Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Soaking Dramaturgy: Alison Carr @ Edfringe 2015

Rosie & Me in association with Live Theatre presents:

A compelling, moving and funny solo-show about a girl with a remarkable gift.

Written by Alison Carr | Directed by Rosie Kellagher | Performed by Tessa Parr

The Pleasance, 5-31 August 2015 (not 18)

“audaciously offbeat ... Carr sustains the bold premise through the vividness of her writing” ★★★★ The Times on Fat Alice

We are delighted to announce that Tessa Parr will be reprising her role as Vera Shrimp. Tessa originated the role at the previews at Newcastle upon Tyne’s Live Theatre last year, with audiences praising her performance as “fresh”, “beautiful”, “vital” and“compelling”. Tessa’s stage credits include 2014’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe show Dead to Me directed by Selma Dimitrijevic (Northern Stage at Roundabout); Get Santa (Northern Stage); Alice in Bed (Tender Buttons).

During an almighty rainstorm, Vera Shrimp discovers an extraordinary ability. But as her family disintegrates, Vera's gift develops a darker and more urgent significance. Part science lesson, part story-telling, this is a poignant and playful solo-show about love, grief and never giving up.

Written by Alison Carr | Directed by Rosie Kellagher | Performed by Tessa Parr | Design by Emily James | Sound by Nick Williams

Attic, The Pleasance, 5-31 August 2015 (not 18), 12:45pm

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
The idea that eventually became the basis for The Soaking of Vera Shrimp started with a project I did with Forward Theatre back in 2011. They were doing a series of scratch nights and we were tasked to write short plays inspired by design brief packages that we picked at random. Mine was a short story about a man who builds a boat in his basement, pictures of caves and wet clothes. 

The turnaround was very quick, but somewhere out of that came this idea of a girl who thinks raindrops contain emotions. The play has been through a hell of a lot of change and development since then, not least going from a ten minute monologue to an hour-long solo show, but that was the starting point.

 Why bring your work to Edinburgh?

It will enable it to be seen by a much larger audience, and be available to a really wide-range of theatre-goers. We want other theatre-makers, the press, potential programmers to see the play too. And we’re playing the whole Festival, so it will give the piece a good long run rather than a night here, or a couple of nights there. I also have really fond memories of the Fringe – I've been going up there as a tourist since I was a teenager. I worked in the Pleasance Box Office one summer when I was a student and had a brilliant time. 

That experience really inspired me to want to have a show there one day. My first two plays went to the Fringe, in 2004 my play Patricia Quinn Saved My Life had a sell-out run with 5065 Lift and Fat Alice was part of the Traverse Breakfast Plays last year. So it’s a place I love and love to be part of.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
What they’ll see is a girl who wants to talk them through her science project, who has important things to tell them and needs them to understand. I don’t want to prescribe what they’ll feel or think. Come along for that!

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
I consider myself first and foremost a writer, rather than a theatre-maker. Vera Shrimp has taken me into other areas (which I will get to!) but for it, and my other work, dramaturgy all about getting outside eyes on a script. You stop seeing the wood for the trees when you’re eating, sleeping, breathing a new play. It’s about having someone I trust – I’m having to show them the earliest drafts, after all – and someone who will be honest with me but won’t crush my spirit.

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?

Vera Shrimp has been an anomaly in my process as the way it has been created is new to me. Partly because originally it was conceived as a one-woman play for me to perform. Director/dramaturg Rosie Kellagher came on-board on that understanding and I performed some work-in-progress showings. 

But it didn't work. I was a narrator rather than Vera, and the play had a big Vera-shaped hole in it! When we won the Live Theatre/Empty Space Bursary in 2013, this enabled Rosie and I to take the play in another direction and bring actor Tessa Parr on-board.  It demanded a more collaborative approach, the three of us in a room trying things out, sharing ideas, finding the character(s) and story beats. I eventually took all of the material away and wrote the play, but it was a very different road getting to that rehearsal draft.  

 What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work? 
In this play the audience are central. The story is told directly to them. There are moments when we ask them to join in (it’s not mandatory and as a group, nothing scary!) and our preview audiences told us how torn they felt in one particular moment – sympathy for Vera, but complicit in her distress. The feedback we have received so far is fascinating – the different reactions, the different things people are taking away from the play, the character, its themes and ideas.

Fresh from the sell-out success of her A Play, A Pie and A Pint Fat Alice, former Traverse 50 writer Alison Carr brings her new play to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Currently making a name for herself with her unique voice and distinctive style, this up-and-coming playwright’s other work includes Paines Plough’s Come To Where I’m From (Live Theatre and the Southbank Centre); A Wondrous Place (Northern Spirit, tour - ★★★★ The Guardian) and Dolly Would (BBC Radio 4).

The Soaking of Vera Shrimp was awarded the 2013 Live Theatre/The Empty Space Bursary Award for innovative artists exploring different ways in which text and performance can be brought together.

The play also saw Alison be nominated Writer of the Year at the recent Journal Culture Awards, a celebration of the best arts and culture in the North East of England.

Director Rosie Kellagher has made work with companies including A Play, A Pie And A Pint, Open Clasp with Frantic Assembly, Soho Theatre, the Southbank Centre, Live Theatre, Vanishing Point, The Arches and Traverse theatres. Her production Tir Nan Og won the MTM Award for Best New Musical at the Edinburgh Festival and she is a previous winner of the Arches Award for Stage Directors. She has also adapted literary classics including A Christmas Carol for the stage and directed drama for BBC Radio. Later this year, Rosie will take up a new position as Literary Associate at the Traverse Theatre.

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