Friday, 31 July 2015

More manly Dramaturgy: Bruce Guthrie @ Edfringe 2015

Bruce Guthrie

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?

Dramaturgy is a term used more and more in UK theatre. It seems to be very common in Europe but we are becoming more and more used to having someone on a production who is a breathing encyclopedia of expertise on everything to do with the play. Not only that, they keep an eye on the clarity of the text in relation to the story and what the author may or may not have intended. 

Research is a vital part of the process. Personally, I also find it to be one of the most enjoyable parts too. We start by creating and collecting as many options as possible before beginning the creative process. I like to immerse myself in as much of the culture as possible when preparing for rehearsals: reading a lot about the subject matter; going to art galleries; museums; watch films; theatre; listen to music; visiting as many places that are significant to the play as possible.

On this production of Man to Man, our lead actress Margaret Ann Bain and I went to research the play in Berlin visiting many museums and theatres. We had the opportunity to work with the playwright Manfred Karge on the thought processes and situations for each scene as well as the etymology of the quotes in the play (the character quotes from several notable German works including the Grimms' Snow White, The Prince of Homberg and Goethe's Faust). 

We then had a literal translation of Manfred's play done by Penny Black, who constructed options where there was no direct translation to be had and also did extensive notes on meaning and significance of phrases. Alexandra Wood - author of our new translation of the play - did a lot of her own research. She also consulted with Manfred and Penny during the creation of the new version of the text. Alexandra and I had met on several occasions and we shared a desire to maintain a feeling of the play being foreign - German in origin but also in a state of transition. 

We wanted the language to remain rich and robust.  We then consulted with dramaturg Clare Slater (executive director of Gate Theatre, London). I trust Clare's opinion implicitly and she gave us a few suggestions about where the play was not clear from the point of view of an audience member who knew nothing about it. All of this was incredibly useful when creating the piece.

Work with my designers to create a visual and audio reference box is also important as we are able to create a visual language for the production. This starts as a collection of pictures and tracks from various different sources. We discuss tone and throw lots of ideas into the mix, exploring the play from many different perspectives. Our designer Richard Kent is particularly good at interpreting my excited ramblings! He is a brilliant designer. He can reduce hundreds of dynamically contrasting images into one set that has the potential to achieve all of them to their fullest potential.

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?
I have been lucky enough to have worked with incredible directors (Sam Mendes; Howard Davies; Richard Eyre; Deborah Warner) and would like to think the processes of those talented people have my own. While a structured approach can yield productive pre rehearsal preparation, the process of creating a piece of theatre is ultimately governed by the combination of people in the room and their relationship to that piece at that point in their lives. It is unique every time.

When visiting Germany on a research trip, Margaret Ann (Bain) and I were struck by the physical and muscular nature of the acting style. There was a clarity and theatricality to the storytelling but also a rawness and truth that was exciting and very human. We wanted to capture a similar essence in this production.

I try to read as many books as possible on directing to challenge my own ideas about it and to help me to develop my own craft. Brecht on Theatre has been useful for this production and dipping into Katie Mitchell's book The Directors Craft several times and for tips on research and preparation for rehearsals is always useful. Reading Frantic Assembly's book Devising Theatre was also part of my reading prior to working with my Co-Director Scott Graham (it would have been rude not to!)

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 vital in creativity. Why settle for one imagination when you can have several? When you have a team of people, all of whom are experts at what they do and all of whom are committed to creating the best result from the source material, it would be foolish not to work with them and respond to their ideas and suggestions. Ultimately as director, or Co-Director in this case, you have to guide the production and have the ultimate vision for it, but the best days are when you combine with the team to create a piece of work that is far greater than you could have imagined by yourself.

Working with Scott and Margaret Ann in rehearsals was a joy too. It can be tough physically and emotionally when working on a one actor play. This play is particularly challenging given the muscularity of the production we wanted to create and the fact that there are no stage directions at all, so you have to create and explore all the time - liberating but challenging. There was a lot of laughter in the rehearsal room. It was also a very generous place to be because we all believed that ideas should be explored through to their conclusion. We also trusted each other enough to create several versions of each scene and see which ones worked best when we got onto the set (2 days before technical rehearsal). It was a test of nerve and ability but led to a show we are all proud of.

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
You can learn a lot from an audience.  Not only does it reveal more about the actor - they are  given that extra adrenaline from knowing they are performing for a group of people who have not been through the rehearsal process and have actually paid to be there, it is a great way to know what is landing and what needs to be clearer or better.

During the first preview of Man to Man in Cardiff, Scott and I felt that we had overloaded the piece with too many ideas. We didn't see that until we had an audience in. We had a meeting for technical notes after the show and talked with the entire creative team about what worked for them and what didn't. Almost all of the suggestions made about the piece were implemented the next day. We came up with more elegant versions of scenes that allowed the text to do more of the work. We needed to trust it more so we did and we all felt the piece was better for that.

Dramaturgical Baby: Desiree Burch @ Edfringe 2015

Can America only dream in black and white? Desiree Burch is here to find out. In her own straightforward style, Desiree investigates the intersection of institution and individuality in the UK premiere of Tar Baby.

Let Desiree be your guide in this exploration of America’s love affair with race and capitalism, as she reveals their impact on her experiences as a black woman in academia, the entertainment industry and personal relationships. Solo, devised and interactive theatre forms combine to speak for the growing majority of minority experiences in the US.

The Show
What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Desiree Burch: When I set out to create a solo show with friend, storyteller and playwright Dan Kitrosser, the intention was to create a show that wove the folktales collected by Zora Neale Hurston with the stories of my own life to draw parallels about storytelling and modern mythology. 

