Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Trench

"The Fringe is the best experience and the best opportunity a show can hope for," says James Seager, producer for Les Enfants Terrible Theatre Company, and co-director of their latest venture north. Having been bringing shows to Edinburgh for over a decade - and achieving successes with The Vaudevillians and The Terrible Infants - Seager's faith in the festivals is a mixture of experience and rewarded ambition. This year's show, The Trench, Seager explains, "is the only play set in the First World War that features puppetry, physical performance, live music by an award winning artist and stars a guy that has just played Kenny Everett in a BBC4 film!" 

Les Enfants represent an eclectic approach to performance that the Fringe, at its best, encourages. Past shows have shown the influence of cabaret and while the script by Lansley drives the action, it is the use of physical theatre that has given the company their distinctive style. 

"The play is inspired by the true story of a miner who became entombed in a tunnel during World War One," Seager continues. "I've always been extremely fascinated with the war ever since I first visited the battlefields when I was 13 and have returned many times since - its always an incredible moving experience and one that I always wanted to set a play about." 

Despite the apecific historical influence, the process led to a more mythical take on the tale. "When I spoke to Oli Lansley, who co-runs the company with me, he had an idea to do it as an epic poem influenced by Orpheus' journey into the Underworld and The Trench was born."  

Teaming up with musician Alexander Wolf, the five strong cast began work on the piece, building it into what Seager calls "a moving piece with trade mark Les Enfants touches of physicality, music, originality, and puppets!"

Pleasance Two, Pleasance Courtyard - Venue No. 33
Time: 13.10 - 1st to 27th August (not 14th & 25th).  Price:   £12.00 / £10.00, Concession £11.00 / £10.00

Fringes of the WEB

While it is unsurprising that the question of state funding has started to preoccupy artists – I’ve argued before that the best way to maintain the illusion of the economic crash is to undermine the creatives, thereby encouraging them to make work under the conditions of austerity and reinforcing the idea that society is in financial trouble – political theatre that both deals with broader issues and is brave enough to hold a public figure up as a hero remains rare. The Fringe – accurately described by Mischief La Bas’ Ian Smith as a venal pit and dominated by big-selling and cheap to produce stand up comedians – is fortunately inclusive enough to offer the occasional alternative. And so, the Pulse Ensemble is bringing A Man For All Times: W.E.B. Du Bois all the way from New York City.

Du Bois was a rarity himself during his life-time: born in the aftermath of the USA’s Civil War, and part of the first generation of African Americans not literally shackled up in slavery, Du Bois became a scholar at Havard, stood for senator, co-founded the NAACP and helped along the creation of the United Nations.

Pulse Ensemble insist that they are as interested in the man as his historical context. With Du Bois performed by Brian Richardson, who had already triumphed in Pulse’s Macbeth, The Lower Depths and Night Must Fall, and director Alexa Kelly having built up the company over the past two decades, A Man For All Times is a determined attempt to bring Du Bois back into the public consciousness, alongside those he inspired, like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.

Gareth K Vile: What will make your show stand out at the Fringe in 

Alexa Kelly (playwright & director)A Man For All Times is the story about and African-American civil rights hero.  A man, who his entire life fought for “A fair piece of the pie” for all people.  Much like what Occupy stands for today!  W.E.B. Du Bois demanded education for all, equal rights, and, most poignantly today: "The right to choose motherhood at her own discretion".

GKV: How would you describe the piece - what sort of theatre is it, and what inspired the content?

