Friday, 3 July 2015

Get Saved with Dramaturgy: British Exist Theatre @ Edfringe 2015

The FringeWhat inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
This Production was directly inspired by the award winning documentary Jesus Camp on Netflix. We'd been looking to create a new musical for a while but never really found the right idea that would blend with the genre. As soon as we saw the documentary we knew it was too good to miss. Obviously, the documentary is quite serious, something our show is not, but it gave us so much scope for fun and controversy that we just had to go for it. For us, it had 'Fringe' written all over it.

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
The Edinburgh Fringe is just such a melting pot of creativity that to miss it would be a huge mistake. As a relatively small company, the fringe gives us so many opportunities. From reviewers, to producers, to people with great stories; the fringe has it all. Our work gets seen by hundreds of people during August and we always learn so much. Edinburgh is also a yearly source of inspiration for future work. Some things we like, some things we don't, but we always come out the other side with fresh ideas and a new sense of energy about creating work.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
Although our show is somewhat controversial, we strongly believe that it's full of charm and innocence. We're not out to slate peoples beliefs, we just want to shed light on some of the more disturbing elements of organised religion. 

It's all shown through the eyes of two impressionable 12-year-olds which makes it all the more poignant. But don't get us wrong, this is a hugely upbeat musical comedy... it just happens to have a message. Our audiences can expect to laugh, tap their feet and connect with our two characters, even with all their faults.

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
We always create new work and so we aren't just performers. We write, direct, produce and act for all our work. Creating any new piece is a slow burn for us. We go for months waiting for any kind of idea and then all of a sudden have a eureka moment. Writing new work is a team exercise. 

For this show we have Winston Eade joining the writing team for composing the music, Bethan Francis (co-founder) on lyrics and Dan Peter Reeves (co-founder) on the book.Although this show is inspired by a documentary, it's a totally original story around the concept. We always start with a very basic concept and build it up from there.

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?
Obviously, we've been swatting up on all our musical theatre knowledge, which wasn't bad as we're all crazy about musicals anyway. We looked mostly at the more unknown cult musical comedies. 

Not just because they're great, but because this is where we believe our market to be. Also, more well known shows like 'Little shop of Horrors', where people have taken an idea and twisted it into something gloriously dark and funny.

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?
Start simple. The concept is everything. If the idea sound great in one sentence then it can be built into something amazing. That's our general belief. It might not happen over night, but it always comes with relative ease. If it doesn't, then it's probably time to let go. As this was our first musical, we weren't really sure what elements should come first. 

Generally it happened that the book inspired music, which in turn lead to lyrics. We had several occasions where someone had an idea that totally changed the direction of the whole show. We even totally changed the whole persona of one the characters after a few weeks of intense writing. For us, it's all about trying things, playing and letting things go. And it seems to work.

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work? The audience is everything. They bring this show to life. We've had people watch it that really disagreed with our message but still had a great time. Although our show has a clear agenda, we never set our to upset or offend people. 

We are addressing a very specific type of Christianity, one very very few people believe in the UK. One that is almost unarguably wrong. Because of this I think we are pretty safe on the causing upset front, but it allows the message to run a bit deeper. We hope people will leave wondering "Well, yeah, that's wrong. But does that mean this is wrong too?". Take the message or leave it, we're all just here to have a good time.

Are there any questions that you feel I have missed out that would help me to understand how dramaturgy works for you?
We have a podcast where Dan Peter Reeves and Bethan Francis talk through the whole process of writing and staging this show. 

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