Monday, 27 July 2015

Aireborne Dramaturgy: Dylan Marsh @ Edfringe 2015

Aireborne Theatre presents:
The Worry Monster

“Every kid loves playing with cardboard, right? The winter nights of the late nineties and early noughties flew by in the comfort of fantastical environments created from the packaging of whatever white goods had recently been delivered to my home.

As an adult, the theatre has become my playroom, so it was only natural therefore that I would make a play from cardboard eventually.” - Dylan Marsh, Writer and Director

The Worry Monster is a play about regression into childhood, about the anxieties that develop as we grow up and how these manifest themselves in adulthood. Set in a childlike world that sits on the boarder of daydream and nightmare, it follows the journey of Raymond Noon, an artist and divorcee who has been sleeping in his mother’s bath.

The titular Monster, a depraved and antagonistic imp derived from a drawing Raymond did in therapy as a child, follows him almost everywhere and scrutinises his every move. To what extent do her actions dictate his? And how, if at all, will he thwart the very creation that has begun to define him?

With its mix of nuanced drama, playful puppetry, witty narration and paranoid self-satire, The Worry Monster tells a story grounded in reality through the lens of cartoon.

9th, 11th, 13th, 15th, 17th, 19th, 21st,
25th, 27th, 29th August

17.50 - 18.45 (55 mins)

Paradise in Augustines

41 George IV Bridge, EH1 1EL (Venue 152)

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Dylan Marsh: Our production was inspired by a few different things that ultimately were able to be collated into a final product. Firstly, I'd just made a play and I wanted to make something different; something that was a response to it. 

So I began a process of essentially turning my previous work inside out, feeding on the opposites of the fundamental elements of my previous play and seeing what similarities remained and were essential. Secondly, the piece is enormously autobiographical, and the image most integral to this is a literal image that I drew aged 7 in a child therapy context. This "Worry Monster" drawing would become essential to the piece and how it would be framed and how it would look. If I hadn't used that I think everything else I've done would have seemed very boring. 

Finally, I wanted to make a play that was appropriate for the Fringe and for the Fringe audience. This might seem a bit mechanical, but I used the restriction to develop the work. In terms of how it fits into my usual work, this is my second play, so I suppose I only really have that to compare it to. 

The last play was called The Waiting Room and took place in one room over a two hour period. It was a long and dialogue heavy character study with its roots really in naturalism. I've kept some things from that, but mostly thematic things, such as the relationships between characters and their parents, and characters having huge moments of catharsis during the drama. I suppose in places the dialogue is reasonably similar as well, as I've tried to give it this sharp conversational touch, particularly during the scenes between Ray, the protagonist, and the Monster herself.

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

One of my University lecturers has this shtick about how you shouldn't tell the audience what to think or how to feel, and I'm inclined to agree, so therefore I'm reluctant to shed any real light on that, but I can say a few things. What I certainly don't want is for any audience member to feel as if the script is some kind of instruction manual for dealing with anxiety. It's absolutely not that, and it would be irresponsible for me to suggest it was. I wouldn't want anybody to connect this work in any way to their own mental health, or that of anybody they know. 

Its message is more existential, and it's about this individual. I don't want there to seem like there's any sense of allegory here, and I've actually gone to some lengths to avoid that. On a more surface level, I'm hoping people will find the show funny at least in some small way, but I've also tried to aim for some more serious emotional moments too. I like playing with that; juggling tragedy and comedy.


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

Dramaturgy is a term I've not heard used enough really, so it's satisfying that you asked me about it here. What's been important in creating The Worry Monster is that since it's a semi-autobiographical work, it's in some ways an adaptation. I therefore had to cherry-pick what was important in getting across the things I wanted to get across about the character, and disregard the character's context as a projection of myself a little. 

Casting was hugely important on that level; the play wouldn't work if I was playing the protagonist and delivering pieces to the audience all the time. It would seem uncomfortable and indulgent. I had to trust Rufus Rose to create a new character that could take the concepts somewhere new, and somewhere that I hadn't thought of. Another important question was how I would represent memory, and the past, on stage. 

The past acts as almost a seventh character in the play, and I've tried to depict this by using puppetry and scenery as physical manifestations of it. In addition to this, there's a level of metatheatricality in the piece, which lies subtly beneath the action, only to become prevalent later on. 

I feel a sense that its characters are not only aware, but BECOME aware of their existence as characters in a play, and begin to play with the farce of narrative and of the fourth wall and of the play as a contextless piece of entertainment. We also start to realise that the world of the play is almost a construction created by the central character, who grows to be self-aware as the piece peels away the pretence. It's complex, and doesn't really make sense, but it deals with layers of realism, metatheatricality and self-awareness of character, actor and author.

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 difficult question, and I have this theory that if you acknowledge your influences too early on in the process of making then they become too apparent, but I am able to recognise some if I unpick what we've done. It may seem unlikely, but one of my key influences in the last play that I did, and less obviously in this one, is Quentin Tarantino. His dialogue is superb in my opinion, despite many contemporary assertions that it's lazily all written in his voice. This is something I feel I'm also guilty of, but I also feel that he writes extremely natural dialogue and one way of doing this is making it very reference-heavy but not in a late capitalist way. There's a running thread throughout this play about a cucumber, and as it recurs hopefully I can get across the point in a more subtle way than the characters literally saying how they feel. There's also a reference to Simon and Garfunkel that I laboured over a little bit, and will probably be not very funny at all now I've mentioned it. Another thing I take from Tarantino is his use of music. The music I use is carefully selected and comes hand-in-hand with the scenes in which it is used. 

On a number of occasions, the two have come into my mind as an idea together. More obviously though, I've noticed an influence from the early television work of Armando Iannucci, whose 2001 The Armando Iannucci Shows series of sketch-shows hangs over me as the perfect example about how to make something comedic and interesting about the human condition. 

Sometimes he induces side-splitting laughter, but his narration also has its poignance, and I've tried to encourage that in The Worry Monster. In rehearsals, points of reference can come from all over the place, even from things I don't like. I sent Rufus, the lead in the show, a YouTube video of clips of Matt Smith as Doctor Who (I do like that), just so he'd flail in the right way. To create one relationship in the play, I've repeatedly referenced Seth MacFarlane's Ted (I don't like that). 

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?
My process of making definitely starts on the page (the literal page) and without collaboration. I listen to a lot of music, I talk to a lot of people, but mostly it's just me on a train writing lists. Or I'll think "what do I want to make next?" and often it will lead me somewhere totally different. For my next play, I decided I wanted to work with a specific actor because I wanted to write a part for him, but have ended up writing a play about me writing a part for the actor in question. I definitely know whether something will work early on. I try a lot of ideas out, and a lot don't work, but usually I know they won't work within the first three or four pages of writing.

I tried doing a thing about Father Christmas; I tried writing another time travel thing; I tried writing a thing set at a wedding, but I won't be able to show you more than a couple of pages of any of them. I usually do two or three drafts on the page, then do a read-through with my friends, see what they think, and devise another draft from that. The rest of the writing happens in the rehearsal room: removing and adding bits and pieces but also letting the actors' performances do the talking. And everybody is allowed to interrupt. I've only ever worked with people I trust, so if my producers Maya and Emily say something isn't working, or one of my cast suggests an idea, I listen and usually they're right. There has to be collaboration, but the cast and crew also have to trust that I know what I'm doing. It's a difficult balance that I hope I've got right.


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