AK: The play is a historical drama filled with intensely personal moments of inspiration and observation, a portrait of the times and the evolution of a dedicated human being, shown with passion and humour.W.E.B. Du Bois, his life and his story are the inspiration to this piece. Not only was he the first black student to attend and graduate from Harvard, he was also the first black person to put into words the experience of being black in America during in that point in time. He became the voice of "the souls of black folk" with his book of the same name, and gained respect and eminent political standing both in the US as well as internationally.  He was the trailblazer for leaders such as Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

GKV: How long have you been working in theatre, and are there any highlights of your career so far?
AK: I was assistant director for the Oresteia at The Kennedy Centre.  I worked as artist in residence at the University of Michigan for three years, where I taught and directed several now renowned NY actors.  I started and ran a drama program for three years in The Federal Correctional Institution (prison) in Tallahassee, Florida while working with The Radio City (Touring) Rockettes, I managed to adapt the program to include newer material, which met with some resistance but achieved wonderful success.

Brian Richardson (performer) started his acting career 1981 in Trinidad with the tent theatre. He featured in several TV series and came to the US in 1989. He has worked as a street performer in numerous festivals and street fairs. He is featured in the film Across The Sea of Time. Brian has performed with several  NYC and regional theatre companies, in Macbeth, The Tempest, The Good Woman of Setzuan, Twelfth Night, and Race.

GKV: Why did you decide to come to the Fringe?

AK: The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the greatest festival in the world with the greatest opportunity of visibility for a story about one of the most important, influential yet sadly neglected men in the history of civil rights movement, and we want to carry his story into the world at large. 

Venue: The Space @ Jury's Inn (V260)
Time: 14.55 (15.55)
Dates: 3-25 August 2012 (Not 5, 12 and 19 August 2012)
Tickets: August 3-4 14:55 (1hr) £5.00(£3.00), August 6-9,13-16,20-23 14:55 (1hr) £8.50(£7.50) and August 10-11,17-18,24-25 14:55 (1hr) £9.50(£8.50)
Fringe Box Office: 0131 226 0000 / 

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Cab it Up!

There are many things that disappoint me - my own ability to cope with hot weather being the one most pressing at this moment. However, the opportunity to work with Michael Clark has always been high on my "to do" list. And now, there is that opportunity.

Only I can't do it, because I am going to be fringing it during August, and won't be able to commit to the rehearsals.

However, if any men are interested and, like me, they lack dance training, I'd rush to this site.

Wiping away my tears, I have cut and pasted the information...

The iconic Scottish dancer and choreographer Michael Clark returns to Glasgow following the company’s remarkable four-week long residency at the Whitney Museum, New York. He will once again engage both professional and community dancers to generate choreography, expanding what our experience of movement can be. This will culminate in performances at the celebrated Glasgow Barrowlands on 8 & 9 September 2012, the final weekend of the London 2012 Festival and marking the shift in focus to Scotland and Glasgow 2014.
Michael Clark Company and Dance House invite local people to become performers alongside the Company dancers, accentuating the communal dance experience in this landmark event. The Barrowlands Project is supported by Creative Scotland and produced in partnership with Michael Clark Company, Glasgow Life and Dance House, Glasgow.

• Age 18 or over
No previous formal dance training - (by formal dance training we mean vocational full time training, this does not exclude those who have attended regular dance classes, either recently or in the past).
• Able to participate in movement/dance for 2-3 hours a day.
• Available for ALL performance and rehearsal times, with flexibility to attend rehearsals on other days/times as needed.
• While applications from all over Scotland are welcomed, we anticipate this being of most interest to people in the Greater Glasgow area as participants need to commit to the intensive period of rehearsals in Glasgow.
For rehearsal schedule please go to:
• Send us no more than 250 words about yourself and why you would like to do this, your date of birth and occupation, along with your contact details (full name, email address, home address and telephone number) to Please add The Barrowlands Project in the subject line of your email.
• Deadline: 
12 noon Friday 8 June 2012.
• Successful applicants will be notified within 10 days of the deadline. Please note that due to the anticipated volume of applications, we are unable to contact those who have not been selected.


