Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Dramaturgy Through the Window: Bellow @ Edfringe 2015

The play asks some really important questions about how we treat those who have a different way of being in the world. Billy and Joe simply want to grow up, and they try desperately to do that in the ‘normal’ way. The boys’ unique perspective is what most endears us to them, and it is when they are most themselves that we recognise the deepness of their friendship.


Venue: Underbelly Cowgate, Delhi Belly, EH1 1EG

Time: 13:20 Running Time: 1 hour

Dates: 08 – 30 August. Previews: 06 & 07 August. No show Tues 18 August.

Tickets: Previews £6; August £9(£8) 8-9, 12-13, 17, 19-20, 24-27, £10(£9) 10-11, 14-16, 21-23, 28-30

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
The play is very much driven by the script, and the two remarkable characters that inhabit that script. 

I knew that I wanted to explore young friendship, and I knew that I enjoyed writing the quips and jabs that characterize friendships between teenage boys. So the two characters of Billy and Joe emerged naturally from that. 

But I was also really interested in the idea of a friendship of extreme intensity and fervor, and – more specifically – in the idea of a fierce, loyal, and all-consuming pact: a secret that could tear two people apart as well as bring them together.

The final part of the jigsaw was wanting to explore unusual perspectives. Wanting to write not only teenage boys, but teenage boys who understood the world a little bit differently. Boys who were one another’s only allies in a world that challenged and threatened them in a lot of ways.

Once the script was complete, the rest of our inspiration came from the two phenomenal actors who perform the play. Their energy and chemistry has really given the play its wings.

Where does your piece at the fringe fit with your usual work?
Bellow Theatre is driven by a love of new writing, and this piece is a completely original script, written by Bellow’s very own co-founder Tabitha Mortiboy. As a company we are fascinated by stories. We try to tell stories that are touching, funny and relevant. We like our work to seek out the voices of those who may often be ignored, or silenced. This is a show which gives voice to the characters of ‘Billy and Joe’, two characters who have a very unique perspective on the world.  It foregrounds their thoughts, feelings and friendship, and draws us into their world. Ultimately it asks us to listen to their story, to understand their experience and to relate it to our own, something which we always to strive to do with our shows at Bellow.

What can the audience expect to see and feel – or even think – of your production?
They’ll see two stunning performances, and the magic that can come from a tiny but terrific cast. And I hope they’ll feel all sorts of things – they’ll experience the humour  and silliness of Billy and Joe’s friendship, but they’ll also witness the anxiety and ultimately the terror of what these two boys experience.

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance – or otherwise – of dramaturgy within your work?
In a sense, Maureen and I work as dramaturgs on one another’s work. I wrote the script for Billy, but because of the way we’ve directed the piece, and because of the detailed discussions we have about the characters, their motivations, and their experiences, the play evolved and changed a lot during each rehearsal. So Maureen always brought a fresh perspective to the show, and helped to sculpt it towards its current form. 

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?
We’re inspired by stories! We love great characters and interesting narratives and our work draws heavily on both storytelling and theatrical traditions. We’re really big fans of any great drama. We’re inspired by brilliant playwrights, and exciting companies, young and old. Some which create work similar to us, some which create work extremely different.

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?
Our process is very dependent on the idea which inspires the show. Sometimes we work through devising around an idea or a theme, sometimes we write first and then try things out. We always tend to go through a writing process, often, but not always, collaboratively. 

For this particular piece the script was conceived and developed by Tabitha, its origins are with a short piece she wrote with the Bristol Old Vic last summer. Over the course of the year the company held a few scratch performances and tried some different versions, which allowed Tabitha to develop the script into the version which is at the Fringe now. Things have naturally changed in rehearsals, Tabitha also co-directed the show and having the writer in the room is always handy for last minute alterations. But the collaborative element of this piece has really been in the way we decided as a company on the overall feel of the show, and the decisions we made to let the actors find a truthful representation of ‘Billy’ and ‘Joe’ (the show’s two main characters), rather than in its narrative development.

What do you feel the role of the critic is? Are there any questions that you feel I have missed out that would help me to understand how dramaturgy works for you?
I suppose the role of the critic is to evaluate the work from a fresh perspective. I think most critics are aware of the dramatic process, and of what makes drama work at its best. So I suppose a critic’s role is to appreciate the craftsmanship involved in creating a play, and to assess the success and effectiveness of that craft.

I don’t think there are any other questions that would illuminate our process – the bottom line is a simple one – we always collaborate, always listen to each others ideas, and are always excited by and respectful of the fact that a show changes and develops across every rehearsal. 

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