Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Northern Dramaturgy: Daniel Bye @ Edfringe 2015

 An ARC Production written and performed by Daniel Bye

Going Viral | 8 - 30 Aug, 2.10 – 3.20pm
A new virus has broken out. Everyone in the world starts weeping. What now? Going Viral is a show about how things spread. Drawing on the science of epidemics, it explores the spread of disease, of panic, of ideas. 

It shows how our society reacts, and how our connected world makes us all more vulnerable, and more human. Going Viral is a new development in Daniel's trademark blend of comedy, storytelling and performance lecture.

The Fringe

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Daniel Bye: How I started and where I’ve got to are, as ever, so
distinct that I’m not sure how helpful to understanding the finished piece is a discussion of its starting points. 

There came a point, months after officially 'starting', when I took a definite path towards this show being what it is now. At that point it stopped being about scientific attempts to model the future and started being about what it’s about now. 

There are traces of its antecedence in there, but the path is much clearer from this point on. And even after this point, subject matter was sloughed off regularly. It’s usually only a couple of months before its on that a show accepts it can’t be about absolutely everything in the world.

When other people say where they started, or what inspired them, I wonder if they’re talking about this moment, the choice of a path that with hindsight clearly heads to the finish - rather than the months of flailing about in the thickets that I assume everyone else goes through too.

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
I came to Edinburgh regularly in my twenties - seven years out of ten, I think - but then had a long gap. There wasn’t any value for me in spending all that money on an expensive berth in the shop window.

Four years ago, with my show The Price of Everything going reasonably well, it was clear that I really needed my work to be seen outside of a small number of venues, and to be seen by some press, if I was to be in a position to make more of it, and to get to perform The Price of Everything more than a dozen or so times. It paid off, and just as was the case in my twenties, I guess I’ll keep coming back until I get bitten.

Also, the last two Edinburgh Fringes I’ve performed at have been genuinely joyful experiences. Now that I’m a bit older and a bit less terrified, its lovely to be surrounded by lots of brilliant people and their brilliant work. I hang out in bars with people like 
Alex Kelly and Chris Thorpe, people whose work made me want to do this job in the first place. The intensity of the environment is a real thrill for one month a year. And when it all gets too much, which it regularly does, the countryside nearby is beautiful to disappear into.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?It’s not as funny as my last couple of shows. After the first few minutes there really aren’t very many jokes. It’s a little unsettling, slightly hyper real, with an emotional charge that hasn’t particularly been part of my recent work. It’s also a fairly damning indictment of the global behaviour of people like me, of whom there will be plenty in the audience. Hopefully that’s a worthwhile sword to swing.

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?

Dramaturgy, for me, is two things. Firstly, it’s the underlying set of structures and assumptions on which basis the show functions. To talk about its dramaturgy is in that sense to talk about how its form carries its content. 

And secondly, dramaturgy is the process of interrogating these structures and assumptions as part of making the show. Dramaturgy is important in everyone’s work, not just mine; if you don’t recognise that then the chances are you’re simply working within uninterrogated and conventional models. (Which is probably fine, by the way, but it’s not what I’m interested in.) 

In order to think about this I almost always have a dramaturg on the creative team, and for a lot of the process the director’s role is also as much dramaturgical as directorial. Perhaps that remains true to the end.

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?
When I made The Price of Everything I was really aware of various

degrees of influence from Chris Goode, Tim Crouch, Stewart Lee and Daniel Kitson among millions of others. Some of that was obvious in the finished product, some of it I imagine less so. Increasingly, I’m influenced by the experience of doing my own work in front of audiences, and by the work I’m not seeing. 

I’m sure there are some influences in there, but I use them as touchstones much less than I used to. Having said that, every show gets compared to something you didn’t know you were influenced by. Others see things you don’t. Also, every show gets described by two or three observers as “clearly influenced by” something I’ve never seen or (occasionally) even heard of. I look forward to discovering what that is this time.

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?
There’s certainly a lot of collaboration in the process. It looks a lot like a series of conversations between me and the collaborators. I improvise a bit in the room, I bring in some bits of writing. We talk about that, I re-improvise, I re-write. I show a lot of embryonic work to audiences - for me this is a massively important barometer. I’m not interested in formal feedback, so much as a sense of how it’s going over from moment to moment.What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?  It’s often a cop-out to say that everyone makes their own meaning. But of course they do. It’s important, I think, that makers have a clear sense of the meanings they’re trying to make. Sometimes this will be closely controlled and that, or nothing, is exactly what the audience will get. 

And sometimes the audience will pick up on things you didn’t even know where there. My job is to generate an experience that is shared by the people gathered in the room. That experience generates meanings. But I don’t choose the meanings. I choose the vehicles for meaning.

I hope audiences will connect to the ideas I try to animate in the show. I hope they will connect them in the way I do. When this process is really working at its best, though, audiences get as far as I did and much further.

Are there any questions that you feel I have missed out that would help me to understand how dramaturgy works for you? 

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