So far this year, Dominic Hill has made a very strong statement about his future intentions for the Citizens. In the recent interview for The VileArts Radio Hour, he comes across as thoughtful and intelligent, defining his vision for the theatre and making the connection between his practice as a director and the status of the Citizens as Glasgow's home for the well-written play. The three plays that announced his arrival - Betrayal, King Lear and Krapp's Last Tape - are eloquent examples of how a script can drive the drama. Even a sceptic like me, obsessed with site-responsive physical theatre and dance, is convinced that there is still a place for the author on the stage.

The final part of Hill's Introductory Trilogy is a double bill of Beckett. Krapp's Last Tape is the headliner, but it is paired with a lesser-known piece, Footfalls. Like Krapp, it is a sort of monologue: only the protagonist is female, equally captured by circumstance and answering to an off-stage voice. 

After the full-scale melodrama of King Lear, this pair of Becketts is a more contemporary take on despair: Lear might get to go bonkers in the storm and sound off about the inequalities of justice and the state, but Beckett's boys and girls are far more familiar. The restraint of their anxiety, the bubbling horror, the palpable threat. It's too easy for this critic to disappear into predictable comments on a world without God, without meaning and only the relentless and inevitable push of natural selection and social control lending shape to the evolution of the self, which is ultimately erased...

Instead, I bothered Kay Gillie, a Scottish actor most recently seen in The Steamie's celebratory tour, about how it feels to play a part that is heard and never heard...

1. How do you feel about taking on a role that might be more
like a radio play than live theatre?
I don’t see the part as a radio play. It was definitely written for
theatre. I suppose on its own it could be read on radio but to really
work it has to be in the context of the whole play, as part of a range
of classic Beckett style elements. The precise stage directions and the
use of light and sound together – my part feeds into this.
It is part of something larger.
For me the role also still requires that connection with the live theatre
audience even though I am offstage. This is what makes Beckett so
2. Are you a Beckett fan? How does this play's process compare
to, say, doing The Steamie?
Yes, I am definitely a Beckett fan. I have played the part of ‘woman’
before but in a different play! I was in the 2005 production of Rockaby
at the Arches with Andy Arnold directing.
It is funny to compare both parts. My voice in Rockaby was
pre-recorded although I was physically present on stage reacting to
my voice being played. This time I will be speaking the part live but
In comparison with The Steamie, of course the plays are so different
but I always approach plays in the same way, working from the
3. What is the atmosphere at the Citz like- from the outside,
there seems to be a real energy about it!
It is an amazing atmosphere and there is always so much going on. It
really is a hive of creativity. You meet actors you have not seen for
ages and get the chance to chat about different productions. It is a
very stimulating place to be.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Press Ganged

Alongside the complaints about the lack of integrity in News International's journalists, there's plenty of concern about how print media is dying. Usually demonstrated through a quick survey of the sales' figures for once proud national newspapers, it is often associated with the presumed loss of public trust in the media (qv complaints about lack of integrity...).

Enquirer, a serious attempt by the National Theatre of Scotland to measure the decay, draws this connection explicitly. Interviews with big boys from Murdock's media are slipped into a structure that imitates a day at a newspaper: the forty-odd interviews with journalists are remixed into a narrative that mirrored the shift from morning's bright enthusiasm to late night acceptance. Unsurprisingly, the higher-ups on both red-tops and broadsheets reveal a lack of morality, many journalists are worried about their career prospects, and the foreign correspondents are heroic. There is no real news in Enquirer, just a timely snapshot of a world that sees itself as on the fade.

Directors Vicky Featherstone and John Tiffany acknowledge that the play was inspired by their love of the media: Tiffany recently mentioned that, during his time on sabbatical at Havard, he came to miss his early morning irritation at the Today programme, adding that while he has found himself suddenly able to fulfill his artistic ambitions, his peers in the press are filled with foreboding. Without flinching at the current scandals, Enquirer is a love letter to journalism.

The "cold" approach - rarely does the script attempt to manipulate emotions, avoiding preaching by cutting up the interviews into episodic scenes - lays out the supposed crisis in detail. Appropriately for a piece about the press, it never offers solutions, only identifying problems. The pace is relaxed, despite the potential high drama of the news conference scenes, stories from international wars and the panic that is behind many of the rueful comments on past glories.