However what came from my writing were stories that I had never put on paper or told anyone. Stories about my family and upbringing and moments that formed my identity. At one point, when writing specifically about my own blackness, in the face of the post-racial fallacy inspired by Barack Obama's presidency, the heart of the piece, which happens under a sheet fort built with the audience, came into being. 

The writing has evolved much since Dan and I first decided to write a play together back in 2011, but all of it revolved around the writing that happened concerning that particular that day. 

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
They audience should expect a carnival! That is how we pitch the show from the beginning and that is how it gets played out. It's the most screwed up carnival in the world, but it's a carnival nonetheless. 

That said, the carnival doesn't happen unless the audience participates. It isn't hard, it really just requires being present and willing and listening and responding. It's less about being wrong or right, and more about being open. Audiences will empathise more with the "black experience" than they ever realised they needed to, and afterward, will converse about things they thought frightening to talk about and see things in society they never would have recognised before. 

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
In the collaboration between Dan Kitrosser and myself, it's been mostly that I have done the writing and Dan has done the structure and editing and "call for submissions" (if you will) of different stories from me on various subjects. 

However, there has been a lot of grey area in that over the course of our process. As far as straight sort of research, I think that for both of us, talking about race makes you want to know more about the
history and culture and legacy behind certain ideas and practices. The process of writing and conversing personally has compelled us to do our own reading and growth for the sake of our own identities. In addition, through various workshops and iterations of the piece, people have recommended articles and books and other kids of reading for us to absorb. 

There is really not enough room for all of the things we'd want to talk about in this piece. But it has made for such a thoroughly vulnerable, open and soul searching conversation between the two of us for some time now. It has made us closer friends to be able to learn about these things in a fundamental way and support each other as we came to our own discoveries about things brought up by this show. 

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?
Solo performer and playwright Deb Margolin inspired the genesis and really all of my work as a solo performer. I studied with her while studying at Yale, where I figured out that this was what I was going to spend the rest of my life doing. She has such both deep parts poetry and humour in her work, and I was so fortunate to discover her at the time in my life when I desperately needed to start slashing words into the world. She really showed me that theatre is about desire, about need, about sending a certain kind of fire into the universe.

When I first saw Young Jean Lee's Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven I was floored. I think it is the same experience that some folks--especially people of color--have expressed to me after seeing Tar Baby

It's like, "She just said it. I can't believe she just said it." All of these things that people of color know to be true about the world and their experiences of it and how all of it is viewed by white people. She was hilarious and brutal in her vulnerability in that show, and I think part of me didn't quite know I was allowed to make things like that until I saw that--and saw an audience full of theatre-going white people watching and listening and wondering how they were experiencing the show. That particular experience fascinated me. 

Knowing that there were people in the audience experiencing and responding to the same thing in vastly different ways. 

I have worked with the New York Neo-Futurists off and on for the past decade, and their work consistently inspires me. It is that everyday magic that happens when you don't take for granted the fact that, at any performance, none of these same people will ever be in the same room ever again. When there are no fourth walls between the sacred stage and the "normal world" and one begins to permeate those boundaries, profound and lasting things can occur.

And I am continually humbled and influenced by the work of Anna Deavere Smith. I was fortunate enough to be able to take a workshop with her and various other intensely talented artists just over a year ago. She has always been the foremost name in solo performance in my mind, and the fact that she uses her background as both actress and educator to create civic engagement with her work is so profoundly important to me. 

It is really how the theatre remains relevant in the age of Netflix. And that's not a knock on Netflix--it's amazing. It's so amazing, why does anyone need to leave their house anymore? Well, a theatre is where people come together. It's where they are both transported and trapped. It's where learning and conversation happen. It's where those moments of connection and beauty--moments that stay with you throughout a lifetime--can happen. And she embraces and commands that space, and is a role model for anyone who does this kind of work. 

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 always start with two things: personal and funny.

I start with personal because I know I need to lay my ass on the line for an audience. These people have paid hard-earned money to sit in the dark and willfully shut the fuck up and listen to me for some reason. And I know that they are willing to do that because we are all searching for presence and authenticity in art and in the world. It's why humans like sex and drugs and all kinds of other fun things... they get us closer to something that feels raw or deeper or more like the "us" that we forget we are. 

And good theatre makes you feel alive and in your body in a way that Netflix can't. So I know that, for me, I can only do that if I submit myself to the rules of being authentic, raw, honest and present. Moreover, there's just a lot of fucking fire in me--I've got a lot to say. And the world hasn't heard enough of my stories yet, which is evidenced by the fact that people keep showing up to hear them. The best way to connect with someone else is to be so completely yourself. People relate on that essential level. And that space allows you not only to be vulnerable, but also to listen, which audiences always appreciate.

Which brings me to the funny part. Being funny requires listening to your audience. It both requires and facilitates empathy. It allows people to accept ideas that they might ordinarily reject as too "out there" or taboo or "too close to home". It's the rub after the spank that lets people take a little more of the pain and shock, and perhaps actually like it. It creates a sense of knowing and connection with an audience that lets them know that you are on their side, and they on yours. It is quite essential in dealing with the awkward, provocative and controversial. And also, it just make the work fun for me to do. It means that things always have to adjust to accommodate people and it makes shows interesting for me to do night after night. 

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work? 

The role of the audience is an absolutely essential one to my work. Their role is to stay present and engaged. They have to want to connect as much as I do, and I hope that my earnest desire to do so is reflected in the vigor of my work. The audience must want to rise to the challenge as much as I do. And when they do, they leave the theatre feeling buzzed, invigorated, wanting to engage others. 

