beginning of An Oak Tree .



The Fringe
What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?

Tim Crouch: For me, there is little distinction between script and production. The text to An Oak Tree is only a blueprint for its production. Written into my plays are, sort of, how i think they should be performed. That’s not to say that other people can’t perform them differently if they want.


The inspiration is a work of art called An Oak Tree by Michael Craig-Martin made in 1973. A glass of water transformed into an oak tree through a provocatively simple process of nomination. I say this thing is something else and, by saying it, it becomes that something else. 

This artwork triggered further ideas about hypnosis and the power of the subconscious to accommodate such a transformation. I then spent a long time developing a story that could contain all these ideas. With the story in place I then explored the best form by which the story would be told - a form that would also respond to the ideas behind the story. Hence the device of the ‘second actor’ - an actor who performs the show with me without knowing the show.


Where does your piece at the fringe fit with your usual work?
An Oak Tree opened at the fringe ten years ago. So the fit is resoundingly strong this year. It’s going home to where it started. I’ve taken almost all of my work to Edinburgh over the last 12 years. The fringe gave my work its first platform. I owe it. I’d like to think that the device of the second actor has something of the spirit of the fringe about it - a freedom and an experimentation. But then sometimes I think that’s not true as I’m not a comedian.


What does The Traverse mean for you as a venue for your work?
The Traverse has been the spiritual home of my work. If I were to say I was associated to any one theatre in the world it would be the Traverse. I opened my first play, My Arm, there in 2003. I was an unknown - but I had written something that had caught people’s interest. The Traverse invited me up there and it was the start of my writing career.

It is a venue for new writing. And it has helped me understand my self as a ‘new writer’.


What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
I like your distinction between thought and feeling. In the published edition of the play I quote Arthur Koestler: “The distinction between fact and fiction is a late acquisition of rational thought – unknown to the unconscious, and largely ignored by the emotions.”


This points at where I hope my work resides in an audience - as much in their hearts as in their heads. With the heart engaged it’s much easier to take the head on a ride. In An Oak Tree, there is an emotional core to the play that can take an audience by surprise. I hope also that they will see a story told in a way in which they didn’t realise a story could be told. 

There is a newness to the request made both to the audience and to the second actor in the play. The second actor is like the audience’s avatar - they discover the play at the same time as the audience. This is, I hope, an empowering experience for the audience.


Above all, I hope they will see a good story well told.








The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
Your definition as 'decisions that define and shape performance' makes it sound like dramaturgy is integral to my work, although the word itself rarely appears in my process. 

I don’t write in a bubble of subconsciousness. I’m not one of those writers who claim not to know what they hope their work means - although i would hope that every audience member would also take their own personal meaning from it. I also not one of those writer who write without giving a thought to how their writing will be staged. I write in response to an idea of ‘performance’ - so dramaturgical concerns are uppermost in my mind. I write with an idea of what the physical stage might mean - in addition to the words. I write with, perhaps, a stronger idea of form than some writers - an idea that form is also content. 

Structuring becomes important not just to the story but how the
story is told. I’m always pushing myself to consider formal as well as narrative possibilities. Is this dramaturgy?


What particular traditions and influences would you acknowledge on your work - have any particular artists, or genres inspired you and do you see yourself within their tradition?
I sometimes think I see myself in opposition to a tradition rather than inspired by one. I write in response to the frustrations I felt as a traditional ‘actor’ - frustrations with realism, with the treatment of audiences, with power imbalances within the ‘profession’.

There’s no one practitioner or theorist who I can point to and say: ‘Hey you. I want to make work like you.’ I would acknowledge an influence from Brecht, I suppose. I studied him. I once taught the National Theatre’s INSET day on him! I love his combination of idea and emotion and his social engagement. And there’s Caryl Churchill. Okay, I’d like to make work like Cary Churchill. Her precision and lyricism and intelligence. Her refusal to settle back.


I’m testing things not only in my writing, but also in my performance work. Much of my work is written for the idea i have of myself as a performer - the things i want to distance myself from, the things I want to explore. I am unusual in that respect, I suppose. Neither Brecht nor Caryl Churchill acted in their own plays! Even my play Adler in Gibb (in which i didn’t perform) was conceived with an idea of performance that I have been developing in my work. Decisions about how a piece should be performed are nearly always very conscious.


