Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Philosophical Dramaturgy: Charlie Dupré @ Edfringe 2015

The Fringe

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
I like rapping and I like philosophy. A friend suggested that I put these things together and see what happened, so that's what I did, although it actually ended up involving various other performance skills, such as comedy, mime and shoe-stealing. 

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?It's a fantastic hub of creativity and awesomeness - the chance to observe the sheer variety of ways in which a room can be entertained, and to experiment over a longer run than usual. And they have great jacket potatoes. 

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
They can expect to see a man morphing into 12 philosophers and a chicken, to try and work out who he really is. They can expect to feel existential angst, messianic despair, confused joy, joyful confusion, considerable aural titillation, and the need for more hats. 
They can expect to think too much about how to think less. 

God and Dawkins face off in heated rap battle
Nietzsche gets Russell Brand-esque makeover
Rap-actor Charlie Dupré plays 12 philosophers (and a chicken)

Legendary Scottish philosopher David Hume is hilariously brought to life in a fantastic new solo comedy theatre show at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

In Charlie and the Philosorappers, writer and performer Charlie Dupré transforms himself into Hume, playing him as a dour Scotsman trying to ignore the affections of his Self. Hume, whose statue stands proudly on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, famously did not believe in a ‘self’, thinking humans were instead made up of a ‘bundle of sensations’.

In the high-octane Charlie and the Philosorappers show, God and Richard Dawkins go head to head in a rap battle – with the audience deciding who wins. Other philosophers who get the Dupré treatment are Nietzsche, who looks strikingly similar to egotistical Essex comedian Russell Brand, Descartes re-born as a rationalistic hip-hop artist and Jeremy Bentham as a Made In Chelsea reject.

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
It contains a rather bizarre conglomerate of styles that came about as a by-product of needing to find innovative ways to present each philosopher. Rap is a regular feature, but there are episodes of sketch comedy, mime, song so I guess I'm trying to explore as many ways in which one can do things on a piece of floor in front of some sitting-down people as possible, and tie this together thematically with my search for identity, in which the narrative is rooted.

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?
Absolutely - Eminem is definitely in there. I love the letter form that he uses in Stan and often use it to tell tragic stories, in this case a young philosopher desperately pleading with Reality to come back to him. Tim Minchin has also been a big inspiration with his ponderous and very personal comic song-writing. And a few philosophers, I suppose. Yes I absolutely do. I am philosophy's face-lift.

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 wrote a first draft, performed it for some people, and asked for feedback. I then re-wrote it (whiskey and all-nighters were involved with this part), edited when soberer, and repeated the process about three or four times. I did work with a director for a day, and she was helpful, but other than that it's just been me and people's comments, which I think has worked quite well, although I'm keen to collaborate more on my next project.

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
Philosophy is all about interpretation and what it means for you. I've tried to offer mine in the most entertaining way possible, to encourage the audience to develop theirs. The narrative follows a progression of ideas, but it is up to them to form the conclusions. There are a few group activities, including a freestyle rap using words that they provide, so it can be very unpredictable, with the audience invited to respond and challenge. That said, no-one really has to do anything more than just enjoy the spectacle of a one-man rap tirade.

Are there any questions that you feel I have missed out that would help me to understand how dramaturgy works for you?
When I worked with my director she suggested that I change the concept so it was me telling a real story as me, rather than playing characters throughout. While I do lurch across personas, I found it really helpful to keep the show anchored in truth in this way and relate it to them as if they were mates down the pub. This way they have a much better sense of why this story is being told, and I think this is important if you want their complicity throughout the journey.

Writer and performer Charlie Dupré says:
Charlie and the Philosorappers is designed to make philosophy exciting and fun. Thinkers such as Edinburgh’s own David Hume genuinely changed the world – but their work is often seen as difficult and out-of-date. Using rap, theatre and comedy I’m hoping to show Fringe-goers the human side of these great thinkers, and how they can help us understand ourselves and the modern world.”

Rapper, actor and poet Charlie Dupré has supported the likes of Scroobius Pip and Kate Tempest, and was a BBC Slam finalist in 2014. His first full-length rap-theatre show, The Stories of Shakey P, gave Shakespeare stories a riveting contemporary slant. Commissioned in part by the RSC, it debuted to acclaim at the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe. Since then it has toured festivals and schools, had London showings at the Arcola, the Roundhouse, the Tristan Bates Theatre, and at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon.

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