Audiences that just sit back and say, "Well, I paid--You do the show" are coming from a position that is far too entitled to receive anything meaningful from the work. They'll sit there and think it's "interesting" or "fun" and not experience it fully as the call to action that it is

A Dramaturgy of Myself: Lizzie Franks and Nerine Skinner @ Edfriinge 2015


A world of bizarre and chaotically skewed comedy

This brand new, female comedy duo, Franks and Skinner (not Frank Skinner) are proud to be making their Edinburgh Festival Fringe debut. They bring their very first show Franks and Skinner Present: Myself and Myself to Just the Tonic, The Bottle Room in The Mash House at 10.40pm

Their sparky, idiosyncratic comedy will introduce you to over 20 characters, where a chaotic world mixes the quirks of human nature and performance with a surreal take on friendship, fertilisation and funkiness. There will be, amongst other things, Elves, Vampires, Cilla Black, public transport and at least two Lorraine Kellys.

The Fringe

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Hello we are Lizzie Franks and Nerine Skinner. We were inspired by a show we compered together at Richmix theatre where we had the chance to improvise onstage as just the two of us and the audience.  We realised we had a fun chemistry and we both have an energetic performance style. We also made each other laugh which seemed like a good first step into creating a comedy duo!

Where does your piece at the fringe fit with your usual work?
Usually we are theatre makers and theatre performers. This is the first time we have dipped our toes (or rather sunk them whole heartedly!) into the comedy world to do a four week run. It feels different to be 'gigging' our show and have so much freedom to improvise but we are both really enjoying it.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
Hopefully they will laugh! This is our main aim. There are lots of different styles and characters and it's energetic and punchy. There are some 'themes' running through it but we aren't asking the audience to do too much thinking. They can analyse things if they fancy but they can sit back, have a beer and just take in the absurd world we are creating for them.

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
It's absurdist and escapist humour. The dramaturgy follows a sketch show formulae but broken up by a few twists and turns. We are experimenting with different styles as it's a first year up and as we go through the run we are expecting that things will develop and change. There are stories and dramaturgy within each scene but the important thing is the comedy. And the cheap props. 

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 are inspired by comedians, sketch shows and comedy series - such as Smack The Pony, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Amy Schumer, Groucho Marx, Tommy Cooper, Alan Partridge and of course Frank Skinner. We also both love dance so are inspired by all different styles especially funk, jazz, physical theatre and contemporary. 

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?
We tend to start with improvisation. We throw in a lot of ideas and try stuff out on our feet. Sometimes the improvisations come from bits of script and sometimes they come from games, exercises or more often than not they just suddenly happen. We are also really inspired by music or rhythmic word play. And accents. Even though we are appalling at them. We develop one another's ideas a lot - no sketch feels like it belongs to someone because it changes so much along the way. 

Mainly we wait until something makes us laugh in the rehearsal room and then we develop it. We have a director who helps us with the clown work. We have also had various directors and comedy makers come in and offer advice over the past few months. We stay open to feedback from audiences and professionals and in this way it feels very collaborative. We often go off on tangents in the rehearsal room so rehearsal days can be long - but fruitful. Like a

What do you feel the role of the critic is? 

To offer honest opinions to future audiences and some useful feedback to the performers. Most of us are there to develop and learn more about the area we are in. It's also interesting whether you decide to read negative reviews in Edinburgh - sometimes it's not helpful at the time but better to read them once you get back after a rest! But sometimes it can develop the show for the better. It's a fine balance.

Lizzie Franks from Woodhurst and Nerine Skinner from East Grinstead met working in panto in Newport, South Wales playing two types of French bread, Baguette and Croissant and a comedy double act was born. Their all-embracing attitude to comedy found them discovering their physical side as a pair of Compering Clowns at the Rich Mix Theatre, London. 

They then honed their improvisatory skills at the Stockton International Festival, as Russian, Cossack dancing, Frog tamers. Recognising that they shared a whacky, subversive view of the world and with a background and training in dance and musical theatre, they decided to create surreal and unconventional sketches, characters and routines which gave them the formula for Franks and Skinner Present: Myself and Myself.  

After a sell-out Edinburgh Preview at The Pleasance, London they are ready to take the Festival by storm.Franks and Skinner Present: Myself and Myself is an eclectic mix of song, dance, improvisation, sketches, a saxophone, a flute, a pregnant clown, 90s pop and sparkly jackets. Franks and Skinner also use an overwhelming number of unimpressive, cheap props. They are hoping their addiction to Poundland is by no way a disadvantage.

‘So funny…I cried with laughter’ Amy Clamp – Pleasance Associate Producer

Venue:   No. 288 - Just the Tonic, The Mash House, The Bottle Room
Tickets: £5 (Previews), £7 and Pay What You Want
Time: 22:40 (50mins)

Heretical Dramaturgy: Matthew Jameson @ Edfinge 2015

The Heretical Historians

The Greatest Stories Never Told
theSpace @ SurgeonsHall (Theatre 1) (V53)
19:35-20:25 (50 mins)
17th-29th August (Off 23rd)

Centuries from now there is a slim chance that the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe will be known as host to “one of the greatest theatrical events of history, in history”: that's right, the world première of The Heretical Historians first show, The Greatest Stories Never Told.

A collection of short comic plays based on true historical events that have never had their absurdity dignified. Featuring figures as varied as Julius Caesar, the Shah of Persia, Lenin and Pope Paul IV, and scenarios such as kidnapping pirates, drunken adventures and large scale emasculations, each story promises to be unknown to audiences but instantly accessible and downright hysterical. 

The Fringe

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Matthew Jameson: It started with the founding of the company. I’d created the company with the idea that it would explore absurd true history, or that it could be used to create new work that had a historical vein, so the issue was what our inaugural show would be. The stories that feature in the production are ones that I’ve accumulated over the years, and to perform them as a collection of shorts, instead of stretching one into a full length piece seemed a better way to showcase the company in our all important first fringe.  

It gives us a chance to test our limits in realising this huge variety in time and location on stage, not to mention it widens our chances of finding something for everyone in the audience.  

