Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Untold Dramaturgy:: A New Verbatim Musical @ Edfringe 2015

2014 marked the centenary of the First World War, and the past 100 years have produced stories, sights and sounds of breath-taking significance. We focus on aspects of this eventful century employing original music, song and movement intertwined with first-hand accounts to create a symbolic time capsule of narratives for the audience.

Intense research including interviews, films, books and personal stories have brought this show to the stage. We tell the untold stories of those who fought; the war photographer, the female soldiers and the soldiers scarred with post-traumatic stress as well as the ones left behind. Our performance pays respect to those who have served on our behalf by bringing their stories alive through music and spectacular choreography.

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Edie Marsh and Oliver Belfield (with Natalie Rawel): We started with just a simple idea for the production; war songs. We wanted to create a fusion of musical theatre and materials that detail the last 100 years of conflict for the British military services. We set out to create a piece of verbatim theatre that unravels some of the lesser-known aspects of conflict, for example the effects that involvement in battle zones can have on one’s own psychological well-being as well as the effects it can have on the family and friends that must learn to deal with post-traumatic stress. 

These relatives and friends often have to get to know someone entirely different to the person they waved off on their way to war, and it is for this reason we chose the title Untold Wars to reflect the sides of conflict that are not as visual, nor as glorified, as the aspects of war that are celebrated by governments and the media.
Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
During our original run (the first version) of the production in Leeds, we were met with an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the material we had put together. This was somewhat unexpected, as at the time we were unsure whether we had successfully or even appropriately translated the verbatim material into a musical theatre framework in a way that would powerfully impact the audience in the way we had imagined. 

In our original production, we ended the show with an exhibition in the performance space of all the material we had used to create the show, and we were met with an enthusiastic thirst from the audience to discover more about what they had seen and to learn about the people and stories that they may not have heard of prior to seeing the show. 

It was this reaction, along with many declarations of ‘you need to tour this show!’ that gave us the confidence to adapt, re-draft and take the work that we have become so attached to and so proud of into the more professional arena of the Fringe, so that it may be experienced by a wider and more diverse audience.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
The audience can expect to see a battalion of performers, tightly choreographed and regimented in military style, performing musical numbers that are constructed using real accounts, stories and memoirs of battle and conflict over the past 100 years. Using verbatim material adds another level of reality to the performance, and it really brings home the harsh truths of war when the audience learns that everything they have experienced from our performance is based on real events and happenings, which really opens up a new emotional level for the spectator. 

We would hope that the show will make the audience think about aspects of war they may have not previously considered, and particularly as we mark the centenary of the First World War, it is the exhibition of such material that we hope will inspire further thought and reflection on Britain’s involvement in conflicts both past and present.
The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise of dramaturgy within your work?
Since 2014 marks a century of war for British troops, we felt it fitting that we both commemorate and celebrate our troops and the stories of those involved in wars from the past 100 years. With regards to dramaturgy, this musical is relevant since war affects everyone and it has been a huge part of our history within Britain. Therefore the structuring of this musical was highly dependent on material that was collected. The verbatim material needed to be of relevance to the overall story so it was up to the dramaturgical team to find and collate this material, from diary entries to transcribed interviews.

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?
Since this musical is verbatim we have looked at work by Alecky Blythe, in particular London Road. What is different about this musical however is the stories have come from a mixture of places from cast members to soldiers in the First World War. The musical has a personal feel to it, which we felt was important when dealing with a subject such as war.

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?
The developing of this musical started back in October 2014 when a larger group of students developed it for a final year production. From there we have had cast changes and story changes and developed it into a better-rounded production. By gaining audience feedback from the original show we were able to observe what it was the audience enjoyed and developed it to fit their needs.

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
The audience in this production is an important role. Due to the nature of this production and the topics that it deals with, our audience are the ones who will find meaning within the musical. Politically we have left this musical more open ended in order for the audience to take from it what they can. The stories involved range from those on the battlefield to those at home. Although there might be significant factors that determine the year of the stories, we felt that every story is relatable to a modern day audience

203 Theatre is a brand new theatre company

set up by University of Leeds Theatre and Performance graduates. Our project evolved during our final year and has become a thought provoking and visceral piece of experimental verbatim theatre, performing real words as said by real people, put to beautiful music composed by company member Emily Taylor. 

Alongside creating the work, we have been delivering TIE classes and exhibitions of the material to fund ourselves as we truly believe these stories need to be delivered to a wider audience so that they no longer become “Untold Wars”.

7th-15th, 17th-22nd August
Greenside @ Nicolson Square, EH8 9BX
Venue 209
Box Office: 0131 618 6967
£8.50/£6.50 (50 Minutes)

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