Do you have a particular process of making that you could describe - where it begins, how you develop it, and whether there is any collaboration in the process?
Ideas for work start from different places. Sometimes a narrative that lands in my lap and needs to be told. Sometimes an identification of something i want to explore - an idea, a form, a configuration. This then either takes purchase in me or slips away. If it stays then I start writing notes. 

Notes gradually turn into voices or snatches of moments or stories or people. At some time around then I talk to my two collaborators, Andy Smith and Karl James, and a conversation starts. Not necessarily a physical conversation with us all in the room - but a space opens for us to all think about the thing I’m thinking about. I keep on writing. 

This can take a long time. I use the word ‘interrogate' - i sit and stare something down, pursue it, let it pursue me. As the thing gets clearer in my head the conversations with Karl and Andy become more focused. Maybe we’ll spend a day together - or even a week. I take them the products of those conversations and continue with the writing.

Gradually a script emerges. What I write determines how we work to put it on. Each project is different. No fixed process. The writing leads the way and the writing is different every time.



What do you feel the role of the critic is?
They are necessary to construct a language about the work - but they are not final arbiters. They are one subjective voice. If i’m going to accept the good ones, I’m also going to accept the bad ones - on an equal footing. By which I mean, try and keep them all at arms length. I tried to persuade Soho Theatre to put up a one star review of Oak Tree outside the building alongside all the good ones. But they declined. we need to be more robust about critics. I rate certain writers about theatre - but even then sometimes I profoundly disagree with a viewpoint they’ve expressed about a show i’ve also seen. 

It’s all subjective. Some critics write from such a reactionary position towards theatre. But some theatre makers make reactionary theatre. Some critics are twats. But some theatre makers are twats. As Adrian Howells would have said - it’s all allowed. Although I know Adrian was profoundly and negatively affected by critical responses to his work.


The deal is to try and disassociate the ego from the work - so we’re able to engage with the ideas. But that’s a hard deal.

Writer changes person into character 

The Hypnotist is played by Tim Crouch . 

The Father is played by a different actor at each performance – male or female, any adult age. An actor who walks out on stage having neither seen nor read a word of the play they’re in until they’re in it. 

An Oak Tree weaves themes of control, human suggestibility, art and loss through a vivid and absurdly comic narrative that swoops between a tree by a road and the stage of a pub. 

It is a bold experiment in theatre form, but an experiment housed within a powerful and accessible story. The device of the second actor supports that story but also provides a startling image of someone discovering their own meaning from moment to moment. 

An Oak Tree contains that breathless balance of accessible narrative, complex idea, deep theatricality and rich humour that characterises Tim Crouch’s work. 



An Oak Tree was Tim Crouch’s second play for adult audiences after his successful debut, My Arm (2003). It premiered at The Traverse Theatre in August 2005. 

• On this, its tenth anniversary, it returns to the theatre where it all started with an updated script and production. 

• It arrives at the Traverse straight from a run at the National Theatre in London. 

• This will be Tim Crouch’s sixth visit to The Traverse in the last twelve years. Previous productions include The Author, ENGLAND and I, Malvolio

• This is the first time Tim’s work has been seen on the stage of Traverse One. 

• The play’s title makes reference to an art-work of the same name by artist Michael Craig-Martin. This work is a glass of water sitting on a shelf. Beside it is a scripted exchange in which the artist explains how, through an effortless process of intention, he has changed a glass of water into a full grown oak tree. 

• The play has toured nationally and internationally in the last decade, including runs at Barrow Street Theater, New York, the Odyssey Theater, LA, and Soho Theatre, London. 

• In 2007 it was awarded a Special Citation Obie for its run in New York. 

• When it arrives in Edinburgh, it will have played over 300 times with over 300 different actors. 

• Actors who have performed An Oak Tree with Tim include Frances McDormand, Mike Myers, Alan Cumming, Geoffrey Rush, Toby Jones, F Murray Abraham, Hugh Bonneville, Christopher Eccleston, Laurie Anderson and Alanis Morissette. 

• Tim is currently writing and directing for the Unicorn Theatre and adapting/directing Spymonkey’s The Complete Deaths for Spring 2016. His Royal Court commissioned play, Adler and Gibb (2014) will be remounted in 2016. 

* Tim Crouch: Plays One , comprising My Arm, An Oak Tree, England and The Author is published by Oberon Books. Oberon is publishing an updated single volume of An Oak Tree to mark its tenth anniversary.