Saturday, 11 July 2015

Cautionary Dramaturgy: Tony Trigwell-Jones @ Edfringe 2015

Newbury Youth Theatre present: 
Cautionary Tales

Monday 10 – Saturday 15 August 2.30pm 
Venue 40, The Quaker Meeting House, Edinburgh
Tickets £8 (£7)

Fun and Gore for all the Family

A boy is eaten by a lion; a girl is burned to death; another girl is brained by a bust of Beethoven – fun for the whole family!

Widely regarded as one of the leading young companies in the UK, Newbury Youth Theatre return to The Fringe with a new production of Hilaire Belloc’s darkly comic Cautionary Tales for just one week (Monday 10 – Saturday 15 August).

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object? 
Tony Trigwell-Jones: Started with some funny Victorian Stories – love the Britishness of them (although written by a Frenchman). Ensemble story-telling has become something of a trademark so we take stories (for young or older people), hang a narrative structure around them and call it a play.
Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
Despite our veteran status (and having the good fortune to be awarded some excellent reviews) we remain a non-auditioning youth company. When I was sixteen I was regaled with stories of the Edinburgh Festival where theatre could be anything, anywhere… 

I don’t think I completely understood the implication of what that might mean; nor could I have seen that it would become increasingly homogenised, packaged and re-branded as a lifestyle brand. But that’s not what’s important… Edinburgh Fringe remains the biggest performing arts festival in the world, I want to do my bit to inspire young, creative people to push that creativity as far as possible. 

Bringing them to the Festival when they are sixteenish is a life-changing, mind-expanding, preconception exploding experience for them.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
It’s a children’s show so we want our audience to be entertained, to laugh at the gruesome deaths of the child characters and to leave comparing best bits. I also think it’s important that the work doesn’t sell the company or the audience short. 

I mean, just because it is for children, it doesn’t mean that we should be lazy in our production values or physical commitment to character, storytelling and expressive ensemble work. So I think I would like people to leave having experienced a high quality piece of theatre, made all the more surprising by the fact that it’s essentially a bunch of kids (14-19 year olds).


How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
I think that whatever is on stage becomes imbued with meaning and much of this is learned behaviour or inherited culture or what-have-you. I think that Dramaturgy recognises that theatre is inherently symbolic and attempts to structure this for a specific aim or intention. 

Even if that intention is to be anarchic, Dadaist, meaningless – the very act of attempting that has meaning…  Our Dramaturgical approach is within storytelling and ensemble, so we will use the group to create formations that reflect culturally recognised structures and play with them.

I think there needs to be an awareness of what one is showing/symbolising at all times – even if you are not intending to convey anything in that moment.

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 tend to work in a European Ensemble Clown style, influenced by Jacques Lecoq, Philippe Gaulier and John Wright (among others). I would like to see us within their tradition but we are more hanging on their coattails crying like spoiled babies.

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 start with a story or collection of stories. We break it down into units of action and workshop them, using small groups to create a representation of that moment on stage.  We take (democratically) the elements that we find most pleasing and discard the rest. We then start to play games within the newly formed scenes, these can work towards the aims of the scene or against it and in that tension something interesting and playful starts to emerge.

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work? 
It depends what you mean by audience, the people watching are of course having an experience and attaching meaning to what they are seeing/hearing based on their social/cultural upbringing; their preconceptions; their mood at the time; the temperature in the room; who they with… it is an active experience of meaning generation in context. But then the performers within the ensemble are all also having an active experience, of course they are going through motions learned in rehearsals, the lines they’ve practised; the set pieces we’ve worked on, but they are also creating live and in the moment, they are also, in a different way, an audience to each other – possibly even to themselves…

Are there any questions that you feel I have missed out that would help me to understand how dramaturgy works for you?
Do you think that theatre has to start out having a meaning? Is meaning the same as intention? Do you think it is possible to have drama without dramaturgy?

Newbury Youth Theatre is an exciting and dynamic young company others could learn from” Herald 2011 5 STARS

“This is a production worthy to stand alongside others by more experienced and older companies” British Theatre Guide 2011 5 STARS

Independent Critic’s Choice 2010

Told with their trademark style of rambunctious storytelling, physical comedy and touches of simple magic, the play is set in the courtroom of the Ministry of Child Correction: a new government department set up to teach naughty children the errors of their ways.

And so we hear some of Belloc’s best loved tales such as Jim, who ran away from his nurse and was eaten by a lion; Matilda, who told lies and was burned to death; and George, who played with a dangerous toy and suffered a catastrophe of considerable dimensions.

“The original text is given a powerful new energy, with perfect comic timing… this show lacks nothing” BroadwayBaby 2010 5 Stars

“The always excellent Newbury Youth Theatre delivers a clean, intelligible and tightly choreographed production” The Herald 2010 4 Stars

“Absolutely delightful” Three Weeks 2010 5 stars

This production has been particularly inspired by Edward Gorey’s “re-discovered” edition of these tales, it also features a brand new story devised by the company.

Newbury Youth Theatre has produced an original production every year since 1983 and has toured to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe since 1998. In that time, they have consistently garnered four and five star reviews in the National and Festival press – an unprecedented feat for such a young company.

“Thought provoking, entertaining and moving… enchanting” Three Weeks (Editor’s Choice Award) 
5 Stars 2009

“The ensemble shines in this dynamic and well choreographed piece’ 
4 Stars The Herald 2008

“As accomplished as Michael Morpurgo’s Aesop’s Fables” 
5 Stars The Herald 2007

Belloc’s Cautionary Tales were first published in 1907, while he was serving as MP for Salford South.  Probably the most famous of his writing, the short, poetic stories with implausible morals, inspired Roald Dahl in many of his children’s stories, most clearly in his Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts.

Tickets for Cautionary Tales priced £8 (£7 discounts) are available from the Fringe Box Office on 0131 226 0000, directly from the Quaker Meeting House on 0131 220 6109 or online at  

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