Thursday, 9 July 2015

Unfollowing Dramaturgy: Andrew Rimmer @ Edfringe 2015

Shiny New and the Lantern Theatre
Written by Andrew Rimmer
Directed by Peter Mitchelson

Starring Leanne Martin, Jay Podmore and Lily Shepherd

24-29 August 2015 13:05
theSpace @ Surgeons Hall (Venue 53), Nicolson Street, Edinburgh EH8 9DW

INTERNET SENSATION Ryan “Ryano” Marten is coming to Edinburgh

Internet vlogging (video blogging) is the new rock and roll. Or so thinks internet sensation Ryan Marten and his legion of dedicated mostly teen girl fans. But every fad has a shelf life and Ryan’s Manager, Dee is looking for someone new. A reluctant star. A girl that these YouTube viewers can identify with. She finds Chloe, a former Ryan fan, and propels her to stardom. But it’s not the journey any of them were expecting.

Young audiences today are no longer found glued to television screens but find their entertainment online on phones, tablets and computers. A sub-culture of people living out their lives in front of a video camera in their bedroom has grown up over the last few years. Many are funny and can be amazingly creative. Others just rely on their looks. But it’s no longer simply about finding an audience. It’s about advertising. It’s about making cash.


What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Andrew Rimmer: Young people are increasingly moving away from traditional media, finding their entertainment on phones and tablets. A subculture of 'content creators' is thriving on YouTube and some have millions of fans. Some YouTubers are funny and talented. Others rely on their looks to market themselves and their 'merch'. 

The concept for Follow/Unfollow began as I tried to decipher alien Twitter trends which are so dominated by YouTube fans and has been developing over the past few years, now in fringe festivals this summer.

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival has always been a highlight for me as a visitor and whilst the competition is now enormous, we had to to bring the play to the world's most vibrant arts festival. 

There are two new writing productions 24-29 August that are connected to the wonderful Lantern Theatre in Liverpool that are on the same days in Edinburgh: Follow/Unfollow and Broken Biscuits both starring the amazing Glaswegian actress Leanne Martin in completely different roles. 

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
 Follow/Unfollow will either introduce audience members to the world of video bloggers, recording their every thought in their bedrooms and transmitting them out to the world - or it will reflect that world back on the fans if audience members know who Zoella, Pointlessblog and Jacksgap are.


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

Part of the conceit for this show is that Ryan, the vlogger managed by Leanne Martin's character Dee, exists in the real world. He is on YouTube right now. He tweets and he interacts with his fans. We are using social media to build up to the performance on stage and we will continue it after the theatre audience has left.

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?
Very specifically for this show, and unusually for a theatre production, the source material would be the YouTube stars themselves - which are performers in their own right. What I came to realise was that even in a video where a vlogger is doing some kind of food challenge, there is a performance  - a way of talking to the camera, a way of enticing fans. Charlie Brooker's Weekly Wipe recently featured a spoof vlogger and I think the mainstream media is beginning to take note of YouTube.

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?
This play has arisen from listening to people on the bus, sitting in the sunshine and writing all this YouTube strangeness down. This is a humorous look at people who start as introverts in their bedrooms with a video camera and end up as extroverts. In a strange way I felt it was important that this was written as much as possible in the fresh air to look back on in at that introverted world.

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work? 
 In this production we have Ryan the vlogger filming YouTube videos which have started to go up online and will continue beyond Edinburgh as we look to tour next year. We have people following him on Twitter. In essence we have two audiences. Those who come to see the show and those who simply enjoy the character online and largely don't even realise a play is involved. Ultimately to make this as meaningful as possible, I want to bring that online audience into the theatre. We may not be able to do this by Edinburgh but as a long term goal for touring, we have an opportunity to introduce YouTube to theatregoers and introduce theatre to YouTubers. Even if that only happens for a few people, that would be rather special.

Ryan Marten is an internet vlogger who has thousands of fans. But he’s kept them by selling out, promoting products and taking off his shirt. He’s lazy and manager/girlfriend Dee has realised that. A former YouTube star herself, she wants to find something new. And it's not Ryan.

With three on stage actors, accompanied by a Greek chorus of the clamouring internet community on video, Follow/Unfollow explores themes of integrity, fame and people being lost in modern technology. The internet can connect us like nothing else. But it can also divide and isolate particularly when people look for celebrities on social media for meaning.

Follow/Unfollow stars Glaswegian Leanne Martin who is also in the acclaimed 'Broken Biscuits' and Merseyside actors Jay Podmore and Lily Shepherd. It is a multimedia experience where the central character Ryan is now available to a growing real online audience who believe he is genuine. Follow the idiot Ryan now and see his videos here

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