John Peel's Shed

Fortunately for my poor research, it was pretty obvious that this John Osborne, when he turned up to the Radio Hour, wasn't the one who wrote those angry plays in the 1950s. He is, instead, the author of two books - one of which I have read, quite by accident, and the proud owner of a box of records out of John Peel's Shed. There was something magical about getting tucked into the box and played on the show records that had been touched by the hand of the radio legend.

I also enjoyed the strange sound of surface crackle on the vinyl, and the danger of using vinyl - unlike MP3s or CDs, there is a good chance to play vinyl at the wrong speed, or drop it.

Osborne himself is an engaging conversationalist: it's probable that the best parts of our chat happened off air, when we were chatting over the musical choices. Since  the book I have read, Radiohead, is about his adventures in listening to radio and how it rescued him from the mundane world of data-entry, he's more informed about the mechanics of radio than I am. He is enthusiast about the potential of radio as a focus for a dispersed community: he recognises that it might be an old medium, but still has a remarkable pull. His new book, currently in research, is about sea-side resorts. Like radio, he says, everyone seems to have a story to tell or a recommendation.

His actual show shares a great deal with the Live Art pieces by the likes of Richard Dedominici: personal, taking a subject that appears marginalised or obscure, then working towards some kind of general understanding. Despite the inspiration for his performance, there isn't that much about John Peel in the show: it's more about Osborne's own experiences, with the box of records acting as a stimulant to a few of his adventures.

Although it is unlikely that anyone will capture the complete extent of John Peel's influence on radio - the BBC has an entire station that tries and fails to carry the flag - Osborne is more interested in his own experience: other characters are left in the background throughout his monologue and, aside from the selections played from the magic box, it is a gentle stroll through one man's early manhood. There are few moments of revelation - a failed attempt to get a date and his father's gift of carefully recorded cassettes are rare, emotive anecdotes - and Osborne is content to ponder without drawing too many conclusions.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Those Dogs Want More

Once I gave up on completing my article on Pavlova's Dogs - I like to think that sudden endings are charmingly reticent, rather than betraying my lack of motivation - I decided to find a few images to illustrate the piece. Unfortunately, I chanced about a few reviews of Pavlova's Dogs which were not exactly in disagreement with me, but seemed to think that giving the work a rating - or using phrases like "it's quite a lively ride" - is still the best way to write a critique. Puzzling over a choreography, poking around at the ideas, or having some smart-arse interpretation, is oddly unfashionable.

It only took a paragraph of venting for me to feel better. I accept that those reviews have a right to exist, and are probably quite helpful as part of the general discussion around dance.

No, no they are not. If Pavlova's Dogs has any worth, apart from keeping a dozen people off the streets and giving audiences cheap laughs at bunny ears, the critique has to engage with the ideas that the choreographer was addressing. So, rather than name and shame the reviewer who has so displeased me, I had better get back to writing.

Rachel Lopez de la Nieta is fascinated by the undercurrent of cruelty that exists in ballet. Her fairy tale - told by a man who might represent the patriarchy, or just be a rather bitchy type - echoes the romance of classical ballet's stories, but is explicitly unpleasant towards the heroines. Then the dancers are accused of being fat. They are dressed simply, and their dances are increasingly contorted as the fairy tale gets more vicious. One of them argues with the man who might represent the patriarchy. She is placated.

Add to this the brief programme notes that claim that it "is partly inspired by some of the early experiments in psychology" where certain ethics were questionable". Lopez de la Nieta is drawing a direct analogy between the torture of dogs to find out how instinct could be manipulated, and the training of ballet dancers.

