Monday, 6 July 2015

Panic Dramaturgy: Joseph Mercier @ Edfringe 2015

The Fringe

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
This show emerged out of a life long dream of being a superhero. A dream we knew was probably impossible – but secretly hoped wasn’t. 

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
Lycra, stunts, projected illustrations, Batman wannabes, a red telephone, samurai swords, origin stories, a green ring, an interrogation, a big reveal, Queen and Tom Jones, a tango, hidden identities, a pow, a schwack, an explosion, a force-field, a gun, a list of every superhero every invented, confusion, a nerd, super soldier serum, a sinister plot, a secret lair, an unexpected love story and multiple endings.

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
This piece is engaging with a dramaturgy of failure. We set ourselves up with an impossible task – to convince an audience that we are superheroes – in the hopes that the most interesting aspect to emerge out of this task would be our failure, our failure to be ‘super’.

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 show is hugely inspired by comic books – particularly superhero comic books – and cosplay. It draws heavily on superhero, action and sci-fi films, and popular cultural in a wider sense. We recently performed at Comic-con in London and felt very at home. 

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?
Every part of this show is a collaboration. Even in performance the show continues to be collaborative.

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
The more the audience gets involved, the better. At a recent performance in London, a friend of ours with tourettes attended the show. At one point a character says ‘every hero needs an arch nemesis’ and she yelled out ‘David Cameron’. Or ‘Oh fuck’ or ‘she’s behind you’. Her interjections were an inspired contribution to the performance. Ideally, we would love every audience member to feel like they have the space to be this involved.

Joseph Mercier explains the background of the show:
R.I.O.T. is the result of a lifetime of wanting to be a superhero, and three years of figuring out how to put that childhood dream on stage. The result is a comic book come to life that mixes spoken text, projected illustrated imagery and high octane fighting.

Early on in the creative process, we discovered, to our dismay, that we are not, in fact, superheroes. It was a humbling experience to discover just how human we are and so the piece quickly became about that: us, as performers, trying as hard as we can to be ‘super’, pushing our physicality as far as we could but knowing we would ultimately fail.

We love superheroes – but we’re critical about how those stories are told by dominant cultures and in the media. The show challenges tropes of representation in everyday media, such as women in comic books, political activists in the news, and the very idea of a hero and a villain. R.I.O.T. questions the power of information, of personal narratives and stories – and who’s in control of them.’

Joseph Mercier trained at the School of Alberta Ballet, received a BFA at Concordia University in Montreal and MA in Directing at the Central School of speech and Drama. He recently completed a PhD at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, where he also teaches movement and academic research. 

PanicLab is a company started by producer Clara Giraud and Joseph Mercier to produce and create projects with a regular company of collaborators, including: sound designer Dinah Mullen, lighting designer Ziggy Jacobs and Scenographer Rachel Good. PanicLab has been making work since 2008, touring international festivals and UK venues such as Soho Theatre, New Wolsey Theatre, Unity Theatre Liverpool, mac Birmingham to name a few.

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