Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Destination Dramaturgy: Katherina Radeva and Alister Lownie @ Edfringe 2014

Near Gone by Two Destination Language.
(Katherina Radeva and Alister Lownie)
Delivered in English and Bulgarian, with fantastic gypsy-inspired music, this performance fills an empty space with two performers and 400 fresh flowers. It transforms you too, your sense of what it is to be a mother, a father, a child. And you’ll leave more fully alive than ever.

The FringeWhat inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?We started with an incident -- the accident which the narrative is about. Very soon, there were flowers too, but the show wasn't really about the accident until quite late on in its development. Lots of the show has never been in the script.

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?Performing is a way of starting a conversation with audience members, and it's good to talk -- particularly if you can choose the topic and then listen to what people have to say.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
Flowers: 400 flowers, white, alive but cut and dying. People: two performers, a couple, a family. Summer. Fear, hope, love.

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
Theatre is just holding a space (temporal and physical) in which things happen. Choosing what things isn't always obvious: it's about shaping the experience. It involves a lot of talking about what we're doing, why we're doing it this way or that, what else we could be doing and whether we shouldn't try it. At one point in making Near Gone, there was a goldfish. It was a live fish, then it was a dead fish, then a cardboard fish -- and then we got rid of the fish. That was dramaturgy.

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're like magpies. Music, painting, dance, travel, gameshows, poetry, drama, shopping, live art ... you take little bits that you like from all sorts of things that may or may not be culturally signified as art. Our work isn't Pinteresque, but we do like a good pause.

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?For theatre to work, it has to be collaborative: the audience is what makes it happen, so even if it's just ideas, or light in a room, if nobody is responding it isn't theatre. So we start by thinking about experiences for an audience -- and in that, we're working with each other, but often with very different starting points. Kat is very visual, so she draws and perhaps has particular images in mind; Alister is very wordy in the beginning. Sharing those things, gathering the bits that speak strongly, we share fragments with audiences to give us a stronger sense of what we're doing. 

When we get to rehearse something properly, it's good to get someone else in from time to time with a different perspective, a different way of making. On Near Gone, Charlotte Vincent came in and was really good at getting us to throw stuff out. The little that was left, we could make something much stronger from. As dramaturg, she was sharing her theatrical wisdom.

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
For it to exist properly, the work has to have audience. So there's that. But also, we aren't in control of the meaning. A certain space for audience to think, to feel, to reach their own interpretation, is something we enjoy when we're audience, and try to allow when we shape a piece too.

Are there any questions that you feel I have missed out that would help me to understand how dramaturgy works for you?What happens when things go wrong? Does dramaturgy change with each audience, each space, each performance? What happens when a piece has a failed dramaturgy? What are the skills of a dramaturg? What's the role of time?

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