Nipping back to my thoughts on Streetcar, which included an unease about the physical state of some dancers, I am inclined to think that the playful veneer of PDs is less interesting than the implied attack on ballet's ability to ruin lives and turn women into mere bodies. This is a long way from the post-modern dance of Trisha Brown, which focusses on breaking down existing possibilities of choreographic movement.

Revolving Pavlova

Scottish Dance Theatre's Drift (choreographed by James Wilton, starring a bruising track by Nine Inch Nails) is one of those pieces that gives "contemporary dance" a good name. It's a classic pas de deux format - sexy, bursts of technical brilliance, thumping yet emotive soundtrack - with a few added touches that separate it from ballet. Specifically, it is melancholic and the dancers play trust games - and the dancer's moves and gestures are spikier, more aggressive.

At only ten minutes, Drift can either stop the show or act as a juicy bonus. No wonder it has held its place alongside Kate Weare's Lay Me Down Safe on SDT's latest touring triple bill: and it acts as a comfort blanket before the finale of Rachel Lopez de la Nieta's experiment on Pavlova's Dogs.

At this point, I have a bad feeling I am about to shame myself by trying to use Big Theories. I am thinking post-modernism, contrasting popular ideas about what it is ("everything is relative, man"), a slightly more rigorous definition ("there is no central narrative, and everything is relative, human") and dance's specific movement (the Judson Memorial Church, buddy).

Because to call both Drift and Pavlova's Dogs "contemporary dance" seems absurd. I am not even sure if  PDs is even dance (not that that's a bad thing). It asks questions about the nature of dance - thankfully, it gets beyond "what is dance?" quickly and has a few pokes at ballet mythology. There's music and the two guys do a bit of "entertainment" (tops off, rocking out to Fleetwood Mac, or dressed as bunnies and camping it up to Flanagan and Allen). There are even four female dancers making shapes that would not disgrace the choreography of -well, Kate Weare or James Wilton.

Yet the main feature of PDs appears to be the chatter of two guys. It is their argument that creates the dramatic tension, their ideas that dictate the pace. Lopez de la Nieta works closely with a dramaturge, Henrietta Hale. Unlike Scottish Ballet's Streetcar, where the dramaturge seemed to just encourage the choreography's theatricality, it feels as if Pavlova's Dogs would be as comfortable as a theatre company's production.

None of these things are necessarily bad, unless I am trying to insist that rigid categories are more important than an art-form's flexibility in the face of an artist's vision. It's probably important to Lopez de la Nieta's intentions that the usual conventions of dance are so easily disassembled, and since her own training was in classical ballet (at least at first), it's as if she is working through both personal and public stereotypes of "the dancer".

It would probably be better to simply call it "performance", but that denies the importance of the dance conventions that the choreographer aims to deconstruct. And I can't call it post-modern dance: although it conforms to the more rigorous definition two above, it lacks, except in limited sequences, the precise strictures that came out of the Judson Memorial Church crew ("task-based" movement, fiddling about with the gaze of the dancer, rejection of virtuosity).

Here's the real post-modern magic of Pavlova's Dogs: it is never fixed, and any attempt at definition causes the definition to slip away, like the last pea on the plate, chased by the critical fork.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Tony Mills Breaks Convention

I once called Tony Mills the hardest working man in Scottish dance - mainly because he splits his time between being a hip-hop maestro and a contemporary choreography power-house. Given that his Room 2 Manoeuvre incarnation has been supported by Made in Scotland to rock the Fringe at Zoo Venues, and that he is making an appearance at Breakin' Convention 12 when it reaches Scotland, this might be an example of my cheeky catch-phrases being vaguely accurate. 

Skills aside, Mills is always a convivial interviewee. His enthusiasm for both b-boy action and more traditional forms is infectious, and his costume at BC is always a talking point. I bothered him for a Skinny article last month, but he was so entertaining and informative, I thought I would pop the transcript up here...

Are you hosting or performing at Breakin' Convention  this year?

I am hosting along side an equally big personality in the shape of Breakin' Convention mastermind Jonzi D. This year BC goes to Eden court to show the highlanders how they get down. 

