Thursday, 18 June 2015

Needless Dramaturgy: Xavier de Sousa @ Edfringe 2015


18-30 August, 5.10pm

Old Lab, Summerhall, 1 Summerhall, Edinburgh EH9 1PL
Box Office 0131 560 1581

London-based collective Needless Alley present - an intimate performance piece occupying the space between a theatrical experience and a live music show. Mixing text, improvised sound design and movement, fragments of candid conversation build into a collective exploration of all-too-familiar dogmas, political rhetoric, belief systems and social injustices.

 Photography by Paula Harrowing 
The Fringe
What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Xavier de Sousa: This project came about around the same time as the campaigns for the General Election in the UK started to gain momentum, back in the Autumn of 2014. We sat down and had a long chat about what we wanted to do with the next project, what was going through our minds at the time and what we wanted to say. 

We felt completely unrepresented in our political systems, apathetic and at the same time, angry. We felt like we wanted change to happen and we somehow knew what that change *could be* or what we imagined them to be, but at the same time it all felt a bit unrealistic. We talked about disillusion, cause and consequence, we talked about promised dreams against reality, the act of growing up, the ancient political systems that do not speak to us, the lack of true diversity, the way we talk about migrants, etc. And we felt angry and hopeful at the same time. So we decided to translate that into a show.

We talk about Waiting for Godot a lot, the two characters who exist in a sort of 'nothingness' and a wasteland where nothing happens, yet it is so rich and bursting with content. We felt, somehow that we were in a position in society where all around us there is this huge, vast wasteland filled with the shit politicians tell us and with the shit we are sold from the day we are born: that we can do everything we want if we work hard enough, that we can achieve our dreams, that we must aspire to be better and stronger in detriment of others around us. 

Well, this is our way of saying FUCK YOU to that.

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
It seemed like the right project to do so with. We only ever done a couple of shows so far and this time we felt like we had the right material to open up our work and our discourse to more people.

 Plus, Summerhall have been extremely supportive since day one (we have been chatting since last September!!), so we though 'fuck it lets give it a go and have fun'. Also, there is potential here for the band to go and play in music venues as well. We like that crossing between theatre and music and the more we open up to that, the better. And Edinburgh seems like the right place to do that in.

Mind you, we have never played so many shows in a row without a break and we are shitting ourselves a bit. But fuck it, why not try?

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
The piece sits somewhere between a music gig and a theatre piece. There will be music, movement, spoken word, anger, wonderment and some tender moments and a genuine dialogue about what inspires us and angers us about the world we live in. 

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
Of course it is important, and we have had some dramaturgical support but most often we just sit, watch videos of rehearsals and debate about what we would like to keep, what feels forced, what feels right and what needs to be scrapped. They are not always the right decisions in the eyes of other people, but they have to come from an honest point of view. We are each other's biggest critics, actually, and we keep questioning the methods and the outcomes of what we are doing and where we are going.

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?

This is a tough one. There is a lot of influences from the music aspect of the piece, particularly in the concept of 'jamming' and having a gig-like piece, whilst maintaining a theatricality and visual composition to it. A lot of sound art and trip-hop influences come into play - we are children of the 90s, at the end of the day!! I think groups like GETINTHEBACKOFTHEVAN and Forced Entertainment are influences, mainly for the 'space' they seem give to their shows to exist in and the playing with form and narrative. In terms of the spoken word, there is a lot of self-referencial stuff, particularly in the way we are all in a black box, in a safe space and how we can use that to our advantage. I look at political speech in contrast with a more naive rhetoric, which is a contrast that I like, as I find them very similar.

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?Collaboration is at the heart. We are a non-hierarchical group and like it that way, so we have no other choice than to have mutual respect and collaboration at the heart of what we do.

We often sit down, chat for an hour or two and then get up and
 Photography by Paula Harrowing 
'jam' for the rest of the day. Last year we spent a year just jamming. Our last show, In Embryo, was pretty much a non-narrative, non-structured jam. Everything that happened on stage was always completely improvised. That is the basic methodology: jamming, jamming, jamming. And then look back and see what we want to keep or what we want to throw away.