Where does your piece at the fringe fit with your usual work?
When I first started writing my work was very satirical or politically charged but still fairly absurd. There are still undercurrents of that, but now it’s more about the stories themselves. 

My work recently has all been historical, specifically adaptations of true unknown stories. Last year my script Dear Mister Kaiser, an alternative WWI play based on a British POW who was given compassionate leave by Kaiser Wilhelm to visit his dying mother, was performed at the fringe. 

We’ve also been touring a short festival piece based on the story of The Hartlepool Monkey, a shipwrecked monkey who was tried and found guilty of being a French spy. This piece has the same level of ridiculousness in its stories, but features known figures such as Caesar and Lenin as well as the unknowns like Jerningham Wakefield or Pope Paul IV.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
I hope they will walk away completely disbelieving that these stories are true, then do their research and realise we’ve been totally accurate. 

While there are contemporary references in each story, they were mostly to help us settle and understand the situations, if people want to take those then that’s an added bonus. We want people to be amused and entertained, to learn something new and to realise just how chaotic and absurd history can be.

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
For my work, or indeed any work about history, dramaturgy is invaluable. You’ve really got to know what you’re talking about, or know it well enough that you can justify playing about with it, otherwise critics and audience can tear you to shreds. The more information you gather prior to writing and workshopping a project, the more references and jokes you can include, and even if only one person in the audience (or cast, for that matter) appreciates it, then I feel it’s well worth the research.

With historical work there’s always the question of how much you
wish to reflect contemporary society and current issues in the production. While in some cases I think that historicisation can be a brilliant way of looking at an issue from a different perspective, in others it can become sanctimonious or applying characteristics to figures that are totally inaccurate for the sake of proving a point. I’d much rather have the rigorously researched truths of historical figures than overhaul them so they fit better with the theme of my shows.  

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?
When I first had my writing reviewed or seen, I often had critics describe it as ‘absurdist’, and at the time I had no real concept of what that meant. Now it is a comparison I’m fairly happy to accept and even embrace, even if not consciously. 

As a writer, I’ll acknowledge a huge influence from the likes of Brecht and Stewart Lee, as I love being able to riff around the edges and play with form. The current show being a collection of shorts makes me think of Christopher Durang or David Ives, who were masters of the form which I adored when I first began writing, so I think this is my attempt to emulate them.

The style of our current show has it’s roots in the travelling theatre troupes and variety performers of the 1920s, specifically the ‘rep’ actor who could quickly transform into any number of characters. This is much more fitting for a collection of shorts, and allows us to make more of our moments ‘out of character’, which gives us room to get quite meta about the show.

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 usually end up finding a little glimmer of a story hidden somewhere, maybe in a book, maybe on the internet, and if it tickles me then I’ll start dusting it off and looking for more information.

 After getting enough material and context, I’ll put it onto paper as a script and begin thinking about how to present it, or how I see it on stage. After that I’ll gather together some of my actor and theatre-maker friends, and we’ll talk about how to stage it and then try to get it up on it’s feet. Despite counting the number of ‘I’s in this answer, I would insist that the process is totally collaborative as soon as it’s out of my head, I’m always open to reworking or incorporating lines from rehearsal and always willing to totally rethink the shows direction if better suggestions or methods come up.   

What do you feel the role of the critic is? 
 They’re definitely there to do more than provide a few pull-quotes and stick on star charts for fringe shows. I think the critic is meant to be representative of the tastes of their reader (and/or associate publication/site) so that they can be taken as a sample of how your work is received by different elements of society. 

So as a theatre-maker it can help you know how different audiences are responding, and critics will also help inform the audience about what they have in store so you can attract those of a similar mindset, or warn those who would be disappointed or would dislike the production. So often there’s a love-hate relationship between the creatives and the critics, but they really do rely on each other: 

The creatives cannot depend on the pleasantries of friends and family if they wish to develop and the critics have to be at least partly constructive, or else they will destroy the dreams of an entire new generation, and have no-one left to review.

Are there any questions that you feel I have missed out that would help me to understand how dramaturgy works for you?
The distinction between a dramaturg as a creative role and dramaturgy as a theoretical practise. (I’ve always loved the idea of working specifically as a dramaturge for a theatre or production. But I’m curious to know whether others see it as different to the academic practise)

How you distinguish the role of a dramaturgy in the UK theatre scene, where it seems to be covered by other members of the creative team, compared to European or American theatre where the role is taken and carried out by someone specifically appointed?

Featuring a diverse creative team, The Heretical Historians are three Northern brunette lads (one of whom wears glasses) and one ginger chap from The South, each with extensive experience as theatre-makers. All graduates of East 15's World Performance programme, having knowledge of both the world and performance, yet mastering neither. Although this show is their première as a company, the team have been attracting laughter and odd glances together for several years, creating many in-house productions during their training. 

Matthew Jameson, director and writer has had plays produced at both Edinburgh and Prague Fringes including the alternative WWI play, Dear Mister Kaiser (2014), the recipient of 5* reviews and well received by a strange man who bought him a pint.

In three words: COME for the ridiculous stories that you can't believe are true. STAY for the most original comedy that will undoubtedly be hailed as "Horrible Histories for Grown Ups" by lazy reviews. LEAVE misinformed, unamused and covered in snakes informed, amused and not covered in snakes. 

David "The Manly One" Archer - Pope Paul IV, brawny, brunette, bearded. 
William "The Posh One" Hastings - Lenin, stout, ginger, bearded. 
Matthew "The Academic One" Jameson - Jerningham Wakefield, stocky, brunette, bearded.
Niall "The Reckless One" Pickvance - Caesar, slender, brunette, bearded. 

