Thursday, 27 August 2015

In which I am the Moonfool

Dear Anna-Helena

It was lovely to meet you yesterday. I suppose it's not the usual way to initiate the whole 'critic and artist' dialogue', by snorting at each other like a pair of rutting hogs but, still, we both work at the cutting edge of our respective art-forms. Let me say that seeing your performance was the most intimate experience I've had in the past three years - especially when you undid all my shirt buttons - and I can still smell you on my hands. Wonderful.

I was wondering whether it's a breach of professionalism that spent most of last night stalking you on the internet - I was just trying to find out whether you are unattached because, frankly, I have a bit of a problem with distinguishing between reality and theatre these days. I do have a track record of ending up on stage at some point; recently, I've been kissed by many great drag queens (including Taylor Mac, which was amazing). But it was much better to have been picked out by a beautiful and talented woman.

I mean, I know you do this every night - it is part of the Titania cabaret - but when our eyes met... and I knew you were coming for me. Now, I am pretty loaded up on tablets these days, and they have tamed my libido... this is why I can do such dispassionate reviews of shows like The Illicit Thrill... but I'm not ashamed to say that be laid out in your bower was the highlight of my Fringe.

It's not just that you are into physical theatre - the way you embody the faerie is superb - or that you play the cello - I used to as well, and they say the cello is the most sensuous instrument. You take one of Shakespeare's most over familiar plays and rip it up, pluck out the sex war, and rescue Titania from being a bit-player in her own drama. 

That and the making of music through loops and vocal tricks... the cello both mournful and ecstatic, and the leaping joyously into desire and magic and roses and the audience and... me.

There, right at the back. Our eyes met. You came towards me. I grunted. You grunted. It was a snarl, a snarl of recognition, perhaps? The two spirits together in this material world. A longing to transcend the fictions of real and performed. Or is the battle between the faerie monarchs a fine metaphor for the clash between critic and artist...

But wait... I was Bottom in your play. The ass-headed fool, the pompous one who thinks he understands the stage but in fact slips into a world he cannot comprehend... and your bewitched and bewitching glamour contains me, seduces me for my dream to have no bottom.

To cling onto that moment... in your lap and I say I love you and I dream of you and... ah, that's the sound of laughter. 

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Jonathan Mills does not understand freedom of speech

I am very glad that Jonathan Mills is not the director of the Edinburgh International Festival. It's not his programming - the EIF will always be hit and miss, that's the nature of its scale - nor his fashion choices. Even his defensive attitude about his comment on the Referendum is fair enough. I just found him... odd.

It's something critics rarely mention, but when I interview somebody famous/cool/talented, it is a relief and a pleasure when they turn out to be interesting and interested. Recently, I was on the phone to that Philip Ridley, playwright, visual artist, film-maker and a man who has every right to dismiss me as the guttersnipe I am. But he was charming, well up for a chat, and generously let me grill him on dramaturgy way past the time needed for the 250 word article I intended to write.

Mills was the opposite. I'd meet him at social functions and, if we spoke, he'd always give me an extract from the speech he was about to give to the room. He came across as mechanical, ill at ease with conversation. My last memory of him was at the farewell party for him at the EIF. I spotted him in the corner, alone, looking like a sixth-former who had gate-crashed the party and was wishing he could talk to the older girls...

But there he was, on the panel at Walking the Tightrope. Every time he got the microphone, he lectured. He wasn't actually too bad, and was clear on his position. Those people, he said, who had disrupted Batsheva Dance... well, they liked to protest. But did they like to support? Were they there when, in 2008, he programmed a Palestinian company? 

Well, that's one objection to the boycotting of Israeli academics and artists. Mine is more simplistic: I believe a boycott is counter-productive. Being an anarchist, and to be consistent, I would have to boycott any artist who took money from the state, since the nation state is a nineteenth century fiction, a formalisation of feudal property rights into a capitalist commodity. 

Starting from October, I would also have to boycott myself for accepting funding from the UK state, which I believe is far too involved in the propagation of arms trading. 

Any road, at the end of the panel discussion, an old lady pipes up. She was one of the anti-Israeli protesters. She explained that she had been abused on the picket line. She added that she thought the behaviour of the Israeli state was so bad that it was more important to protest it than allow theatre performances to go ahead.

I don't agree, but I understand. If you believe that by stopping a hip hop opera in Edinburgh you can protect children in Gaza, and you fail to act on that, you are a moral idiot. I do not believe it works like that, but I am open to the idea that stopping genocide is more important than choreography.

But Mills asked her whether she had been there supporting the arts in 2008. She didn't know, and so Mills, with support from playwright Tim Fountain, mocked her for being a protester and not a supporter.

