Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Foaming Dramaturgy: Bruce @ Edfringe

BRUCE – From The Last Great Hunt (previously known as Weeping Spoon) - creators of award-winning international smash hits The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik and It's Dark Outside – comes a new lo-fi puppetry spectacular that bends time and melts your heart.  BRUCE will sweep you away on an epic adventure of love and revenge.  He may be just a floating block of yellow foam, but he’s is out to prove he’s got a heart of pure gold.  These exceptionally skilled puppeteers bring BRUCE to life and we witness the incredible comedic story of his life.  Underbelly Cowgate (Belly Button) from 6th August at 3.15pm.

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

Tim Watts: An object - the block of foam that is BRUCE inspired the show. We started with nothing and improvised in front of a mirror for four weeks until we had a show. Everything that came out of those improvisations and experiments came from Wyatt and I playing with that object, and two white gloves for hands. It led to ideas that we took further, but it certainly started with the object.

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?

A couple of reasons. Firstly Edinburgh Fringe is kickass, and it’s hard to think of a better way to spend August, bringing a show is a great excuse to come and be part of it. It’s an incredible celebration of what I love and devote my life to. Perth is a long way from everywhere else, and I always come back exhausted but so inspired to make more theatre and push myself in different directions. 

I love the idea of contributing to that, for people to see my stuff and also be inspired, whether as audience members or as artists. Then apart from that there is meeting people, other artists, and producers and hopefully getting more gigs out of it. I see Edinburgh as a market. And I guess above all I want people to see the show!

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
Expectations are dangerous, but inevitable. This show in many ways is very different to the previous shows I have taken to Edinburgh. Visually it is much more simple, and a bit more 'fringey'. What they can expect to SEE is a block of foam and some floating hands pretending to be a bunch of different characters for an hour. It’s a funny and heart-warming show that is a joyous head-fuck. They can expect to laugh, and maybe cry and be delighted by their own imagination as they dream in all the blanks. I hope they leave feeling full of joy and wonder.

The Dramaturgy Questions
How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
For me, dramaturgy is the editing process. It is vitally important to sculpt and refine what you have into something satisfying for an audience. But it can really mess up creativity and stunt play. So it tends to come in once we have something. It might come in and punctuate the week’s work, but we certainly don't start with it. The beauty of theatre is that you can always change it. Unlike a book or a film or painting, where once it’s done it’s done (except in certain cases), you can listen to the audience, see what they are responding to or are confused by or want more of and make changes to make the show better. 

My shows are experiments, and until the audience is in the room it’s just guess work. So I would say that once a show is open, it becomes in a sense all about the dramaturgy, trying to sculpt the best show possible out of what you have.

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?
I'd say clown, puppetry, animation and mime, though I feel a real overlap between them all. For me they are all deeply rooted in PLAY, and create a real magic through imaginative engagement with an audience. That sense of wonder and magic has always inspired me, and it's what I hope to bring to others. I love magic in theatre. I love it when what is invisible becomes visible, and what is visible becomes invisible. I think it’s when the audience is imaginatively engaged that they become more emotionally engaged. 

There is a humanity to the comedy of clown that I am addicted to, and simplicity to physical comedy and mime that lends itself so beautifully to puppetry and animation. 

A lot of my influences are actually from film. Charlie Chaplin, Pixar, Disney, Jim Henson, and Avatar: The Last Airbender (it’s a cartoon, and if you haven't heard of it check it out for sure!). Theatre that inspires me: Matilda,The Boy with Tape on his Face, Blind Summit, Bunk Puppets, Robert Lepage, James Thiérrée. They all have a playful innocence that is full of heart, wonder and humanity.

 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?
Each show and its process is different. For BRUCE we actually started making it back in 2008. We made the puppet and started performing sketches at stand up comedy nights. We would make the sketches by improvising wildly (often just hours before going on-stage) in front of the mirror making each other laugh, then once we had rough idea we would refine the best bits into a sketch that worked as a five min scene and drill that as best we could till we went on-stage. 

We were usually testing something out with him like 'do we get away with BRUCE playing multiple characters', then would see how the audience went. I guess how a comedian finds their style through trial and error. We found that when we started with an idea for a sketch and tried to make it, it would be terrible, and boring. But when we let go of it and started playing, great stuff would just come. BRUCE is a two-person puppet where I operate the head and Wyatt operates the hands, so in order for him to be alive, Wyatt and I have to listen to each other’s offers. 

What I love about collaboration is that when the play isn't led by any one person, and the scenes that come out are better than any one person’s ideas, greater than the sum of the parts. BRUCE embodies (or rather disembodies) the meeting point between Wyatt's and my brain.

We did about ten spots then both got too busy and didn't do anything with him for five years. Wyatt and I decided we wanted to make a theatre show with him, so in the tradition we started with nothing but the puppet and gave ourselves four weeks before our first season. We improvised wildly in front of a mirror, recording our impros, doing showings at the end of each week for a small audience. At a certain point we realised that for the show to sustain for an hour we needed to map out a satisfying narrative. So using the scenes we had generated, we sculpted a narrative, and filled in the blanks. Since opening we have continued to tweak and change the show as we gain a better understanding of what it is.

There are some things from this process that I often do in other processes. All my creations are treated as experiments and usually start with not much more than a burning curiosity. For puppetry improvising in front of a mirror is super useful because you have instant feedback and in a way are your own audience. I tend to film everything, there is often a magic in the way it was first improvised that is difficult to replicate, but easier if you have it filmed. 

I avoid over intellectualising a project and not getting anything done, I try not to start with too much before I get in a room and play. And when we're in a room, I try not to talk too much, or edit too early. So generally we will say 'screw story for now' let’s just improvise wildly, and ride that wave of creativity and ‘crappy’ ideas. And I like to bring the audience in as early as possible, showings are great for that.

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
For me, whatever the audience is getting from a show, that is the meaning, and it’s my job to try and understand and craft that experience into the best it can be. Which I why I like to start early in the process.

Are there any questions that you feel I have missed out that would help me to understand how dramaturgy works for you?
Oh look, I think I only just have a grasp on what dramaturgy means for me. I’ll have a think but I got nothing for you now. Maybe something to do with simplicity? Which I think is vital in theatre. A lot of my decisions particularly in the final stages of creation are about simplifying and distilling. 

Also speaking of ‘sequential art’ (comics as I call them) there is something that I learnt from Alan Moore to do with ‘symbology’, using repetitive symbols to create meaning where there might not be any. I think it is totally ok to not understand your own poetry. That is simply is beautiful in a way that can’t be justified. It happens all the time in fairy tales, a story or moment will just resound so profoundly for reasons that can’t and don't have to be articulated. So I guess what I'm getting at with these ramblings is that dramaturgy doesn't have to be intellectual. But maybe that’s obvious.

No comments :

Post a Comment