My banter is seen as a worthy addition to the mix so i'll be joining them on this road trip via a dip in loch ness. I won't be getting my groove on with the local acts as much of my time is spent checking on their progress and organising foyer activities and the all important after party. 

I will, however, be performing at part of the improvised freestyle funk forum for Breakin' Convention in London from the 5-7th May and Room 2 Manoeuvre is hatching big plans for the this space!

Which outfits are you most looking forward to this year? And I don't mean your outfit, I mean crews - and why?

Without being too much of a cop out i would have to say all of them. Every time BC comes to Scotland it is a huge catalyst for local groups to get in the studio and start creating. It makes a huge difference when you have something to aim for with regards to a performance and even more so when it is such a huge platform as BC. 

Stalwarts of the scene, Random Aspekts are teaming up with new kids on the block, Heavy Smokers, to present a mix of smooth moves, suits and soul singing. All girl B-Girl outfit, Ready Ready Sauce are using social issues that concern their daily lives as the source of inspiration for their new piece. Edinburgh based Jackin' The Box choreographer Ashley Jack was recently part of BC's Back to the Lab programme. This was set up to develope the skills of emmerging choreographers working in the hip hop genre. I'm keen to see what she will bring to the stage after being part of such an experience. Audiences will get a taste of what is possibly a more minority form of hip hop/funk dance styles from locking group, Rockabeat. 

And this time it's not an all Scottish affair as Sana Crew's Rice 'n' Peas and place prize nominees Bad Taste Cru take to the festival theatre stage. Both of these groups reside in Newcastle. The international acts are going to be really exciting and will showcase highly technical hip hop/breaking from current Battle of the Year champions, Vagabonds, with a more conceptual take from Clash 66. Both companies are an example of how hip hop dance in the theatre is not just a novelty but that these artists bring a world class level of skill, commitment and creativity to the genre. 

I might be obsessed with the performances on the stage, but BC is about a great deal more than that - how can people get more into the groove when BC hits the EFT?

From Day 1 BC has always been about trying to take the vibe from the street into the theatre. With this in mind foyer activity is given just as much importance as that which happens on stage. As soon as the doors open people can expect local DJs spinning and drummers drumming for dancers on the open floor. If you want to learn how to top rock, drop, footwork into freeze there will be workshops on offer from local dancers. 

Or if art on paper is more your thing, we'll also have graffiti artists in the house to show how to bag your tag. And don't forget to look out for free giveaways throughout the evening. We'll also have live performances from fife hip hop crews UNIK and WOTT crew. 

The reach of hip hop is now global - what nations are starting to come to the fore these days?

In terms of the battle scene really the level is pretty high across the board. There are more competitions these days and also it's easier to travel internationally. The internet allows footage to blaze around the world and all this helps to push the scene and the dancers. On the theatre front, i still think France leads the way. They have been producing work in this genre for many years and have a good infrastructure in place to support such artists. 

At home, the scene is definitely moving forward. Even in terms of perception by the industry. This year companies such as BC, Champloo, Avant Garde and Room 2 Manoeuvre (ahem!) appeared on the British Dance Edition programme. So it's encouraging that work within this genre is seen as part of the dance fabric of the UK. BC is also doing their bit to develope choreographic talent through their back to the lab programme and supporting collaborations involving UK artists. 

And why aren't Flawless on the bill, then?

Too busy milking the commercial industry for all it's worth...quite right too.

Brown versus 85A

When a cheerful commentary on The Simpsons and Philosophy contains asides about the rise of nihilism, and post-modernisms are being reinvented through a Marxist lens, the function of art appears to be up for grabs. Having been brought up in an era when post-modernism was still at the edge of academic discourse - that is, it didn't get mentioned in my lectures on Virgil but turned up in style magazines - I am still hopeful that it might be rehabilitated: but in a world where it has been used to explain the rise of celebrity culture, I imagine I'll remain a lone voice. Again.