We are now working with structure, which is new and exciting and at times frustrating. We are building a set of sections and each section works like a music track that we improvise on top of and with. Think of it like a set list of songs. There is pre-written text, pre-decided choreography and music templates, but each performance will still be intrinsically different as that is how we work best.

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work? Whilst there is a lot about us and a lot comes from personal experiences/perspectives, the audience is ultimately the one deciding the narrative in their own head, according their own experiences and motivations. We do consider them in the room a lot and often play directly with them - even if sometimes without physical interaction. We like that, as it can bring some accidental encounters to the work.

Are there any questions that you feel I have missed out that would help me to understand how dramaturgy works for you?No fucking clue. We are still trying to understand what dramaturgy means for us as well, so you guess is as good as mine.

In, Needless Alley muse on the possibilities of a world without political structures, patriarchy, class distinctions or poverty.

“They call us the Lost Generation. We are the fruits of the baby boomers, who grew up learning that the world was in the palm of our hands. That we could achieve our goals.

We don’t feel represented, nor do we do much to ensure that we get representation so we wait for better days to come. We exist in a wasteland inhabited by a few people waiting for something to happen. And nothing ever does. So we wait and we dream. Well, they told us to dream big, didn’t they?”

Needless Alley was formed in 2013 by Xavier de Sousa. Since then, they have worked with and performed at Camden People’s Theatre, Roundhouse, Brighton Dome, Live at LICA, Latitude Festival, Battersea Arts Centre, Old Vic Tunnels, Southbank Centre and King’s Head Theatre, Leicester Festival, VAULT Festival, amongst others. has been developed with funding from National Lottery through Arts Council England, and development support by Live at LICA, Camden People's Theatre and Queen Mary University.

The Company are Xavier de Sousa, Karine Rathle, Ollie Godwin & Joseph Garwood

Xavier de Sousa is an independent performance maker and producer. Having grown up with Europe’s oldest performance art festival, CITEMOR (Portugal), he has since worked with Tino Sehgal, Tim Etchells, Lauren Barri-Holstein, Rosana Cade and Forest Fringe. He has also performed in a variety of solo shows and collaborations at Latitude Festival, Tate Modern, Vogue Fabrics, Southbank Centre, Whitechapel Gallery, Old Vic Tunnels, Camden People’s Theatre and ]performance space[ amongst others. As a producer, Xavier is currently working with jamie lewis hadley and Adam James, as well as developing a dance piece for choreographer Evangelia Kolyra for The Place, premiering in October 2015. He is a resident producer at Live Art Development Agency.

Karine Rathle is a performer, teacher, choreographer and researcher in dance science from Montreal. She studied classical ballet at Pierre Laporte College then extended to contemporary, Argentinean tango and folklore, contact improvisation, flamenco and theatre. Karine's work is fueled by an interest in creating a multidisciplinary, personal and authentic language. Outside of Needless Alley, she has performed at ]performance space[ and the Roundhouse and internationally at the Contemporary Art Centre in Tasmania, Canada’s Gézu, Monument National and Club Lambi, OHM in Holand and in Argentina at Italia Unida, Milonga del Indio and Villa Malcolm.

Joseph Garwood is an artist based in London and just completed a BA in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins earlier this year. He creates and performs his inventive solo work under the name Snapped Leg. He also works collaboratively in an experimental duo called $ H I F T $ with an emphasis on improvised recordings. This outfit has been performing shows throughout London, in venues such as Roundhouse, Vogue Fabrics and Battersea Arts Centre.

Ollie Godwin is a practicing artist and musician and one half of the ongoing, multi-disciplinary sound collaboration project $ H I F T $. He explores religious music and texts and is primarily interested in attempting to subvert social preconceptions surrounding different forms of symbolism, both mystic and secular. He regularly collaborates with Needless Alley Collective, Abdul & Cleopatra and under the pseudonyms Chocolope and Video. He has exhibited and performed both individually and collaboratively at Studio 180, Byam Shaw, Battersea Arts Centre, The Roundhouse, Brighton Dome, Sir John Cass College of Art, Whitechapel and Vogue Fabrics.

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