To be clear, two white men with microphones shouted down an elderly lady. They did not respect her position. They did not engage her in a dialogue. They used the power of the PA to drown her out.

That's not freedom of speech, Jonathan. It's bullying. There are no winners in the battle for freedom of expression. It doesn't work like that. 

Strangely enough, Mills begun his chat by saying that he'd enjoyed the plays in Walking the Tightrope (and they are great fun) because they used humour.

I'm glad he thinks that, because I have been laughing at him for years. 

I Defend A Fellow Critic, admit to paying for sex...

Few things have given me more pleasure during this year's Fringe than standing up in The List's office and announcing that I am off to see a prostitute. It might be antics like this that have led to my relocation to a small room just off the main office, where I sit next to the publisher, and can't distract my fellow workers.

And it was probably a lot less amusing the second time I did it...

Both menage and Hula House are intimate, site-specific (not in a theatre) shows about sex work. They have different aims - menage is a montage of verbatim stories, Hula is a polemic for legislation. They share the conceit of using a flat, however, to recreate the experience of a sexy visit to a lady of the night.

Mark Brown once described tragedy as all about sex and death. The attraction of shows about strippers and sex workers is probably sex and money. When those two team up, whacky adventures are sure to follow.

Anyway, I don't want to pick on Hula House - it doesn't quite work for me but the performers give a great deal and clearly believe in their message - and I don't want to defend Lyn Gardner. I am, however, going to do the latter, and hope it doesn't upset the two women who made this audacious work.

The Guardian being what it is, Gardner's scathing review is followed by comments (from people who have not seen the show) saying how her review is determined by her stance on sex work. They attack her on the grounds that she makes judgements, not arguments (there is a debate around which one of these is the critic's job), and observe that other people - Sally Stott - liked it. 

I think that's the same Sally Stott who spent one Fringe having a go at burlesque, and caused the most glamorous protest in Scottish history.

I don't know where my politics are on this. I haven't researched it. I'll have an opinion one day, when I spend a few hours reading up about it, and Hula House has certainly encouraged me to think about it.

But it is not Gardner's job - and she does not actually do this - to say whether the politics are wrong or right. Her job is a theatre critic and she does critique the performance. 

So, I am going to talk about my experience of Hula House again, and dwell on one moment.

It is the moment when they have a quiz and ask: who has paid for sex?

Mum? Stop reading now.

I put up my hand, alone of all the room. Not because I have, obviously.

No, look, really, I haven't. I'm not saying it is wrong for women to sell sex, not at all, just that... I don't pay for theatre tickets, I'm the homeless critic, do you think I can afford it? And I do have a problem with the commodification of intimacy.

Also, my medication has killed my libido.

Anyway, I put up my hand, expecting to be engaged in a witty banter about where and when (I had this really cool answer, too), but they just went onto something else.

I was left with my hand up in front of my colleague and friend Joyce MacMillan. I had humiliated myself. I blushed. I realised that everyone in the room was thinking the same thing about me.

The question was pointless - don't ask if you don't care, and how did this move the action forward? Sure, feeling uncomfortable was part of the process, and I guess it is a rare thing for me to feel. Later on, I was sat on a bed with one of the actors all tied up next to me. I probably ought to have felt uncomfortable then. But I was admiring the colour scheme of her red and black cuffs.

Hula House aren't the only company guilty of this, but sometimes the dramaturgical choices - in this case, the decision to make the show immersive - are not always considered. 

And the content never justifies weak structure, or abusing the trust of the audience. In fact, not thinking it through is the only abuse of trust possible in theatre.

Discuss. I'm not sure about that last statement. 

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

The Fringe Mansplained!

I have a very strict rule when talking about feminism: it always has to have an adjective. Saying a work is 'feminist' is both too simple and too complicated.

It's simple because it reduces feminism to a monolithic block of thought. It's complicated because it fails to open up conversations about what that description actually means.

So, as a reminder of how great patriarchy is, I am going to list a performance feminist top five... and label each show with an adjective to say what kind of feminism it represents. 

Before I go on: if you want to read proper feminist blog...

First up: Smooth Faced Gentlemen

I dig this company because their name sounds like a hip hop crew. They do all-female versions of Shakespeare. This year they have Titus  and Othello. Some genius on The List has lumped them in with some other female companies - he's such a lazy writer - but what feminism are they?

Well, turns out this is hard. A single adjective is not enough. 

The feminism that looks at gender by switching male to female and vice versa, and seeing what happens. 

Experimental Feminism.

Moving swiftly on: Desiree Burch

It is unlikely that I am going to shut up about Tar Baby in the next three years. I have a total art crush on Burch, and my interview with her has me being schooled by her. I usually worry about the USA's cultural imperialism but I want her to stay in Scotland forever and preach.

