Thursday, 16 July 2015

Happy Dramaturgy Without You: Sonia Jalaly @ Edfringe 2015

PaperMash Theatre and Tricycle Theatre present
Happy Birthday Without You
Written and performed by Sonia Jalaly

Directed by: Ruby Thompson; Sound Design by: Luke Pajak; Lighting Design by: Max Blackman; Original Set Design by: Freyja Costelloe; Produced by: Lise Bell
Press performance: 10 August
Paines Plough’s ROUNDABOUT at Summerhall

Following a successful run at the Tricycle Theatre, PaperMash Theatre’s Happy Birthday Without You, a one-woman comedy written and performed by Sonia Jalaly, makes its Edinburgh Fringe debut. This co-production with the Tricycle Theatre, which won the 2014 Best Newcomer Award at the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival, runs in Paines Plough’s award-winning Roundabout auditorium at Summerhall.

Happy Birthday Without You centres on the fictional performance artist Violet Fox, portraying the struggle of an artist desperate to find herself more extraordinary than what she sees as her distinctly ordinary audience. This cabaret piece explores a growing cultural obsession with autobiography through songs, impersonations, and satire.

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
From the beginning I was wary of working on my own, getting bogged down and not being able to see where I was going with the character and the play. It has proved to be important for me to work collaboratively throughout the scripting and devising process so I would say anyone who has been involved in the varying points of this process has in some way acted as a dramaturg. I feel we have taken care of the structure and coherence of the piece collectively. 
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?
The character I play, Violet Fox, believes she is talented in every possible kind of performance so there are many traditions, artists and genres that have influenced and inspired this character; from popular spoken word artists on youtube, to broadway stars, to avant garde performance artists, to scat singers, to contemporary dancers, to poets, to pop stars and so on.

However, in reality, Violet Fox is a clown. She gets it wrong, badly wrong. She falls over, misses her cue and mucks up the rhyme and that’s where the comedy lies. In rehearsals I have drawn heavily on clown traditions explored by practitioners such as Gaulier. In each scene I am always looking for what ‘the game’ is or, as Gaulier calls it, ‘le jeu’. 

‘The game’ can exist between Violet and the audience, Violet and a prop, Violet and the stage, Violet and the technician etc. When the audience understands the rules of ‘the game’ they find it funnier when it inevitably goes wrong. For example there is a scene in the play where Violet sets herself the challenge of playing musical chairs by herself but unfortunately for her the sound cues mess up. ‘The game’ is established between Violet and the CD player and, as the rules are broken, anarchy ensues, leaving Violet covered in lipstick and post-it notes by the end of the scene. 

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?
I began with an idea for a character- a performance artist who clearly thinks she is better than her audience but in reality gets it very wrong- and an idea for a question- who and what is autobiographical performance for? 

I wrote a monologue and found a voice and tested it out at a scratch night. This really helped me understand who this character was and by this point I felt I was in a position to develop a story for her. The audience at the scratch night responded well to the image Violet created of her mother being an awful drunk who cried singing Cabaret and always forgot her birthday. I decided to try and find out how far I could push the relationship between Violet and her mother within the premise of forgotten childhood birthday parties. 

I wrote a very rough, very short first draft and took it into a rehearsal room with Ruby Thompson, who would later become the director, and Lise Bell, the producer. We read it through once and then we put the script down and began improvising and taking apart the structure. After a week of workshops I felt I understood what the script needed and was reminded of what the driving force behind it was. This was the beginning of a very playful and collaborative scripting and devising process that is still continuing.  
What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work? 
Every new audience a run of this show has brought has taught me more about the structure and the drive of the play. Consequently, every time we have done a run we have made changes and pushed the character to further extremes. Both Violet and the show are constantly evolving and without the audiences’ responses this would not be possible. 

Additionally, this show features a number of references from different eras. In some ways the show is very current and works well for young audiences because of the spoken-word-gritty-urban-performer side to Violet Fox.

On the other hand, older audiences have been surprised by the number of references that feel particularly relevant to their generation and have told me I am old beyond my years. Therefore the best audiences I have had have been made up of a mixed bag of ages. I feel that’s when the play’s meaning really comes to life and I, and therefore the audience, have the most fun.  

Violet Fox is an award winning live and visual spoken word vegan solo artist and occasional collaborator. Today is a celebration of every birthday. And you’re invited. Bring beer and bunting and come on a journey through Violet’s childhood of pop tarts, Patti Smith and second hand smoke. In Happy Birthday Without You Violet tells the story of her complicated relationship with her mother through a series of birthday anecdotes, musical interludes and cake. 

Sonia Jalaly trained as an actor at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, graduating in December 2013. Happy Birthday Without You is her second solo show. She performed her first, Women Of Tackley, at The John Thaw Studio in Manchester in 2011. She writes and performs her own material at a number of cabaret nights in Manchester and London. As an actor, her credits include include Things Will Never Be The Same Again (Tricycle Theatre), Honey Blood (The Lowry), Apparition (The Portico Library), A Preoccupation with Romance (Zoo Southside, Edinburgh Fringe), and Tilley (RNCM).

No comments :

Post a Comment