Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Marathon Dramaturgy: Matt Squance @ Edfringe 2015

The Fringe

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?

Matt Squance: The show started as an idea. Having to sit through yet another World Cup and watch footballers hate each other and blame everyone but themselves for any misfortune is not something I find enjoyable. And having had the phrase 'be a man' thrown at me as a boy, I can't help but feel some resentment to the millions that follow players and sport stars so blindly when they can behave and act so poorly. 

It started out as a massive hate campaign against sport stars, which was full of anger and bitterness, which obviously wasn't going to work as a full theatre piece. So after spending some time working and reshaping, I changed the feel and tone to lighten it and it's become like a comic modern Frankenstein-lite story with a very literal creation and dissection of making your own modern sports star.Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
The Edinburgh Fringe isn't just the biggest arts festival in the world; it is THE arts festival. The atmosphere and vibe that you get from it is nothing that you get at any other festival. Don't get me wrong, it's daunting and requires a lot of hard work but there's a great sense of excitement and unknown going into the fringe. It's the thought that my little show that's come from a small Suffolk town is going to reach a broad audience that like interesting, different work, and that excites me incredibly, both as a writer and an artist.
What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
I think the one thing I always can guarantee an audience is a whole heap of fun, with a slice of bitter social commentary to match. I don't want to shove messages excessively down an audience's throat. That's not the kind of theatre I want to make. 

The important thing for me is creating a sense of fun and ending it on a note where the audience can leave thinking 'Yes, that was great, and it even made me think'. If our audience reaction from Brighton is anything to go by, then this should go down a treat in Edinburgh! Expect anything from Greek toga sassiness to modern homoerotic workout videos. They'll be plenty to see in this!

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
Over the past year, I've actually been one of the Young Writer's with the Soho Theatre in London, so I've had quite a bit of dramaturgical support on this and another show I'm working on at the moment. 

I think it's a really important part of the development process that helps you pick apart what your show is, what you're trying to say and what you want your audience to get out of it. When making a show that deals with a lot of direct address, and interacting with the audience, I needed to be clear in what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it and without having a dramaturgist to help with this, the show would probably be very similar to the angry first draft that was written.

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?
I tend to write about what really pisses me off and then try and take it in a direction from there. My first show was about an ex of mine, which was very personal, so this time I wanted to broaden my scope by using something that to me, is a social problem. Taking this annoyance at the way people perceive sport stars in the media, I wrote a rough outline for everything I wanted to include if I had an endless budget at my disposal. 

From there, you look at it and begin to compromise with yourself and look at other methods of storytelling that don't involve a wall of televisions mounted on a back wall. That's about the point I start to talk to other people about it and tell them about the idea. I don't give away anymore than that. Without seeing my script, I like people taking the idea of it and telling me where they think it would go. I like getting a diverse response to the way people view things. After all, you're not going to get two people in the audience who are exactly the same so this is important for me to do. 

After that, I begin to take it into the rehearsal room. Bits are rehearsed, rewritten, friends come in to watch bits and offer feedback, and then I give myself a break. You come back to it and if you find that scenes work well, and the routines are still funny, then you're onto something. And then it's just practice, practice, rehearse, refine, and take it from there. 

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
The audience is the reason for making the work. I mean, there's a certain sense of self indulgence when you write shows for yourself to perform (which I will always try and acknowledge!), but the main reason is for the audience. I want to make work that I would want to see. I want to be able to make them leave the theatre having to think about something in a different way than they did before entering. 

That is the power of theatre. I may not change anyone's lives with my work but if they can leave and walk, drive or train home and think about it as they're doing so, then that to me is successful. That's what a good piece of theatre should always do.

Are there any questions that you feel I have missed out that would help me to understand how dramaturgy works for you?
I would say you should ask about who people think there audience is, like who is their target audience and does that impact the making of the work? Otherwise, it's a solid ground to ask others about their process.

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