Thursday, 16 July 2015

The Dramaturgicon: Ali Maloney @ Edfringe 2015

The Fringe

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?

This particular show, HYDRONOMICON, was inspired by a variety of ideas. I was interested in exploring how to mould the bouffon discipline to storytelling. I was particularly struck by two shows that operated in, or around, bouffon: Red Bastard and Al Seed's Fooligan. (Aside: Red Bastard for me, was the closest I have ever been to seeing slam-dancing to spoken word, which is something I strive to achieve.) I was keen to explore the issues and techniques used by them and see how they could fit into my own style of performance poetry. 

Concurrently to this, I also had this idea of telling the story of the end of the world by flooding. Traditionally, flood myths always open with humanity bringing the wrath of the gods upon themselves; if there was ever a situation that invited the satirical sneer of the bouffon, it is this: would we deserve to be annihilated? Probably, yes.

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
I live here so, inevitably, the majority of my formative theatrical experiences were at the Festival, so it makes sense to have aspired to perform here too. That, and I live here, so it's easy and cheap(er than it otherwise would be here) and I can sleep in my own bed rather than ten to a mattress squat.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
There are jokes, and there are moments of utter bleakness; there are moments of flippant silliness, there are moments of terrifying truth. Sometimes these moments happen all at the same time. I want the audience to be entertained while questioning how they live, I want the audience to be taken on a narrative journey while being worked up into a revolutionary frenzy.

It is said that the ideal audience response to a bouffon show is to laugh uproariously throughout the whole show, then go home and kill themselves. I wouldn't want that to happen - the second bit, I mean, not the laughter; the laughter's ok though, isn't it? - but it's that dichotomy of response I am interested in.

The Dramaturgy Questions
How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
As someone operating, nominally, within performance poetry / spoken word, this is something I need to address anew with each project. In some respects, performance poetry lies at the root of theatre, and yet still is establishing its own dramaturgical conventions. As an art form and a medium, it is undergoing somewhat of resurgence and yet we are still striving to leave the cliché of the unsteady voice reading awful angst from clutched and quivering pages.

Dramaturgy is of vital consideration to anyone who is doing anything on stage and in front of an audience, for that is where theatre happens. There is a tendency within spoken word to consider itself as somehow distinct from theatre (or stand-up comedy for that matter) which I fundamentally disagree with. It should be a very physical and tactile experience; anything less and it’s just someone reading off paper.

In this respect, it becomes a question of how I interpret a set of poems (or more likely, a rag-tag of fragments and platitudes) into a coherent piece of theatre.

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?

Bouffon, weird fiction, backpacker rap, grotesque burlesque, horror, cosmic pessimism, plunderphonica, Dadaism; I enjoy, and am mostly inspired by, culture that attempts to eschew tradition and deliberately crosses boundaries. So yes, I see myself as being in the tradition of the flippant anti-tradition. I am very aware that my work as spoken word artist, as a band and as theatre are all, to a large extent, indistinguishable - and that is an ambiguity in which I thrive, but makes being booked more problematic (LOLZ).

Some specific things that I enjoy and inform my work: Lauremont’s Maldoror, Bill Burroughs, Svankmajer, blackSKYwhite, Berkoff’s Kafka adaptations, Keiji Haino, The League of Gentlemen, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Mr Bungle, Zdzisław Beksiński, Chris Morris and so on and on.

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 keep being asked if I write the words first, then choreograph them, or if I start the other way around. The truth is, it’s a little of each but, really, it all starts with a concept, an idea or a central image. Out of that, words and movements tend to extrapolate themselves.

Despite the fact that I almost always work in collaboration (normally with musicians), a lot of the development work goes on inside my head (normally in the shower).

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
They are there to play, and to be played with.

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