The feminism that recognises the intersectionality of race and gender and challenges cultural norms.

Dynamic Feminism.

The next show: Pole

This show deserves props not just for messing with expectations of what a midnight pole-dance show can be, but also for their support of Eaves Charity. They have not just taken the words of dancers and used him to get a theatrical thrill... they are helping fight trafficking of women.

The feminism that is ready to put money where its mouth is.

Activist Feminism.

The Penultimate: Fiona Soe Paing

Is a work a priore feminist because a woman made it? Or is feminism is the moment of connection between audience and art? Or am I making a list of cool stuff by women and using 'feminism' as a tag to link them? I have a slight obsession with the wooden doll that is the image of this show... but a woman in the macho world of electronic music is worth celebrating, especially when they never get booked at festivals.

The feminism that works in a medium dominated by men.

Subversive Feminism.

And finally: Diane Torr

I saw Donald...  at Buzzcut. Wait for the finale if you fancy seeing a layered male to female to female to male... she makes it complicated... so Diane does Donald doing Dusty. She also does Man for A Day workshops, with gives context to the show (as the show gives context to her remarkable career).

The feminism that messes with strict gender identities, reminding that it is all performed.

Torr Feminism.

There we go, Ladies. Feminism explained. I don't know what the fuss was about...

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Freedom of Speech: The Chancellor is not on drugs at all

Despite bragging that I am an anarchist every five minutes, I do recognise that the British Democratic System does allow some degree of freedom of speech. For example, Jeremy Corbyn gets to go on television, get the left all excited at the prospect of a socialist being in charge, before he goes on to get slaughtered in a General Election, thanks to the deeply unfair First Past the Post system. Protest is okay, as long as not too many people do it (then they become a mob), and it is contained within the existing processes. 

Another thing I think is great: drugs. I love my drugs. When I have a headache, sweet codeine takes away the pain. Then there's the one I take for acid reflux, plus the anti-depressant which stops me from getting withdrawals from the anti-depressant, and a couple more to monitor my diabetes. 

Without drugs, I would probably be on a constant sugar rush, or in a coma, or aware of my innate alienation caused by the soullessness of late consumerism. Drugs are good.

This intriguing combination of enthusiams brings me to someone I don't like much. George Osbourne. There is a rumour - and a conspiracy theory - that Gorgeous George liked his drugs, too. 
Here socialist stand up Dennis Skinner accuses him of snorting coke, before getting told to leave the Commons by what appears to be a Latin teacher who can't control his students.

Then there is this video: hardly proof, but the look on his face is hilarious.

  Then there is the revelations by one of his former friends - it was in The News of the World. The documentary gets into murky waters - although they missed a trick by not noticing that George was pals with a Sinclair, from the aristocratic family who always seem to turn up in those wild history books about The Templars.

Looking to the stars part 2

The story so far: Gareth K Vile, theatre editor of The List and the hardest working ego in criticism, has been bemoaning how star ratings are difficult. Rather than just do his job, he is trying to explain his rationale... we join him as he asks his cohorts, Robocritic and Mad Cyril to take over.

ROBOCRITIC: Self is not comfortable with this. Self sees numbers as absolute and Vile rejects such notion.

MAD CYRIL: Right, shut it. Vile. Two stars means a good kicking for the production. Time to getting chucking the dustbins through the windows.

GARETH: No. I hate two starring shows... but what it is... It means that I think the work has failed in its intention. That doesn't mean it is rubbish... if the bar is set high, then it could be a noble failure.

ROBOCRITIC: Other selves only observe rating. Not content.

GARETH: I understand why an artist would be upset at two stars. And I have done a Mad Cyril on a few shows... I regret that...

MAD CYRIL: Never regret it, mate. The crowd loves to watch a good beating.

GARETH: Well, I don't want to be giving them. I have to account for my life to God.

ROBOCRITIC: Self rejects notion of God or judgement.

GARETH: Look, I have two starred one show that I think is morally righteous, but falls short of theatrical effectiveness. And another that - I gave three stars to a show that is a bit racist...

ROBOCRITIC: Either racist or not. Zero sum game.

GARETH: And sometimes I even enjoy the two stars better than the three... good bits, or a winning character...

MAD CYRIL: Comes down to who you think you are addressing. If you are talking to the acts, then a two star is saying - keep at it, but you're not ready for prime time... if it's the audience, then you are giving them a fair warning that they might not get their money's worth.

ROBOCRITIC: Difference between two and three stars can lie in subjectivity of self. Humans are variable. Taste. Such things. 

MAD CYRIL: Yeah, but if an act gets upset at three stars, then they are being weak. Grow up, kids.

GARETH: But... what about the one star show...

Top Tips for Nicola Todd...

