Sunday, 14 December 2014

Pondering Dramaturgy: Why You Need a Dramaturg.

Not going to apologise for this subtitle: nearly every piece of theatre or performance that I have seen in the past year has needed a dramaturg. The ones that didn't: already had one. I don't think it is an accident that two of the most effective plays that I have seen in Scotland over the past year had Pamela Carter on dramaturg duties. Pound for pound, they had less flab, more precision and a taut narrative line (even when, in the case of Tomorrow, that narrative line was merely chronological and gave short shrift to conventional narrative tropes).

The dramaturg's function is contested - and different dramaturgs have different approaches - but they can be said to bring the dramaturgical choices to light. Everything that happens has a dramaturgical choice and consequence imbedded within it. 

And I do mean everything, even if I am sticking to the stage for today's ponder.

Let me take an example from my life. I got up this morning, late. I took the first shirt I found from my drawer, the trousers I had worn last night (with my cards and cash in them) and the fleece I dumped in the corridor when I got in. I pulled on a hat that was on my bed, laced up my only pair of boots that don't have a hole in them, and probably cleaned my teeth and had a Glasgow shower.

The dramaturgical choices of clothing seem fairly random but the choice of shirt had been made when I bought it. To argue that it is actually the one my mum got me from the cash and carry for Christmas 2008 doesn't negate that there was a choice: it could have gone to the charity shop, but I kept it, and even washed it.

Although most of these clothes appear to have been simply the ones to hand, choices have been made. And they reveal themselves in the dramaturgical consequence. I look like a tramp who is dressed by his mother. 

The laziness of my dramaturgical choices has led to an unfortunate dramaturgical consequence. It also means I won't be getting to make any dramaturgical dating choices in the near future.

Now, the same applies to theatre. Those apparently meaningless choices can lead to not getting laid  the point of a performance across. 

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