Monday, 29 June 2015

Checking Out Dramaturgy@: Joel Ormsby @ Edfringe 2015

GKV: What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Joel Ormsby: Six years ago, after finishing Uni, my writing partner and myself spent over a week working at Glastonbury festival, doing twelve hour shifts with only each others company in the middle of nowhere. We came back and wrote down those strange conversations that can only happen when boredom reigns supreme. We thought we had a play. (We didn't.) 

Eight drafts later, and six years of experience working on new writing in various capacities (working as a support worker on writers programmes/ being a freelance script reader/ participating in development weeks as actors) we have now turned it into and entertaining play - Checkpoint 22.
Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
Firstly, We always wrote this play with Edinburgh in mind. We think the comedy and the writing and the Giant Squirrel which is key to the play fits in well with the sort of wildcard pieces that people search for in Edinburgh. From a personal development point of view, as we are also producing our own work, it is going to be a fantastic learning experience. Edinburgh is the best test bed on the planet for new pieces of work, and for ourselves as artists.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
Most importantly, the audience should leave having being entertained. We can guarantee that there are plenty of laughs. On a more human level, the audience will connect with the feeling of a relationship ending when both parties can't bring themselves to say it (eg. two friends going on different paths saying they'll stay in contact but really they know otherwise). 

I hope that the play also makes people think about the current education system, and the "lost generation of uni leavers" which occurred during the recession- the previous graduate jobs just weren't there, and so people ended up taking on jobs they'd never thought of, and therefore can never get back into the "system" again as they have spent years in a job with no relation to their degree and so don't have experience. 

I guess I'd like people to think a bit about the transition from education to work and the pitfalls that can sometimes be there.

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
This is a BIG question. Like Galactus big (there's your sequential art reference, Gareth!) . Dramaturgy is completely relevant to our work (I can't imagine how it couldn't be). I think if you look at all art forms they should reflect life in some way. 

For me the important thing is that you present a problem on stage. This could be a problem that society or a culture has created in real life, or an "obstacle" created by the characters' differing motivations. We all empathise with someone trying to problem solve. In a way that's what life is. I think its important to ask questions in theatre. Both in a narrative sense (ooh, whats going on here? Why has that character done that? What is the playwright trying to say?) whilst also forcing the audience to ask questions about their own lives, their views on the world, and the society we live in as a by-product of what's happening on stage. 

That's what all good art should do, hold up a mirror on the audience and say "Your move", whether that is a small subtle thing, or a massive "breaking the fourth wall" gesture. Art should question. Because Life is full of questions. And art should reflect life should reflect art.

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?
A few years ago at the fringe we saw a show by "Jollie" (josh and ollie?), which was a play that was about two people who'd been given a grant to take their show to eastern europe. In a way that is definitely an influence, as we both loved it, and it was made by two friends who'd written a play that blurred the lines between their own lives and theatre. 

We found it funny and it made us say "yes, we can totally do this." I think if you had to describe our play, the style its sort of a bit like "the odd couple meets waiting for godot with a splash of a more grown up version of the inbetweeners". Its a comedy, it's about relationships at heart and there's a few cringe worthy moments. I think we both soak up all forms of comedy and new writing. In a way anything you see affects your writing, we are all soaking things up without realising it - another key feature of being human.

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?
With Checkpoint 22, we got back from Glastonbury and wrote down scenes, and sent them to each other. We pieced these together into a story. We then got together every few months and worked on the play together. We performed it as a read-through with a writers group, who gave us more feedback. 

We then rewrote the play, making major changes in order to up the stakes, increase the drama, ask more questions and make it more relevant. We have also received some advice from script readers and producers to develop the play further. Basically, when we are writing, we find problems and try and solve them. 

So Dave will write a section of dialogue, then I will critique it, change it a bit and perhaps add a joke or a line which perhaps helps to add subtext. This also works the other way around, where I will write something and we will discuss what this does to the play and the characters motivations. 

I guess writing a play with 2 people means that your internal thoughts on the play can be discussed out loud and we can find a compromise that works for both of us. Im hoping that this means that the play comes across as fairly watertight and well thought out, as we were constantly asking each other big questions of our own work.

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work? 
Quite simply, it's who the work is for. The audience are completely the most important thing. We want them to connect with the work on an intellectual and emotional level. We want them to enjoy it. And we want them to think of that friend they lost contact with and never saw again. We want them to make that phone call. I suspect that a month of intense performances in front of an audience means that over the course of Edinburgh the piece will change and shift until this connection is at its peak. Its what Art should strive to do... to know its audience and connect with it.

Are there any questions that you feel I have missed out that would help me to understand how dramaturgy works for you?
I guess it would be interesting to see how ideas form. Not necessarily the inspiration behind them, but how they become a piece of work. For example, does the writer/theatre maker believe there are lots of ideas floating around and they can just tap into them, or is more intellectual than that. How many other "plays/musicals etc" have you got in your head right now that you think have legs? That would interest me, for sure.

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