Nicola Todd is a playwright, but she also studied with me. So she knows a great deal about dramaturgy. 

This means many fringe companies would do well to heed her.

Moaning aside, she's coming over to see shows, and I am giving her a set of top tips...

Tar Baby
In a few days, my podcast with Desiree Burch will be on the blog. On it, you will hear me declare my love for her. Actually, not in so many words, but I had just seen her show, and she is this year's art crush.

It's about racism. It pulls no punches. It is witty, it is fierce, it is authentic (last two adjectives, of course, open to interpretation... do I mean fierce like ballroom fierce? Do I mean hip hop authentic?).

I usually worry about adopting social thinking from the USA to a British context, but this is like an object lesson for all those writers who think they are doing political. 

I'd like to start a petition on to get her to move to Scotland. We need her.

Wild Bill
I'll admit: I have seen this one yet but you probably remember my
feelings about Shakespeare (won't repeat them lest our tutor Vicky is reading this... and I like her better than the Bard... well, it's more the Shakespeare industry than the plays and...).

But this one looks fun: the actor made it himself, and I like the cut of his mockery. 

Gary Busey's One Man Hamlet
Again, not seen it, but... have a read. Another madcap Shakespeare session...

Greatest Stories Never Told
I know you were asking about Russian theatre, but I am kinda not sure what is about this year... there has been years when the Russian physical theatre massive have come over and warped my tiny little mind... so how about this... a kind of historical show... I think you'll be interested in the script here.

Dramaturgy In Reverse: Stuart Bowden @ Edfringe 2015

Straight from an award-winning tour of Australia, inimitable theatremaker Stuart Bowden presents the première of his new solo work: Wilting In Reverse at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Time: 20:10 (21:10) Dates: 6th - 30th August (not 17th or 24th) Venue: Underbelly Cowgate Prices: £6-£11 

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Stuart Bowden: Wilting In Reverse is the fifth in a series of portraits. This is a succession of solo storytelling shows that look at themes of loneliness, loss, existence and connection. This show specifically started with the title, blurb and image; which is often the case when making shows in a festival circuit context. The next thing to come along was the idea of using the theatrical moment to bring someone back to life. 

So I started writing a script to be performed after I die. That's what the show is now. It is a fictional story of the rest of my life and the script that I left behind at the end when I die in (2084). 

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
I don't often get the opportunity to do a long season with such a diverse audience, so it's the perfect way to really run a show in. It is a great place to experiment and get feedback from a very wide range of artists and punters.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
Like most of my previous solo shows, there is a lot of humour in this show, but underneath that there is a tragic story that creeps in occasionally. It is playful and I hope inclusive. I hope that audiences leave feeling like they have been in a room where something has been created with them rather than just in front of them.

The Dramaturgy Questions
How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
Because my shows are always evolving and being re-worked I often consider the audience a dramaturg. My shows always place the audience in the action.

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?
I recently went to see An Oak Tree by Tim Crouch, I had seen this show in Melbourne around 8 years ago but saw it again in London this year. I'm inspired by the way that show includes and invites the audience to, very actively, invest their imaginations in the creation of the piece. I'm interested in asking the audience to suspend disbelief in a very upfront way, in the same way that children do when they play. 

An Oak Tree is quite an emotionally heavy piece, I am interested in inviting and including the audience in the creation in a lighter more playful way. Wilting in Reverse is a storytelling show but there are some elements of clown  - it's not a clown show but some of the playfulness is inspired by clowning.     

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 make the majority of my work in solitude, in little studios where I write and talk to myself a lot. I think this process often makes me really crave being with other people, it makes me really want to share it, but it also informs the themes of my shows. I do often talk to people throughout the process, bouncing ideas around, but I usually don't show much of it until the piece is fairly established, which is pretty nerve-racking because by the time it gets in front of an audience often it's too late to go back! 

That said I did completely re-write last years show, Before Us about a week before Edinburgh. I am also always changing my shows, they are never a fixed thing. 

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work? 
I see the audience as both a flock and a collaborator and my job is to guide and listen. There is no forth wall in this show.

Bowden has previously won hearts with his off-beat, touchingly beautiful productions She Was Probably Not A Robot, The Beast, The World Holds Everyone Apart (Apart From Us) and his acclaimed collaborations Dr Brown and His Singing Tiger and The Lounge Room Confabulators

He has received a host of awards around the world including the Underbelly Award and has received nominations for Best Theatre Show at Adelaide Fringe, Best Independent Theatre Writing and Best Independent Theatre Performer at the Melbourne Green Room Awards. Bowden’s most recent show Before Us was the five star hit of last year’s Edinburgh Fringe and has since played to sold out audiences in London, Oslo, Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne.

