Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Colourful Dramaturgy: Kenny Roach @ Edfringe 2015

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015: Peppermint Muse presents The Colours of Kenny Roach by Rebecca Russell
How to save a life
potent cocktail of art and addiction fuels multi-media drama

The Fringe

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Rebecca Russell:I was approached directly by a friend to write a play for him after he had seen a production of my monologues Delicates and Smoke. He wanted the narrative to be loosely based on certain events in his life and was brave enough to give me full artistic freedom on how I developed my characters and their story outside of this. I had already had an idea about a self-destructive artist and took that as my starting point. My source was very open and honest and trusted me to develop a script for him. I carried out a lot of detailed research on the effects of addiction on family members to tell the story as truthfully as I could.

Why bring your work to the Edinburgh Fringe?
It’s a cliché, but it IS the biggest arts festival in the world. Even though there is a major difference between the real Fringe and the big commercial comedy acts (their marketing budgets for starters) we believe in the festival as a platform for emerging theatre companies. Promoters/bookers for theatres still come to scout for new work and if we want to develop the company it really is the only place to be. After gaining some great contacts and bookings for Lavender Junction and Altamont (both shows played at last year’s Fringe) we’re hoping to grow that touring network as well as our general audience.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
The Colours of Kenny Roach features projection of old masters and original art together with a soundtrack by The Smiths as an underscore to the gritty action which draws the audience further in to the emotion of the piece. The story is a human one and inspired by real events and so ultimately the aim is to connect with the audience so that they are able to think, laugh or cry – whatever response it elicits in them.

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
For Rebecca Russell, the writer of the piece, the dramaturgic process isn’t at the forefront of her mind when writing but is always naturally there in the background. She feels that this comes into focus during the rehearsal period; analysing the script with director and actors, taking apart each scene and working with set, light and sound design to complete the picture.

 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?
Whilst Rebecca is not necessarily influenced by any particular artist or genre, she wants to be moved by theatre; whether that is via the story itself or the performance. It doesn’t matter if a piece is by Shakespeare or Miller or Bennett or by an unknown playwright, as long as there’s well-observed dialogue, great characters and a captivating story, she’s happy! That said, Rebecca’s work is largely observational black comedy; drama and pathos with humour.

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?

Rebecca’s response:

I can write about anything. The ideas come from everywhere and anywhere; a word, the news, someone I see in the street. Sometimes I just get a title in my head, sometimes a character. Credit where credit’s due, friends also give me ideas or ask me to write for them. My husband Jon has come up with the initial ideas for some of my best work. As well as writing The Colours of Kenny Roach for my
friend, his family also provided me with a true story on which my first (solo) feature script is based.

As a writer/performer, I find that I often act out my dialogue in my head before I write it. I can start mid speech, mid script or with a particular scene that pops up in my head. Apart from planning the general shape of the story, I don’t have a proper ‘system’, I just write. Sometimes it works and often it doesn’t. The hardest thing is discarding something you think is particularly good. You have to be tough with yourself and not indulge yourself. You also have to be prepared to shelve an idea if it’s not going anywhere and to keep going when you don’t get the feedback you’d like or when you get an email which begins ‘there is much to admire in this script… but…’

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
The audience is vital; I’m writing for them so it’s important that they get something from every piece. Any reaction from them is valid; writers and performers have to accept that whatever happens during the writing and rehearsal process, once a play is in performance we can no longer control it. How the audience respond is also coloured by their own life experiences, their mood that day – even whether they are hungry, angry, happy or tired when they come into the theatre. 

But if they are moved, if we prompt them to think or discuss what they’ve seen, react out loud by laughing or crying or take away something from the theatre experience that we never get to find out about, then we’ve all done our job! Having said that, the sound of an audience laughing at something you have written is hard to beat, probably only bettered by the sound of utter silence during an emotional part of a story or the tell-tale sign of some red eyes at the end when the house lights come up!

About the play

Glaswegian artist Kenny talks the talk. He is
the next David Hockney. He is a precocious talent. He laughs in the face of critics. His alternative art history lectures delight students. But Kenny drinks. Before work, during work and after work. Inspiration, creativity and greatness can all be found at the bottom of a bottle. The Colours of Kenny Roach, is a gripping drama based on true-life accounts.

Kenny’s selfishness overshadows his marriage; there’s little space for his wife Lisa, who sacrifices her own painting to nurture her husband’s art career. But even she cannot save him from the demons that turn his colourful world to black. Only Kenny can find the courage within himself to change before he loses the will to live. Explosive and intense, The Colours of Kenny Roach features projection of old masters and original art together with a soundtrack by The Smiths as an underscore to the gritty action.

Honest, humorous and heart-breaking, The Colours of Kenny Roach is an authentic portrait of one man’s struggle with his art and battle with addiction as he fights for his life.

About Peppermint Muse

Peppermint Muse creates, produces and tours refreshing, inspiring theatre. From Shakespeare adaptations to bold new writing, engaging story-telling is at the heart of the company’s work.

2014 Fringe shows Lavender Junction: ‘poignant, uplifting’ ★★★★ (BritishTheatreGuide.info) and Altamont: ‘compelling, highly engaging’ ★★★★★ (Edinburgh Evening News)

About Rebecca Russell

Rebecca is an award-winning playwright whose work has been performed all over the world. A collection of one act plays, Rebecca Russell - Plays One was published by Methuen in July 2015. Rebecca is working on a number of projects including her first feature. She is also a published poet and lives in Devon. Rebecca is represented by The Collective Talent Company.

Venue: theSpace @ Niddry St, Venue 9, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Dates: 17th – 29th August (not 23rd) Time: 19:10 (1hr00)

The Colours of Kenny Roach - Edinburgh Fringe Trailer from Lisa Stenhouse on Vimeo.

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