Monday, 13 July 2015

Gambling on Dramaturgy: Gary McNair @ Edfringe 2015

The Traverse to host the world premiere of
Written and performed by Gary McNair
Directed by Gareth Nicholls
7-30 August in Traverse 2

From the team behind 2014's award-winning hit Donald Robertson Is Not A Stand-Up Comedian

What are the odds on living an extraordinary life? This is the story of one boy's granddad who won a fortune betting on the 1966 World Cup and, when diagnosed with cancer, gambled it all on living to see the year 2000. An inter-generational tale of what we live for and what we leave behind. Gary McNair returns to the Traverse after last year's award-winning five-star show Donald Robertson Is Not A Stand-Up Comedian. 
Writer/performer and theatre maker Gary McNair is making a welcome return to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival following the runs of the critically acclaimed Crunch at Forest Fringe in 2011 and Born To Run in 2012 and award winning Donald Robertson is not a Stand Up Comedian in 2014 at The Traverse.

The Fringe

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a
script or an object? 
Gary McNair: It began with a memory and the imagination. My shows are generally borne out of a memory or a need to speak about something important. That’s not to say that the memory pieces don’t strive to be important and that the important pieces don’t look to the past. Also, the memories I work from don’t tend to be tangible tracing of  events (i.e. the time we went to Spain) but rather they tend to be based on an emotional memory (i.e. how I remember feeling at a moment in time or how i was trying to make sense of the world). 

Why bring your work to Edinburgh? 
The fringe is like nothing else on earth. You get to put your work in a context where art becomes the centre of the universe for three weeks. There are thousands of people who have made the commitment to present work and many thousands more who want to experience it. You get to have your work seen by people from all over the world and I'm only 55 minutes from home! Why wouldn't you want to be a part of that? 
What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production? 
I hope that people will engage in the story. There are some laughs to help them along the way but it is certainly my most story driven piece of work yet and the one that has the most emotional engagement. Crucially, whatever ever people take from it, you've cracked it with the question- I always hope that my audiences leave both thinking and feeling something that they didn't feel or hadn't thought about before they went in.

The Dramaturgy Questions
How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work? 
Dramaturgy is hugely important, from the smallest detail to the bigger questions of structure and the wider importance of the piece. This goes for all work, I believe, with very few exceptions, I believe that all work is stronger for a dramaturgical scrutiny.

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 gather inspiration from all kinds of places. The people that have had the most profound influence in me as an artist are not necessarily in the same field or discipline as me but I may have taken hope from their work. For example- I don't think I would ever write the way that Kurt Vonnegut wrote, I have no desire to make music like Joni Mitchell or sculpt like Anish Kapoor, but knowing that they could express themselves in such incredible ways gives me hope to find ways to express myself in my art form. 

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?

It doesn't always start the same but generally an idea will float about in my head for a while and if it won't leave me alone I'll run it past my wife and that's where it will begin- she is a writer and I trust her ability to tell me if she thinks its a goer. From then on it becomes an equally solitary and collaborative process inasmuch as that I need to go away and work on my own for sometime to shape it into something worthwhile before regularly sharing it with trusted regular collaborators like my wife or the pieces director. This piece has had lots of valuable input and questions thrown at it by Katy before more work and then being scrutinised further by Gareth in the rehearsal room.

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work? 
For me, the audience is hugely important. Of course they are- without them theatre is merely rehearsal. The beauty of live performance is that you can learn things from an audience it becomes a conversation of sorts and they can help you, if you read them well, to develop and craft the work to help it resonate the way that you hoped it would. Of course every audience member is different and will interpret the work differently so you should you should never try to change your work to please one of them that you feel didn't enjoy it- then you're not being true to the work. The key is to respect them and to trust that they respect you to make the work.

Gary McNair says:
“I’m thrilled to be back at the Traverse performing my brand new show, A Gambler’s Guide to Dying, at this year’s festival. It was a brilliant venue for performing Donald Robertson Is Not A Stand Up Comedian in last year and I was delighted to be welcomed with such appreciative audiences and reviews there. I’ve always loved the Traverse, so to be back for a third time feels like coming home.
I’m also excited to be included in this year’s Made In Scotland Showcase. The panel continually selects an incredible line up and looking at the other artists on board this year, it seems that there is just so much to look forward to once again.”
Orla O’ Loughlin, Traverse Artistic Director comments:
“After the success of Donald Robertson is not a Stand Up Comedian last year, it’s brilliant to have Gary back at The Traverse. Having his show included as part of Made in Scotland is a tribute to the quality of Gary’s joyful performance”

PREVIEW: Thu 6 Aug (9pm) 
DATES & TIMES: 7 August – 30 August (not Mondays) Various times
PREVIEW TICKETS: £13 (£7 concession)
TICKETS: Full Price £18 
Standard Concession £13 
Other Concessions £8
BOX OFFICE: 0131 228 1404 or
Gary McNair is a writer, performer and director from Glasgow. His specialty is work that directly addresses his audiences, while entertaining and challenging them in equal measures. His previous visits to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe have included;
Crunch (Forest Fringe 2011) a satirical motivational speech about the power of money, which received global headlines for its controversial ending that invited audience members to shred the money in their pockets (“A very smart hour worth something more than money: your time” **** The Guardian).
Born To Run (Traverse 2012) which saw performer Shauna McDonald perform McNair’s humorous and heartfelt 60-minute monologue, about a woman with epilepsy becoming obsessed with running 100s of miles to keep her condition at bay, while running on a treadmill (Received various 5 star reviews and was nominated for the Carol Tambor Award).
Donald Robertson is Not a Stand Up Comedian (Traverse 2014) which saw McNair perform at his “brilliant best” (****Scotsman) to sold out audiences. The show is part play part stand up that saw Gary teach a young boy, Donald, the darker side of comedy, only for it to have darker repercussions for McNair himself.  Winner of the Edinburgh Art Club/Edinburgh Guide Flying Artichoke Award (“A tour de force with a whole lot of heart and a must-see”***** The Stage)

In recent years Gary has created work for National Theatre of Scotland, Oran Mor, The Citizens, The Arches, Trigger, The Traverse, has toured across the UK and had work translated and presented work across the world.

Gareth Nicholls is the Main-stage Director In Residence at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow and co-artistic director of new work company Utter.  His directing credits include Into That Darkness by Gitta Sereny (Citizens Theatre), The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot by Oliver Emanuel (Macrobert/Arches), Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas (Tron Theatre), Donald Robertson Is Not A Stand-Up Comedian by Gary McNair (Traverse Theatre). Gareth is also an Associate Artist of Company of Angels while previously he’s been a National Theatre of Scotland Emerging Artist and an Imaginate Artist in Residence.

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