Creative team:
Script and Directed by Matthew Jameson
Technical Manager - Lloyd McDonagh
Front of House Manager - Charlotte Barnes

To Kill Dramaturgy: Catrin Fflur Huws @ Edfringe 2015

To Kill A Machine
7th – 31st August, Zoo Aviary (Venue 124)
8.55pm (No Show on Tuesdays)

An ‘Absorbing, provocative and, sometimes uncomfortable’ look at the life and work of Alan Turing

“Don’t expect some wishy-washy story of a nice geeky guy who happened to be homosexual. No, this is a hard-hitting look at the nature of humanity when confronted with a person who won’t – or perhaps just can’t – conform.”
Arts Scene in Wales

Following a successful tour of Wales, and a very well received performance in London, Scriptography Productions is pleased to announce that our latest production To Kill A Machine will be taking up residency at Zoo Aviary from Friday 7th August.

This new play, described as a ‘sensational piece of theatre’, examines the life and work Alan Turing, the World War II Cryptographer, focusing on his pioneering work into Artificial Intelligence, questioning whether machines can think. At the heart of the play is a powerful love story which questions the meaning of humanity, and the importance of freedom, and considers how these questions are played out in relation to Turing’s own life, death and posthumous re-evaluation. It is the story of Turing the genius, Turing the victim and Turing the constant, in a tumultuous world.

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

Catrin Fflur Huws: It started with a visit to Bletchley on the day of
a reunion, so they had the replica Turing-Welchman bombes working with a sound 'like a thousand knitting needles'. On the wall there was the story of Alan Turing's life, including the fact that he was convicted of gross indecency and given injections of female hormones. 

In a glass case there was the front page of an article that Turing had published in a journal, Mind, which asks what is the difference between a man and a woman? Alan Turing's story really touched me - the lengths society goes to to force people to conform, and this combined with the feel and the sound of Bletchley, and the question of what is the difference between men and all blended together to provide the initial inspiration. I can't say it was one thing, it was a lot of things connecting at once. 

Where does your piece at the fringe fit with your usual work?
There are similarities of course. I write in a way that's very much inspired by absurd writers like Beckett and Ionesco, so I don't try to
emulate the real world. I'm very much influenced by children's books of conveying very complex ideas very simply, so there's a straightforward story, but lots to think about beneath the surface. However, in other ways it's very different - I write a lot about magic, talking animals, abstract people, so writing about a real person in a real situation was quite a different approach. 

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
It's a very real production and a very honest one. I think you get to know Alan Turing the man not Alan Turing the genius - you see him in the environment in which he lived and worked, with friends - and with enemies. 

That means you see him being a likable person and you see him struggling with situations that he doesn't handle well.  A lot of the Alan Turing stories seem to be a little bit embarrassed about his sexuality - he is homosexual off stage. To Kill A Machine is a play about a gay man. It makes no apology for that. In terms of the production it's a very intense production - as an audience you are very close both emotionally and physically to what Alan Turing undergoes. Audience members who saw it on the tour said that they really needed to talk about it and discuss it with friends afterwards, and felt a real need to explain what they felt about what they had seen, and to relate it to their own experience of alienation and loss. 

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?

I don't think To Kill A Machine was dramaturged in the modern sense, although there are elements of it in the dramatic process. As a writer, I was keen to ensure that themes were established and paid off, for example the repetition of the line "sorry, you deserved so much better." 

The development process helped with this, for example by strengthening the narrative of the game show elements of the play, and directorially, Angharad Lee sought to use the imagery and the choreography within the play to emphasise some of the themes, such as for example, the separation of Alan from those who might care for him. 

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?
Some aspects are very traditional - it's very much Alan's story, so it's very classical in that way - it's a hero with a tragic this case honesty. I was very strongly influenced by the film Cabaret with its 'real world' story and its 'theatrical story' - partly because I love the film and partly because the play from which it was adapted was the work of someone who did exactly the same job as me in exactly the same place. 

It also draws on work such as Maupassant's short stories in terms of the emphasis on society's disregard for people who do are not approved of. But different people have seen other influences - Fritz Lang, Beckett and Camus have been spotted in there. I think the one tradition it probably has very little of, oddly, is verbatim theatre - even though this is a real story with real people, that draws heavily on Alan Turing's work, it does follow a very classical structure. 

I don't think there's one craft of writing. Sometimes it’s doodling with words. Sometimes it's knowing what to say but not knowing how to say it. Sometimes it's trying things in different combinations. Sometimes it's rehearsing - what would you say to someone in this situation. Sometimes it’s writing without stopping. Sometimes it’s leaving it to sulk. 

Sometimes it’s walloping it repeatedly into submission. All of this is quite lonely. There's no one to help you and frankly you often don't help yourself. Other people can mentor you and buddy you, but it's a bit like being a dancer - someone else can choreograph you and give you a wonderful costume, but you've also got to do lots of things that will make your body hurt - a lot.  Once there is something there, then collaboration is essential. Having people, especially actors to read it really helps you to test it. You hear the repetition and the exposition. 

An actor doesn't just appreciate the funny lines, he or she is there to do a job, and if the character doesn't have a function in the piece, the actor knows when they're there to fill up space and it's excellent when they tell you what you don't realise. A good director is also essential - Angharad Lee made me really aware of the visual aspects of the play - what the audience sees is really important. Writing a play is a one person job. 

Getting a play out of the two dimensions of a page and onto the stage is  definitely the work of a team. I couldn't have produced it, directed it, designed it, created the sound or the performance, and it's important to realise how much more expertise other people have. 

What do you feel the role of the critic is?
For the audience, the critic is often judge, jury and executioner. A respected critic's review can encourage or discourage the audience from seeing a play. A review can alert people to a play they might not have considered, or can dissuade them from attending something that might otherwise have appealed. 

