Saturday, 25 July 2015

Dramaturgy and a Slice of Lemon: Walrus @ Edfringe 2015

Walrus presents


Winner of three awards at the National Student Drama Festival 2015, Walrus’ debut show…

The average person will speak 123,205,750 words in a lifetime. But what if there were a limit? Oliver and Bernadette are about to find out.

This two-person show imagines a world where we’re forced to say less; examining how we express ourselves, personally and politically, through the lens of one couple’s relationship. It’s about what we say and how we say it; about the things we can only hear in the silence; about dead cats, activism, eye contact and lemons, lemons, lemons, lemons, lemons.
Zoo Southside (Venue 82)                     
7 - 22 August 2015              
4.00pm (55 mins) 

The Fringe

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
The play is about a world in which there is a daily limit on the number of words people can say aloud, and was loosely inspired by a poem that the writer, Sam, and director, Ed, had both come to separately. 

When Ed approached Sam with the idea of making a piece of theatre around the concept, Sam sent him a script for a short film that he had already written on the subject, and they began to talk about how making this kind of dystopian world work on stage would be different to putting it on screen. After a lot of wrangling, the first few scenes of the play that would become Lemons emerged.

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
Edinburgh is an incredible platform, and a relatively unique opportunity to be part of such a large, diverse and stimulating community of artists and audiences. A lot of the conversations that led to the creation of Lemons took place at the Fringe last year; in that sense, it’s a place to get inspired. More than that, it’s a place that offers the chance not only to showcase your work, but to think about where that work sits in a larger ecosystem, and about how it might be able to grow and develop further.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
We hope that audiences are moved and amused and entertained, but also that they leave the theatre thinking about the ways in which we communicate with one another. What’s the difference between talking and actually saying something? That’s a big question, for us. 

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
In the process of rehearsals for Lemons, I think we have implicitly taken “dramaturgy” to mean “dramatic logic”. For example, before we began rehearsals proper for the first run of the show at Warwick Arts Centre in January, we had several development weekends, where we work-shopped material written by Sam with the director and cast members. 

These workshops allowed us to interrogate the effect of structure and of the ways in which the characters were written; allowed Ed to experiment with various staging possibilities and to assess what each of these did to the text. In that sense, we have all - writer, director and performers - taken responsibility for the dramaturgy of the piece, meaning, for us, the logic that binds together writing, direction and performances into a cohesive dramatic composition.

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?
It feels like there is a particular tradition of the “festival play” - an hour-long, bare-stage, small cast show with low overheads and massive flexibility to perform in a range of spaces. There was never really a point in the development of Lemons where we decided that those were the parameters, but that is how the show grew. That is probably half artistic, and half practical - we are an emerging company who want to take our work all over, and for as many people to see it as possible. Within those parameters there is a kind of challenge: how do you set your show apart? How do you respond to those parameters bravely, and creatively, and uniquely? I think we’ve tried to respond to those questions in the process of making the show.

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?
As mentioned above, the Lemons process began with development workshops where the writer, director and cast were able to play with material, some of which has made it into the final show, and a lot of which hasn’t. 

It became clear to us from these workshops that we enjoyed working with the writer in the room. It was a set-up which gave us a sense that the text was flexible, and able to respond to ideas being explored by the director and actors. We feel very strongly that this way of working, and the kind of egalitarianism it promoted within the rehearsal room, will become a tenet of our company’s work.

What do you feel the role of the audience is,
in terms of making the meaning of your work? 
The role of the audience is huge. In rehearsals we talked a lot about the fact that we don’t want to make work which alienates audiences, but that sometimes puzzlement and uncertainty are fascinating things to feel when you’re watching theatre. 

From its title to its dramatic structure to its staging, Lemons is a piece of work which we hope manages to both generous and elliptical; which is warm and open in its invitation to audiences to engage in the process of making meaning. Someone who saw the show at the National Student Drama Festival described it as “the best kind of theatrical challenge”, and that was a very fulfilling compliment to receive.

Are there any questions that you feel I have missed out that would help me to understand how dramaturgy works for you?
It’s something that we’ve touched on in our answers here, but it might be worth asking people about how/whether dramaturgy operates as a cross-disciplinary concept connecting the multiple people working on a project. Is there a “dramaturgical line” to be drawn between the work of the lighting designer, stage manager and publicity designer of a production, for example? 

“Beautifully written and performed. Emotionally and intellectually fulfilling. The best kind of theatrical challenge and I loved it.”
Chris Thorpe

Walrus is a young company made up of graduates from the University of Warwick. Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons premiered at the Warwick Arts Centre before heading to the National Student Drama Festival in March 2015, where it won three awards, including judges’ commendations for playwright Sam Steiner and director Ed Franklin. The production will visit the Latitude Festival in July, before its Edinburgh run. The company’s style is formally innovative, theatrically intimate, and concerned with finding new ways to stage our relationship with the world around us.

“Lemons is a witty, super-smart play that is given the pin-sharp production it deserves.”  
Chris Haydon, Artistic Director of the Gate Theatre

 “Steiner makes the halting exchanges between just one couple become a telling metaphor for our mutual failure to say what we really mean.”  
Robert Hewison, The Sunday Times


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