Star Ratings Time!

Yes, yes, we all hate star ratings. The critics don't like them because it reduces our wonderful prose to a series of marks on a page. Artists don't like them because two stars. Punters don't know what they mean thanks to that newspaper that gives out seven stars, ruining the whole system.

Yes, yes, but they are a given. We have to do them. Shut up Vile, tell us what they mean to you.

Five Stars

I gave Puddles five. I would recommend his show to anyone. That is rare (my previous top scorers have always had a bit of an edge. Red Bastard was a five, but comes with a trigger warning). But I usually think a five star does a few things...

Has a point.
Is structurally coherent.
Excellently performed.
Brings something that I haven't seen or considered before.

That last one is the five star special. In the case of Puddles, it was the exposure of rock'n'roll's self-indulgent self-pity (which he takes and builds into a moving celebration of life and love. And Kevin Costner).

Four Stars

Perm any four of five from the list above. Lucy Ribchester does a good job for Clout. She's not even in my section, but I like her writing. She argues the case for a four star. 

Three Stars

This is the tough one during the Fringe. Usually it means: this is good, if you have an interest in the subject and/or company. It is usually me hedging my bets... not wanting to risk praising a show too much, but knowing some people would think it is a four star. Plus, a three star annoys the hell out of performers. 

Really, the three star is why we all hate star ratings. It reads as a shrug, even if it is positive. 

Take my review of Pole. It is a cool appraisal, rather like the show, but without any enthusiastic adjectives - or negatives. It's actually an oddly dispassionate review... but I think it is a morally good work, because it supports a charity to project trafficked women. 

Contrast my review with Sally Stott's. She argues - successfully - that it is a four star show. 

Three, four and two stars are all closely related... it is the place where subjectivity comes in...

On that note, I think I'll post. Come back soon for part two...

Monday, 17 August 2015

Boris Speaks... podcast @ Edfringe 2015

Morro and Jasp do Dramaturgy: Puberty @ Edfringe 2015

Morro and Jasp do Puberty. 

Gilded Balloon Teviot (Venue 14)
Aug 5 - 31 (not 17). 20:00 (60 mins)

A hilarious look at the best period of your life. Canada’s “crowned queens of clown”, sisters Morro and Jasp are at that age where the hormones are always flaring, the telephone keeps ringing, and the punk rock can never... be too loud. 

As Morro attempts to hide from feminine hygiene products, Jasp longs for womanhood and the boy of her dreams. This smash hit explores the trials and tribulations of growing up. Canadian Comedy Award winners. 

The Fringe

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
We had been creating shows with our characters for two years and while in rehearsal for one of our kids shows, the idea just came up: what if Morro and Jasp did a show about puberty? The idea of these two clowns experiencing puberty made us laugh and got us really excited. Immediately all of our personal stories about puberty came to the surface and began to fuel the idea for the show. 

We knew right away that it couldn’t be a kids show, but a no holds barred exploration of that anxiety-wrought time in our lives. 

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
People we knew who had been to the festival had been telling us for years that we should come. After 9 years of performing at Canadian Fringe festivals, it felt like the right time. Our work tends to be quite well-received at home and we were fascinated to see how it would translate to international audiences. We are interested in touring our shows to different places internationally, and there is no better place to meet presenters than Edinburgh.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
The responses we get from the show are varied - many women tell us that they were just like one of us when they were that age (and they often strongly relate to either being like Morro or like Jasp). 

And men often say they understand women better after the show,
but it also reminds them of that difficult and strange time in their lives - the particulars of the events are different but the feelings are very similar. It is exaggerated, of course, because it is clown, but everything that happens in the show is based on events that happened in our lives. We go through a rollercoaster of emotions during the show, so the audience goes on that with us. And they laugh, because they get to laugh at our pain and the distant memory of their own. A little bit of healing we hope.

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of
dramaturgy within your work?
Dramaturgy is essential to our work in every step of our creation process and we even carry it through to our performance. There are three of us in our company - Heather and Amy are the performers and writers and Byron is the director and dramaturg. The three of us decide together what show we will next create and we create it all together. Sometimes Heather and Amy will do writing on their own but it always comes back to the group. We often improvise as our characters to create our shows, and Byron will pick out different ideas to guide us to explore, or ask our characters to expand on an idea, or encourage us to shape something differently. So he is directing action in improv while dramaturging the ideas of the script. Once a show is up and running, the conversation continues, and we continue to tweak our show based on the experience we have performing it and the reactions that the audience has to it.