A critic can sort the chaff from the wheat - picking out gems that audiences should not miss. However, critics can also raise audience's expectations for something that disappoints, or underplay something that a particular audience member might love. 
For the company, a critic can often alert the director and the writer to flaws in a play - the critic may identify aspects that might be tweaked in the short term or improved in the long term. This is invaluable if a play has a long run, or is likely to be performed again in the future. 

However, critics are like doctors - a good diagnostician is needed in order to identify the weaknesses correctly and cure them. 

Starring Gwydion Rhys (Hinterland, and S4C regular) as Alan Turing in an astonishing performance described as ‘fragile beautiful’, along side Francois Pandolfo (Dr Who, EastEnders, Casualty), writer and performer Robert Harper and newcomer Rick Yale.

"It is clear that Gwydion Rhys's fragile-beautiful portrayal has benefitted from the detailed developmental work, and for me he outshines Mr Cumberbatch in the film… The same is also true for the other three actors in this extremely strong cast."
Paul Griffiths (Translated from his welsh language review)

Following a tour of Wales, and a performance at The Arcola in London, during which its overwhelmingly positive reviews included, “a sensational piece of theatre”, “absorbing and provocative” and “a hard-hitting look at the nature of humanity” the new play by Welsh playwright Catrin Fflur Huws the company will be visiting Cardiff’s Gate Arts Centre before heading to Edinburgh Fringe Festival for three weeks at the Zoo Aviary venue. 

The production was funded by Arts Council Wales including being selected for one of only ten Wales in Edinburgh awards to take the best of arts in Wales to the festival, it was also supported by a worldwide kick-starter funding campaign with avid Alan Turing fans supporting the portrayal of their hero. 

The main role of Alan Turing is played by Gwydion Rhys in an astounding performance alongside ensemble of Rick Yale, Francois Pandolfo and Robert Harper who between them play 14 characters covering the range of friends and colleagues throughout Alan Turing’s life. 
The play covers a vast range of Alan Turing’s life story from his early school days and the tragic love story of Alan and Christopher Morcam, through to his days at Cambridge, Bletchley Park, Manchester University and his arrest for gross indecency before his tragic early death. 

The play is beloved by computer scientists not only for its endearing, humorous and realistic portrayal of Alan Turing but the embedding of Turing’s own words and works within a macabre and grotesque game show sequence which runs through the play. 
It was produced in association with Cwmni Arad Goch who supported and mentored the company through rehearsal and production and made it possible for the new company to achieve such astonishing success with its first touring production.

Scriptography productions is also an associate company at Aberystwyth Arts Centre who are supporting the production at Edinburgh Fringe festival as one of two Arts Centre associate companies to have secured Wales in Edinburgh funding to visit the festival. Both of these productions, To Kill a Machine and Gwyn Embertons will be at Zoo Venue .

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Richard the Dramaturg: Kolbrun Bjort Sigfusdottir

Pushing the boundaries of Shakespearean Performance, Brite Theater have re-imagined Richard III as a bold and engaging one-woman show. The fourth wall has been utterly obliterated, as you the audience take on the roles of all the other characters at Richard’s party in this intimate, exciting and moving production. Let Richard entertain you…but will you survive?

St. John's Chapel, Just Festival and Edinburgh Fringe
12-15th, 18-22nd, 24-29th and 31st of August 2pm

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

Kolbrun Bjort Sigfusdottir (
Artistic Director of Brite Theater and Director): Richard III (a one-woman show) started with another production, Shakespeare in Hell, where Emily Carding played Richard III in one of the levels of Dante’s Inferno. We realized that not only would he not leave us alone but his relationship with the audience was much more powerful than of the other characters we had been working with. I, director Kolbrun Bjort Sigfusdottir, then had this idea of making it into a monologue where all the other characters were portrayed by the audience, which is a concept we developed in our residency at Tjarnarbio Theatre in Reykjavik.

How does this production sit in your usual run of work? 

We’ve been working on unconventional stagings of Shakespeare for a couple of years now, and a lot of that has been gender-blindly cast, so it feels like a natural continuation of our work. This time we wanted to see how far we could take the audience inclusion and participation of our pieces. Having last made a promenade piece we wanted to see how we could get them involved directly without making that the sole purpose of the show. It’s a tricky balance, getting the audience to participate and telling them a coherent story at the same time, but we feel Richard III (a one-woman show) has a good balance.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production? 

We expect them to feel part of the story as they have distinct roles to play, such as the one of Lady Anne or Buckingham or even the Major. But at the same time we hope that they get a unique insight into Richard’s character and the world he lives in. Furthermore, on a personal level, they might revisit their own experiences of betrayal, jealousy, bitterness or even family. 

Then there will be the hardcore Shakespeare fans who will hopefully get a kick out of figuring out how the adaptation has been put together. A few might ponder the impact of gender-blind casting. Most will hopefully just enjoy the story, its ups and downs and the utter charm of Richard/Emily.

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work? 

It’s hugely important, both because this work is text based and taking apart a text is always going to require quite a lot of dramaturgical insight and also because it is a well-known Shakespeare piece which means that most will come to the play with their own preconceived notions of what the play is ‘really’ about and how it should be performed. Having a broad knowledge of the highlights of the staging history of this piece has therefore been really important to us, so we know where we stand among the other versions and what makes this one different.

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? 

The adaptation is made from a rough cut and a concept made by me but then on the floor in rehearsals with Emily so one must account for our different traditions and influences here. I’m relatively new to Shakespeare, whereas Emily has a lifelong relationship with the Bard’s work, ranging from Cambridge Shakespeare Festival to performing at the Globe to seeing Propeller and Knee High and loving it. 

My background is in deconstructed and physical theatre making, devising and site-specific work influenced by She She Pop, Forced Entertainment, Gob Squad, Hotel Pro Forma, Complicite, Sarah Kane… So the traditions and influences are both highly conventional and hugely post-modern. I guess the common ground between Shakespeare’s Globe and Gob Squad is that the work never dismisses or forgets the audience, it acknowledges the live-ness of performance and the intimacy created between performer and audience. In that sense we are just continuing with the age old tradition of storytelling.