Trisha Brown is clearly associated with "post-modern dance." She was hanging about the Judson Memorial Church alongside Yvonne Rainer and Steve Paxton: this loose affiliation of choreographers would ask a series of critical questions about movement that became known as post-modern dance. Rainer became a film-maker - although she made a triumphant return to choreography - and Paxton pioneered contact improvisation. Brown is arguably, however, the most consistent in her career as a choreographer, as she has her own company and her work now sits in the repertoire of ballet companies across the world.

85A - through the use of overworked metaphor - could be identified as the natural descendants of the Judson Memorial gang. They don't use dance - Chernozem, their entry into the GI Fringe, was an expanded film experience - but they are associated with a specific venue (The Glue Factory) and enjoy busting boundaries. And where Rainer, Brown et al were affiliated, the 85A Collective has a similar feel, with individual members holding their own yet becoming part of something more impressive.

Brown's company arrived at Tramway with an eclectic mix: three "classics" and a new piece. Leah Morrison opened the account with If You Could See Me from 1994. Notable as a solo where the dancer faces away from the audience, it has the particular style that identifies Brown: rejecting flashy displays of technique, the movement is precise, closer to martial art than ballet. While it is a strong statement of Brown's interest in challenging the predictable relationship between audience and performer - Morrison never peeks at the crowd - Tramway's unique space adds a tension - the solo almost becomes a trio, with the two pillars at the side of the stage lit up like immobile partners in dance.

The contrast with the opening of Chernozem could not be more powerful: 85A are all about "hot" media, dragging the audience into character and forcing them to watch the opening scenes of the film on tiny screens. Throughout Brown's performance, the audience is invited to observe - Chernozem insists. Pushed around on carts, chased by dominatrix prison guards, pushed between the hulking scenery, they immerse and cajole. Brown's choreography is "cool", so self-contained, it barely acknowledges the audience. For MG: The Movie happens as if behind a screen, and the pas de deux of Les Yeux et L'Ame are all about the connection between performers.

Nipping back - realising that I started off going on about post-modernism, and probably need to justify my pretentious introduction - it strikes me that the post-modern instinct is vital to both choreographer and collective. They reject easy definitions of their genre - Brown might use technically skilled dancers, 85A might make a film - but they go far beyond the expected. Yet in their different attitudes to the audience, they make a strikingly similar point about how art is created by the observer. For 85A, the observer is togged out in prison gear: for Brown, the audience has to work hard to enter into the dance's  world. My easy and lazy definition of post-modernism - that it takes away the possibility of a central, defining characteristic to just about anything - is satisfied by both works.

Mrs Rosie Thorn: The Patsy Cornish Saga

Last year, Mrs Rosie Thorn was introduced to the wonder of the Fringe. Her one woman show Butter Would Not Melt, was writer and performer Eleanor Appleton's first foray into the character's genteel world of domestic precision and dark humour. The Patsy Cornish Saga brings Rosie back to Edinburgh with a hint of death among the canapes. 

Since Rosie started life as a cabaret turn - and the evolution of cabaret into theatre always fascinates me - I bothered Appleton about how a rural housewife can rise above the din of the Fringe... 

What will make your show stand out at the Fringe in 2012? 

This show is an evolution of the traditional theatrical monologue it sits somewhere between theatre and cabaret. It's not comfortable sitting completely in either camp, it has the audience participation common in cabaret but also a linear narrative that you find in theatre. 

Rosie is accompanied by Mr. Gardener, the accordion playing man servant, who plays popular songs on the accordion and Rosie singing re-written lyrics to these songs incredibly badly. These songs intertwine themselves through a darkly humorous tale of manipulation, sociopathic trickery, grievous bodily harm and cats in a microwave.