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?
Byron was inspired to explore clown because of Canadian clown legends, Mump and Smoot. They are known as clowns of horror, which is not what we do, but we studied in the same tradition of “Canadian Clowning” as developed and taught by Richard Pochinko, so the principles of relationship and certain fundamentals of clown are similar. Heather and Amy have since seen and been inspired by their work and John Turner (who plays Smoot), has worked with us on a number of our shows. Other than those huge influences, we are inspired by bits and pieces of other teachers (including Philippe Gaulier, Francine Cote, Pete Jarvis), clowns, performers, creators and comedians and each of us like different traditions, so when we bring our respective interests to the table, they smash together to create something unique to us.

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?
We always start with an idea or theme for our characters to explore. Some of our starting points have been puberty, sexual awakening, food, work, tragedy - and then we start to brainstorm what those ideas mean to each of us and what our own experiences of them are. We look at how Morro and Jasp might explore or see these ideas, which is interesting to do after ten years of playing the same characters. We usually come up with a series of ideas or moments within the theme that we want to explore and we will write about it and improvise through it as our characters. 

And then we often get stuck and bang our heads against the wall until we figure out how to mirror the idea with what we are going through in our own lives at that particular time and then it usually feels like a light-bulb moment. Then we doubt ourselves some more until we first show it to an audience and we realise that it’s alive. But it’s hard to know exactly what we’ve made until we put it in front of an audience because our work is so interactive.

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work? 
Because of our style of clown, the audience is our constant
confidante. It is important to us that the story stands on its own as a piece of theatre and we spend a lot of time playing just the three of us and trying to make each other laugh, but the audience is what brings everything to life. We also cast members of the audience in the show, and we painstakingly sort every detail surrounding that interaction to make sure the audience participant feels safe and taken care of. 

In some of our shows, Morro and Jasp are actually putting on a play for the audience, but they are always there and acknowledged and very important to us. The dynamic of an audience changes so much each day which completely changes the show. Sometimes people enjoy seeing our show multiple times because one never knows what will happen when one gives the audience such a big role.

Morro and Jasp:
Morro and Jasp Do Puberty

Gilded Balloon – Teviot: the Turret
20:00 (21:00)
5-31 Aug

Previews 5-7 Aug
10, 11 Aug
£10.00 / £9.00 (2-4-1)
14-16, 21- 23, 28-30 Aug
£10.00 / £9.00
8, 9, 12, 13, 18-20, 24-27, 31 Aug
£9.00 / £8.00
No show 17 Aug

0131 622 6555

Dramaturgy Postmodern: Rachel Tookey @ Edfringe 2015

Tate Postmodern invites you to visit our immersive gallery to become a part of your very own performance art piece.

Masked before entry, the audience are centre stage and the performance is carried out with and around them. There is no stage; visitors are free to explore as our characters, from security guards to curators, come to life.

Each audience member will have an individual and unique experience, and no two will see the same show. Upon entering, visitors are split into two distinct tours and may take a foray around the art with curator Fenella, or find themselves exploring everything from plug sockets to postcards with security guard Neil.

They are later left free to roam our space of their own accord: our gallery is fully functioning in itself, and features a collection of postmodernist works bringing together the best of Institutional Critique, pastiche, and parody. Visitors can view art, chat with characters, read the curator’s emails, try an audio headset, and be part of the developing plot.

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

Rachel Tookey: I began with the concept – to have a satirical art gallery, where everything from the audio headsets and the plaques to the paintings themselves are parodies of themselves. An acquaintance had just pitched her idea to me of a serious art exhibit with some interactive elements, and I instinctively started thinking how I could subvert that setting and take the piss.

Where does your piece at the fringe fit with your usual work?

This is actually the first piece of theatre that I’ve conceived of and put on, so I hope it’s the beginning of a body of work that will keep on experimenting with different ways to tell a story.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?

Our audience can expect to find themselves in a fully functioning art gallery, with a gift store, two rooms of art, an interactive gum sculpture, a tile sculpture on skin tone, a storage room, the curator’s laptop with all her emails – essentially our audience can expect to find themselves immersed in the world we’ve created. I hope this will challenge them and consider the limits of theatre and performance, or at the very least entertain them.

The Dramaturgy Questions

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

So much of what we’re trying to do is explore the limits of performance and the boundary between spectator and piece – while you’re looking at art on the wall, the actors are all around you. We’ve really focused on theatrical traditions and what they mean in this piece, and particularly movements, such as Brecht and Theatre of Cruelty, that focus on the role of the audience.

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?

Our piece essentially combines Theatre of Cruelty with Institutional Critique. In terms of theatre, I’ve been very influenced by Punchdrunk, Wes Anderson, and numerous plays in Theatre of Cruelty, to create something immersive that makes the audience collude in the piece. The art gallery itself is part of Institutional Critique: a movement in the fine arts world that critiques artistic traditions – our entire gallery is an attack on the supposed neutrality of the gallery space that offers up art to be consumed by the viewer. In this tradition, Andrea Fraser has been a major influence. Combining Institutional Critique in the gallery with theatrical traditions and immersion has allowed us to create an intense experience that deconstructs the role of the audience.