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? 

It starts with a piece of text and an idea of how one might approach it (physical, site-specific, character based…). It can be Shakespeare, it can be an article, it can be a love song, it can be a testimony, it can be a photograph. An actor is given that text and with it some sense of the world the piece is set in and what characters occupy it (character can be used in the loosest sense of the word). 

We try it out on the floor. We cut what we don’t feel fits in this world. We try it again. We cut some more. We make sure it makes some sort of sense. We work on the staging and visual elements. We ask why we are staging this now – what relevance has it for an audience in 2015? We usually cut some more, rearrange a few things. We get an audience in. We ask them questions. We usually fix something. There’s probably a few more cuts to be made. We try again.

What do you feel the role of the critic is? 

The role of the critic depends on which publication they represent and what they hope to bring their readers. If it’s meant for entertainment the critic must find a relateable way to tell an audience what the show is about and if it might be for them. If it is a publication that prides itself on dissecting its subjects then the critic must ask questions of the piece they are writing about, frame it within the theatre landscape, think of its goals and whether they are being achieved within the production and so on. The key to the role of the critic must be context, the one they are working within and the one the work is being presented as part of.

Are there any questions that you feel I have missed out that would help me to understand how dramaturgy works for you? 

I think it’s important to keep in mind that every piece by every company will have a different need and use for dramaturgy. And I usually never realise what it is until I’ve gained some distance from the work. 

That’s why a dramaturg must stand outside a process, to view it with fresh eyes. It’s a challenge to do so with the work you yourself have created. In recent years, in order to get more insight into dramaturgy, I have made more of an effort to see absolutely everything I can. Nothing is done in a vacuum but it is easy to create your own creative bubble. I look forward to the festival as that’s when those bubbles start to burst and we start sharing our work. It’s then well really get a sense of the context of our own work I think. It’s an exciting time.

Brite Theater's Richard III(a one-woman show) awarded all awards at Prague Fringe 

We are happy to announce that our production, Richard III (a one-woman show) is the winner of the Creative Award (artist or company whose worked is deemed as being creatively exceptional), Inspiration Award (best new piece of work) and Performance Award (artist who has excelled in their performance at the festival, Emily Carding) at this year's Prague Fringe. This is the first time that one production receives all three awards.

The show started its journey in director Kolbrun Sigfusdottir's hometown of Reykjavik, where she and Emily Carding worked in residency at Tjarnarbio Theatre. This summer, despite being completely self-funded, our radical one-woman adaptation of Shakespeare's masterpiece has traveled to Prague, Plymouth, Exmouth, Barnstaple and Bristol, receiving praise throughout.

Madness of Dramaturgy:

Greenside @ Nicholson Square: 7 - 22 August (not 9,16,17) 1:45pm (60mins)

When a young Hollywood actress struggles to connect with Shakespeare’s Ophelia she desperately turns to method acting, but soon the boundaries between the theatre and her own reality become blurred. Amongst the bombs and sirens of blitz-struck London her stunning portrayal quickly becomes the performance of her life.

Method in Madness explores the pressure upon all actresses who tackle one of Shakespeare’s most enigmatic female characters and also presents the dangers of taking method acting too far. The play also highlights the rarely-hailed defiance of British theatre against the efforts by Nazi bombers to demoralise and divide a nation. Method in Madness fuses both Shakespearean text and new writing with physical theatre and elements of dance, all soundtracked by the haunting music of singer-songwriter Laura Marling.

The Fringe

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Method in Madness came from a fascination with Shakespeare's Ophelia. A more detailed look into the love interest of Hamlet, whose story doesn't receive the limelight it deserves in Shakespeare's play. Although Ophelia's story of losing her love, losing her father and finally losing her mind echoes that of Hamlet's, her story is bitty and full of holes. This started our obsession with the character of Ophelia and how she is portrayed, especially of her descent into madness. In 'Hamlet' in one scene she is fine and then in the next she is singing songs and collecting flowers seemingly to have lost her mind in the wings.

The theatrical nature and legacy of Shakespeare's plays and how they are performed brought us to setting the performance in a theatre. Following this with research into portrayals of Shakespeare's iconic roles, we stumbled across an anecdote of Daniel Day-Lewis. Whilst playing Hamlet, Daniel Day-Lewis, saw the ghost of his father parading in the wings and the show had to be cancelled due to the actor's troubled state. This brought us to the dangers of method acting and how a young actress could lose herself in the beautiful but tragic role of Ophelia and hence the start of Method in Madness. Therefore through Shakespeare's Hamlet and real life experiences the show was sparked into life.

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is a fantastic festival for new work to be seen, and as an emerging theatre company it provides the exposure we need for our new pieces of work. In addition to this the audiences of the festival are willing to give new work a go and experience a show that may be a little different. Therefore with our new takes on Shakespeare classics portrayed through a new and exciting blend of dance language, new writing as well as that of the bard's, we couldn't imagine a more perfect festival and audience for our work.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
The unique quality of Method in Madness that resulted in the show being awarded Best of Fest (IYAF 2014), is how Method in Madness fuses Shakespearean text and new writing with physical theatre and elements of dance. Whilst being sound-tracked by the haunting music of singer/songwriter Laura Marling.

Entita Theatre is an emerging theatre company who are striving to create their own brand of physical re-imaginings of Shakespeare's classic texts. 

Method in Madness takes Ophelia's life and story and shows her deterioration into madness in a way unlike any other show, through a play-in-a-play, we see an actress falling down her path surrounded by the men whose stories put her there. This approach to a classic and unique choreography makes audiences think on Shakespeare's iconic character and the actresses who play her in a whole new light. The experience of our shows are all encompassing, from the haunting soundtrack to the choreography that comes more from the soul than from a cold rehearsal room. The audience can expect to be swept up in the whirlwind of Blitz stricken London and each struggle of the onstage actors.