How would you describe the piece - what sort of theatre is it, and what inspired the content? 
Rosie Thorn: The Patsy Cornish Saga is a dark comedy theatre show, the second in the Rosie Thorn series. Rosie is the pivotal character in all her stories as she fights for her idea of perfection in the village of Featherington-On-The-Wold, however sometimes her plight for a pleasant world of Victoria Sponge Cakes, white picket fences and 50’sesque domestic perfection can lead her down a path of precision planning and immaculately executed revenge on those who threaten her finely polished veneer of perfection. 

Rosie was a character that I founded in the development of a devised piece of theatre called the Powder Room that the group that I was working with at the time took to Edinburgh Fringe in 2006, since then the character has evolved massively and I know use her as an alter ego for compering, cabaret, stand up and full length theatre shows, Mr Gardener is a new addition, he came on board last September.

How long have you been working in theatre, and are there any highlights of your career so far? 

I have been working in theatre on and off since I left University in 2002, I would say creating and developing Rosie is my highlight as through her I also discovered an ability to write.

Why did you decide to come to the Fringe

This is the second year in a row that I have come with a ‘Rosie’ show and although I found last year incredibly challenging in many ways I also found it incredibly beneficial. There are so many networking opportunities and you get a great deal of feedback on your show which helps with future development. Also through the contacts that I have built up over the last year and the response that I received from last year I have managed to secure my venue at Surgeon’s Hall for free and have also been offered a slot on the Funny Women stage.

Mrs. Rosie Thorn: The Patsy Cornish Saga will be playing on The Funny Women bill at  the Bosco Tent on Thursday 16th and Friday 17th August and at The Space @ Surgeons Hall, Nicholson Street in Theatre 3 from Monday 20th– Saturday 25th August at 17:00.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Gary McNair - an old interview

Gary McNair  emerged from the loose movement that I decided to call the Glasgow Live Art Young Team and has achieved considerable success over the past few years. Not that his work has suddenly gone all Coldplay: he is currently touring a one man show that involves scads of real money getting torn up, live on stage.

However, I found this old interview with him - done when he had just won the Platform 18 Award from The Arches. We did it over Facebook, I seem to remember. So that makes him a theatre maker who uses radical approaches, and me a critic ready to adapt the latest social media to my discipline.

The Apocalypse! Interesting theme for a piece... what made you pick on this as an idea?

I guess it's something that I've always been interested in. I think the idea is something that we all have a relationship to, but the strange thing about it is that obviously, no-one has ever experienced an apocalypse.

It's more that we have an idea of it, whether that's informed by science, religion, Hollywood or whatever. It's unknown. I always take a particular interest in things that I don't understand, and the biggest thing that I don't understand is our time on earth and how that might come to an end. So many books and films fictionalise the subject. What I wanted to do more than to spread fear, like some blockbusters do, is to give a personal response.

Any particular theories about the end times that attract- or repel- you?

It would be pretty ridiculous if we blew ourselves up. Worryingly, that seems quite high in the list of possibilities.

How does this piece fit with Crunch?

I guess, in a way, Crunch was dealing with similar issues, in that it was imagining a world after one of our biggest structures had collapsed - a sort of financial armageddon. After the world has ended, what use will money be? In that sort of society, if I want your shoes, I'll fight you for them.

It is a big big topic- have you expanded your stage show to fit it, or are you remaining solo and intimate?

I did consider reconstructing the battle scene from Apocalypto, but intimacy won out for many reasons. It's very much a personal response to the idea of apocalypse, rather than creating an apocalyptic scene for you to inhabit. I often find that when I go to a performance and people try to convince me that the world has ended, I can't buy into it. I know that I'll walk back outside afterwards and everything will be the same as it was.

What do you think makes people obsess about the end of things?

People work well to a deadline. Sometimes, I think that we need to imagine that the world is hurtling towards some sort of final conclusion just so that we get things done. Plus, I think that we want to imagine that we are the most sophisticated version of ourselves, and as a result, we will be the last beings to inhabit the earth. It's a lot to do with ego.