Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Better Dramaturgy: Urban Foxes @ Edfringe 2015

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a
script or an object?
Answered by The Urban Foxes Collective (Saskia Marland, Elena Voce Siriani, Sara Sassanelli) 
This show was inspired by an idea. The idea was to explore a particular brand of contemporary narcissism. This idea was informed by various cultural sources and our own experience as young women trying to make work and live in London.

The initial inspiration came from Shelia Heti's book, How should a person be, a sort of memoir with a dash of pop-philosophy. It reads like a journal, and follows Heti's attempt to find self-actualisation, and artistic fulfillment. While reading this book we felt equally enamoured and horrified at her blatant disregard for narrative structure/character development, she didn't seem to feel the need to impress the reader. 

She was embracing the fact she had published a book that was essentially about herself (as a fairly privileged white middle class female in her 20s) figuring it all out, and the psychological and often existential battles she faces while trying to become the person she always thought she would be.

This book inspired a lot of discussion, and we could not decide if it should be deemed self indulgent narcissism or a brave display of vulnerability told unashamedly from a females perspective. in hindsight it is perhaps a mixture of both. This sowed the seeds for "be better", as we tried to understand stand where we stood on this matter.

 What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think -
of your production?
The audience can expect to see a heightened version of a reality that some will already recognise, as we are critiquing the culture of self improvement and social media (amongst other things..) that some audiences are bombarded with everyday. We take this idea of aspirational self improvement and push it to its logical conclusion, which is ultimately monstrous. We set the play in a seminar/ceremony of a cult we treat the audience as devotees, who have gathered to watch Saskia's conception ceremony (a narcissistic subversion of conception, you conceive a "better" version of yourself opposed to a baby). There will be a charismatic cult leader, who embodies varying qualities of capitalist modern messiahs.

We hope the audience can see we are weary of this form of narcissism but we also buy into it, and are enamoured with some aspects of it. We hope he audience can see the complexity of the issue and perhaps examine/question there own relationship with the themes we are presenting.

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
We have always understood Dramaturgy as the coherence of ideas within a piece/world created.

Whether this is ‘coherence’ that embraces paradoxes or an area of
contention, to us doesn’t really matter. We have tried however to use dramaturgy to help us create a recognisable, yet abstracted 21st century crisis mini world and then to see what happens within it. We have worked with outside eyes and dramaturgs in the past and would like to do some more often as it always allows for a different layer of the show to be created.

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?
Artists that use writing at their core, Tim Etchells and Forced Entertainment have elements we have always been of great interested. We are interested as a company in other artists that are playing with theatrical elements and live art and at the moment it feels like an extremely exciting context. Vincent Dance Theatre have also been an inspiration due to their phenomenal use of symbols, movement and intellect.

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 always make work concerned with "the now", therefore the beginning of our process is usually informed by an element of contemporary culture that one or more of us have encountered and wants to discuss. Many of these conversations tend to be do with role of women in popular culture (this is not always the case, but it is often is a strong element).

The beginning is pretty much always a process of sharing (articles/videos etc) and discussion. I would say one of the strong characteristics at the beginning of the process is a celebration of confusion. We often have contradictory feeling about the subject of our discussion, we may be strongly repulsed yet completely captivated by what we watch/read etc. We find this grey area interesting, and encourage not having a definitive answer or opinion  as this is usually the most interesting point of departure from discussion to devising.

We also are drawn to often drawn to the seemingly superficial icons of pop culture, believing that if you scratch the surface it can reveal a lot about society and the world we live in.

It is always personal.

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
As the piece embraces and critiques the sharing of information the audience is key to something happening, something changing during the piece. Their awareness of us on stage and themselves is important to the discomfort/entertainment we are trying to create. There are moments of interaction which of course could not happen without somebody there watching.

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

Don’t think so, but maybe we could add something like this: We like thinking about context and the way our work functions in a specific context. Perhaps we will figure out how dramaturgy fits in to our process in a way where we recognize its impacts straight away. There is something latent about dramaturgy in our process at the moment. 

images credit: Sura Sassenelli

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