The Dramaturgy Questions

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?
Entita Theatre work collaboratively devising as an ensemble lead by Director Jamie Woods and Movement Director Katharine Hardman. The start point and inspiration to all our pieces and movement sequences originate from the original Shakespearean text. Allowing the poetry of the words to become that of movement in the body. Our rehearsals look at Shakespeare how it is meant to be explored - on its feet and how his characters resonate in our lives today.

The script for Method in Madness was written by Alex Doble and Katie Dunstan and then devised by Entita Theatre. The initial idea came from Entita's Artistic Directors and then was handed over to the creative minds of the writers, who took the idea and developed it into the piece of work it is today.

Doble and Dunstan worked alongside Entita's Artistic Directors to edit the script, as well as attending rehearsals to see the script up on its feet and where improvements could be made. They also worked closely with Hardman on translating words into movement, with some pages of dialogue being replaced entirely with choreography. Entita's writers work side by side with the creative team and cast, adding two more members to the Entita ensemble.

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
The narrative of our script is quite clear and concise, it is however in the movement sequences that we allow the audience to draw meaning. Whilst a picture is worth a thousand words a sequence of stage pictures can speak volumes. I daren't say too much more as it is in these moments of movement and expression that we truly enjoy hearing what an audience has picked up and taken away from the show. 

Entita Theatre are the current Graduate Theatre Company in Residence at the University of Kent, run by Co-Artistic Directors Jamie Woods and Katharine Hardman. 

The company specialise in producing ambitious, physical re-workings of Shakespeare plays. They were awarded Best of Fest at the International Youth Arts Festival 2014 for Method in Madness, which was also shortlisted for the National Student Drama Festival 2015. 

Entita are presenting both Method in Madness and their new production Fall at both IYAF and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2015.

 Greenside @ Nicolson Square (Fringe Venue 209) Sub-venue: Emerald Theatre. 7 - 22 August (not 9,16,17) 1.45 pm (60 mins). Tickets: £6 previews 7 – 8 August. Otherwise £7.50 (conc. £2 off).

Is there anything better than Dramaturgy in its underwear? Tight Theatre @ Edfringe 2015

Tight Theatre presents

Five girls – one stage. 

Is there anything better in this world than a pretty girl in her underwear?

PUSSY is a grotesquely hilarious exploration of what it means to be a young woman growing up in today’s society. The five young female performers combine physical theatre, song, guttural soundscapes, Beyoncé lyrics and more to create the distinctly physical style of
Tight Theatre. Through this physicality the five girls explore taboos of female adolescent sexuality, how society shapes female perceptions of appearance and the ultimate need for sexual satisfaction.

PUSSY dives into the media-fueled, sexualized world of the teenage girl. Exploring the uproarious contradictions of a culture in which a lipstick can be both worshipped and weaponized, where feminist popstars promise to ‘keep it tight, keep my figure right’, and the female body is a grotesque battle ground over which the public and private self fight for control.
Laughing Horse @ Counting House Ballroom (V170) 6-19th August 
11.30pm (45 mins)

We have answered the questions that we think are most relevant to our show.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?

The audience can expect to feel LAUGHTER but leave with a deeper understanding of the complexities of being a girl today. The audience will see the five female performers explore sexuality and femininity through Tight Theatre's physical style, with an accompanying soundtrack of contemporary pop music, such as Destiny's Child or Iggy Azeala.

The dramaturgy questions

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?

 Our two greatest artistic influences are Pina Bausch's Tanztheater Wuppertal and Impermanence Dance Theatre, the former being one of the leading dance theatre companies in the world since the 1970s, the latter a young break-through company, also performing at Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year. We largely admire the two companies for the same reason, namely their blending of theatre and dance. 

Bausch's work taught us to push our bodies to its limits - even if it means falling to the floor over and over again, so be it! Impermanence taught us to be playful and outrageous with our work, that wild improvisation can spark movements beyond our usual repotoire and that facial expression brings a movement to life, particularly in creating comedy. 

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?

Audience response is crucial to our devising process and we often find that feedback shapes and directs our rehearsals months after a work-in-progress showing. Sometimes we feel we’ve finalised the content of the show, perform it, and then start working on a whole new idea sparked from our conversation with audience members. Our piece draws on our personal experiences but we always strive to make it accessible to a wide audience. 

We often get asked if a male audience can relate to Pussy, given its emphasis on representation of the female body – our aim is to make open theatre that deals with social issues in a humorous and entertaining way in order to engage with a mixed audience and, though Pussy concentrates on female experiences, its exploration of gender conformity is a subject that speaks to both men and women. 

We had the best time performing at Brainchild festival recently and really appreciated getting feedback from people who were watching Pussy with completely fresh eyes!
Are there any questions that you feel I have missed out that would help me to understand how dramaturgy works for you?
The only other question that I feel would be helpful is in relation to how our use of material visuals, i.e. set and costume inform our work. Due adopting the style of physical theatre it was important for us to keep our space as bare as possible, making us utilise our bodies and voices to convey our intentions. This also means our piece is easily malleable to different stages which has become important when performing in different venues.

Costumes were crucial as they had so much potential to contradict what we were trying to convey and it was a process of elimination until we finally came up with what we believe show us as ‘trying to be sexy’ but ultimately failing. We accomplished this through wearing underwear, but the underwear; particularly the knickers are over-sized in an almost baby-like fashion. This when couple with frumpy layering of other garments we feel has created a look that we feel is integral to our show.

Tight Theatre tread the line between silliness and severity, adding their personal voice to this multi-faceted discussion of femininity and feminism in society.