Friday, 3 July 2015

16K of Dramaturgy Loaded: MJ Hibbett @ Edfringe 2015

MJ Hibett: Before I go any further, the dramaturgy of comics sounds REALLY interesting. It struck me that it's sort of what Stan Lee did in with early Marvel, guiding stories and indeed the whole Marvel Method. Also Julius Schwartz providing cover ideas as an "object" for teams to create stories around.

The FringeWhat inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
I guess it's an "object" - I have a song that became a viral hit about 10 years ago and wanted to use that as the basis for a show. That was the starting point, then I needed to work out an interesting way to use it.

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?Initially we took shows to Edinburgh just because it looked like fun. There were a couple of years afterwards when I thought about "making it", but now we're back to just fun again. It's a lot less stress that way! There's also the fact that Edinburgh is a great focus point in the calendar for creating a show - you have at least a title by February, then there's a round of previews and other fringes in July, so it all works out really handily.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?I hope it moves them, and makes them slightly happier going out than when they came in. It's about going back to your teenage years and understanding how you've changed, and why. It was designed to be a load of jokes and songs, but somewhere along the way it's developed a big heart!

> The Dramaturgy Questions
How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
To be honest I wish there was more of it. I write the show on my own, Steve and I learn it, and then it gets knocked into shape through performance. I do get people to give us notes, but by the time it's in front of an audience the shape of the show is pretty much set in stone. 

We did a reading of our previous show, Total Hero Team, and a friend who's worked as a dramaturg gave some excellent feedback which led to a huge re-write, but it was still difficult to turn the whole thing round when we'd already invested time in learning songs, and I'd like the chance in future to get the dramaturgy in earlier.

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 watched The National Theatre Of Brent on Channel 4 when I was growing up, and the idea of two middle-aged men putting on an extravaganza with just hats and wigs stuck with me! The other main influence was Pappy's Fun Club, mainly for the huge fun they seemed to be having while still putting on a very clever, well plotted show.

Having said that, I don't think there's a huge tradtion for the kind of musical we do - it's a mix of my day job in an indie band and a half-baked interpretation of Poor Theatre, which doesn't really fit in with how musicals tend to be done.

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 don't, I'm afraid - it's just a slightly boring process of looking out of windows, thinking about things, making notes and then trying to write it all out!

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work? The audience is the entire point of doing it - the meaning they take away from it IS the meaning of the work. I consider myself, in that respect, as just another audience member - I certainly have my own emotional reactions to what happens in our shows, and definitely have ideas that I want it to express to other people, but they're only as valid as the ideas and feelings that other people get from it as well. A live show is a collaboration between performers and audience!

Are there any questions that you feel I have missed out that would help me to understand how dramaturgy works for you?
I don't think so - this is more than I ever usually think about it and it's made my brain hurt!

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