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?

The whole production came together a bit like a jigsaw. We had to get together the gallery, work on scripted scenes, build devised scenes, and practice improve for the free roaming parts of the production.

There was initial scripting and plot work done by myself. I then began running intensive character workshops with the cast to build these 3D characters with their own intricate back-stories. We did that for about a week, only touching on the script until the end. We then began devising around the script for the next week, building the guided tours given to the audience in the gallery. At the same time, I was working with the set design to source and design the gallery and its art pieces. 

It was only at the end of this process that the gallery itself came
together with all the elements of the theatrical in the space, and on the first show, we finally dropped an audience into all of that. It’s been very much a collaborative process – while I have made the overall creative decisions, I’ve always been keen to get input from my cast on their characters and the script, and from the crew on everything from set to the performance.  

What do you feel the role of the critic is? 

I feel the role of the critique is to provide a creative response to the piece he/she has seen and to start a dialogue about it.

Tate Postmodern is a satire of the art world exploring the consumption of art. The production uses Theatre of Cruelty to launch an Institutional Critique on the gallery space. It seeks to strip down the perceived neutrality of art gallery and observer to examine how art is processed and consumed. It pushes the boundaries between spectator and image; objectivity and subjectivity; theatre and reality.

No Fixed Abode is a Cambridge-based comedy and theatre group of performers, writers, and artists. They have produced stand-up nights, sketch shows, plays and film in both Cambridge, and Edinburgh.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Podcast: News Revue meets the Vile Critic

Dramaturgical Lies: Yve Blake @ Edfringe 2015

Show And Tell with PBJ Management present


Wed 5th - Mon 31st August, 5.20pm (no show Mon 17th)
Pleasance Dome, 1 Bristo Square, EH8 9AL (Venue 23) 
Tickets: £6.50 - £10.50
Box office: / 0131 556 6550

Lie Collector is a glorious musical celebration of our darkest secrets, collected anonymously online from more than 2000 strangers in 154 different cities around the world. When Yve Blake asked the internet ‘what’s the worst lie you’ve ever told?’ the answers became bold, spectacular musical comedy. 

From the ridiculous to the deeply disturbed,  Yve takes her audience on a rollercoaster journey of faked pregnancies, flying sharks, a gown made of pizza and claims to leprechaun ancestry. Be prepared to be dazzled and disturbed by a show inspired by over 2000 confessions. 

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Yve Blake: The show’s called Lie Collector, and it’s a collection of true stories strangers have sent me about lies they’ve told. I started collecting these because I'm obsessed with finding ways to get people to tell me the most self exposing/honest stories possible, so I could put them onstage. It also begins with the dream of wearing quick change costumes, which has since come true. (there’s a gown made of pizza too, I’ve said too much!)

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
Jacket potat-  No, because Edinburgh’s a trade show. And it's a chance to share work with new audiences & other artists.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
To see: a pizza gown. and many other costumes.
To feel: bahahahaha
To think : I don’t know if it’s appropriate to laugh anymore, this just got really dark.

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
My work is about remixing and and curating stories people have sent me - so dramaturgy is the most important part of the process. If my shows are three course meals, then the dramaturgy is the menu. The dramaturgy defines the order of the stories in the show, and determines that the salad will taste better if you eat it before the ice-cream, not after. Or that it’s a bad idea to if I try to serve the salad and the ice-cream on the same plate. The dramaturgy makes the meal delicious instead of awkward.

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?
I’m inspired my theatre makers and comedians that are great storytellers or great at being silly. Sam Simmons, Felicity Ward and David O'Doherty are great examples. I’m also inspired by internet Icons like Nyan cat, grumpy cat, and Doge. 

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?
It begins with collecting stories from strangers, then in the middle there’s lots of Pinteresting and whispering rhymes into my phone at bus stops. and then it ends with me changing it infinitely. Plus in the middle there’s the part where I rope in lots of talented people to interpret the stories with me and make costumes/animations/music production.

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
Lie Collector is created entirely from audience contributions, so my audience are my co-writers.

Yve Blake makes her Edinburgh Festival Fringe debut with Lie Collector; her VAULT Festival headlining comedy show co-written with the internet. 

About Yve Blake

Yve Blake is a Sydney-born London-based musical comedian and theatre maker. She makes all her work in collaboration with her audience via her interactive website Anyone around the world can submit a confession, and perhaps be included in one of  Yve’s shows - so far, more than 2000 people in 154 different cities around the world already have.

