Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Desperate Dramaturgy: Slapstick & Slaughter @ Surge 2015

Slapstick & Slaughter
Wednesday 29th July, 13.00 & 17.30, Candleriggs Square
Thursday 30th July, 13.00 & 17.30, Candleriggs Square

Two men recklessly attempt to confront the absurdity of war in just 35 minutes, using their bodies, their voices, and the surrealist toolbox of Dadaism. Playful, physical and blackly comedic, this new show examines how the barbaric chaos of World War One manifested itself in the nihilistic, nonsensical art that grew from it. Splattering big ideas on a small canvas, the Desperate Men explore art’s reaction to the wholesale destruction of lives, the old order and old hypocrisies, and find echoes in equally absurd modern conflicts.

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a

script or an object?
Richard: It all begins with a conversation around what show do we want to do next? We reflect on what we have recently produced and usually there's a reaction against doing that type or scale of show again.We have been involved in some very big projects in the landscape involving hundreds of people.These are very challenging so having the chance to make something simple involving just two people,a few props and a suitcase is a dream.We are still performers at heart who enjoy fooling around.The strategic stuff we do is just away of earning a living.

Having said all that we were very inspired by a painting that had been hanging around for years in our studio.We like using found nearby objects as they seemed .We started playing with it and the resulting script was the last thing to emerge.Weaved within all this was a great deal of research around dada and a character called Fred Karno -a late 19th Century/early 20th century pioneer of crazy theatrical shows and street theatre. 

He invented the custard pie fight, discovered Stan Laurel and Charlie Chaplin and basically invented all the routines for the early silent movies in Hollywood.Yet he was born in Exeter, made a fortune,ended up running an off licence in Lilliput near Bournemouth and died penniless.

Why bring your work to Surge?I would say because we were asked but we have a connection with Glasgow that goes back many years.We performed and won a trophy at Street Biz in 1989,performed at various Hogmanay nights and at The Merchant City Festival. 

We were last in town with a commission called The Pig Pen Riots a few years ago.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
They will see deceptively smartly dressed mature performers absolutely owing the moment in time.They will laugh,be confused,be bemused,profoundly moved,transformed but yet transfixed.

About Dramaturgy

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
Despite what audiences might think when they see the show I am ultra concerned that there is a satisfactory piece of theatre going on in front of their eyes.It is not just knockabout street entertainment.I want people to see it as a piece of theatre and try and decipher what's going on.

We worked on S&S with a devising director (Angus Barr),a choreographer ( Helen Parlor) and our own Musical Director (Shirley Pegna). In  constructing all narrative segments this threesome operated as a dramturg panel.We back fill the logic and story of the sequences.There is always a reason why something happens,nothing is random.However we don't spell it out and make it easy for any audience .However what is crucial is that it remains accessible,hypnotic and delivers...

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?
As a young drama/politics student in the 1970's companies such as Incubus, Footsbarn, Forkbeard Fantasy,Impact Theatre Co-op,Triple Action,IOU,Bread& Puppet,Lumiere and Son and Kaboodle really got me inspired.I was particularly influenced by the performances and writings of Paddy Fletcher.I have also been guided and appreciated the ensemble approach of my fellow core directors of Desperate Men- Jon Bedell,Shirley Pegna and Richie Smith.Their musical backgrounds really flavour the work.

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?
DM is 35 years old in September.What we produce is heavily influenced by our back catalogue of work and our creative history but also the contemporary political scene.We collaborate with old and new artists all the time.

We still have an appetite to strut our stuff and talk to people about issues.It's invariably about an exchange with audiences but our tools of engagement are often a bit surreal and silly.

Jon and I have worked together for nearly 20 years.This show is very much a result of this intense working relationship.It has two main characters in the piece but the chemistry and tensions that we
face daily as Jon and Richard are in the mix.The process is passionate but we always have collaborators who work as referees and framers.

 What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
On this piece the audience are the jury that we are playing too.We must convince them of our case.We must hold them,nail them to the pavement and persuade them that we have a just case and that our actions are valid and are meaningful.

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