In 2014 Yve's sold-out show THEN premiered at VAULT 2014 and returned to London five times by demand, playing at Battersea Arts Centre and Soho Theatre. This year, she was invited back to VAULT to headline their 2015 festival with Lie Collector. In February this year, Yve released an EP of 4 new songs & 3 music videos inspired by stories she has been sent to her interactive website An award-winning and published playwright, Yve’s Sugar Sugar, a play she developed at the Royal Court Young Playwright's program, premiered in June at MKA Theatre of New Writing in Melbourne in May 2014. 

Yve is currently developing songs with Larmer Tree Festival to mark their 25th anniversary, and with Pleasance Theatre to showcase the comedy talent performing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015. Yve will be performing THEN at The Australian Theatre for Young People in Sydney in September this year.

PingeFrig: Gareth K Vile

All critics have a large ego; sometimes that is okay, because making the choice to give opinions in public needs a strong sense of entitlement and self-belief. Yet in the case of Gareth K Vile, his egotism is such that it can be said that he hasn't actually reviewed a performance in a decade. He has spent the time reflecting on his personality, occasionally mentioning a play.

Our usual victims are comedy reviewers, but Vile roams all over the arts, spilling his onanistic seed over anything he sees. Working for The List, he has at least been limited mostly to theatre, and the guiding hands of Gail Tolley and Yasmin Sulaiman restrained his more egregious excesses. It's over on his blog that the true scale of his monomania manifests.

Exactly what he thinks he is doing on the blog is unclear. Some pieces are pseudo-intellectual rants (he's so keen to tell the reader that he has a degree), others are ripped off comic books, he might even do the odd review. Recently, he has discovered a way of making artists do all the work, asking them a series of questions and printed the answers in full. No opinion, no mediation, just the hard work of already busy performers.

He's also a backstabbing bastard: many writers will tell of how he is supportive to their faces, before sneaking off to give a scathing two star review. Then he has the cheek to angst, and say how much he hates doing it, as if he, and not the company, are the victims of his scabrous typing.

As for the sexual frustration that oozes through his reviews: let's just note that he manages to mention pole dancing shows when he is invited onto BBC Scotland's religious programme to talk about Christianity in the theatre, and pass on with our heads bowed.

His 'experimental' criticism is worse. He uses a series of personae - which may be signs of disassociative personality disorder - to craft 'amusing' critiques of theatre. Whether he is misspelling as Mad Cyril or ranting in his latest horrible persona, the homeless critic, Vile is always half-baking his pieces. The homeless critic, which he believes is some kind of comment on the cost of the fringe and a test of the community spirit within performance, is an ugly screed of a privileged white male having a vacation in other people's misery.

Every one hates a tourist. 

Even his name - it's either an ageing punk or a failed burlesque act - is stupid. He still thinks he has edge because he puts the odd swear in his posts, or decides - in a classic glasshouse/stones situation - to mock other critics who are more successful than he ever will be. The only good news is that this might be his last Fringe: the rumour is that a University has snapped him up because of his incomprehensible use of long words and he is heading to academia.

In the meantime, try to ignore him. He has the kind of ego that would make him cut and paste this on his blog.

Sonnet of a Dramaturgy: Michael Longi @ Edfringe 2015

WILD BILL Sonnet of a Bardsterd
"We created a god, a monster, the Immortal Shakespeare"

Wild Bill: Sonnet of a Bardsterd is humanity's long awaited meeting with the William Shakespeare that history has kept hidden from our eyes - and our bookshelves.

Drunkard, imposter, literary terrorist and now suffering from dissociative identity disorder; Wild Bill is doing his best to maintain his grandeur as the hordes of characters he created tear his sanity apart...

Returning to mankind to shoot down any question of authorship Wild Bill tackles the conspiracies and poppycock one by one, and by merging some of his most famous characters with modern day film counterparts, (Richard III vs Gollum, Lady Macbeth vs Holly Golightly, Puck vs Morpheus), we realise that years of worship has created a god, a monster, the Immortal Shakespeare - Wild Bill.

WILD BILL Sonnet of a Bardsterd By Michael Longhi Directed by Alex Wheeler 

theSpace @ Surgeons Hall (Theatre 3), Nicolson St, EH8 9DW
7, 8, 10 - 15 August 2015- 12.35pm 17 - 22 August 2015 - 2.05pm 24 - 29 August 2015 - 3.05pm 

The Fringe

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a
script or an object?
Michael Longhi: I guess this production has been born out of a few things.

The frustration of not working when you believe you have something to share.

The growing consensus that Shakespeare didn't write the work we call his - which i believe is linked to a modern fascination for conspiracy. 

The whole piece began with a three minute monologue I wrote called Richard III vs Gollum and its taken over a year to figure out a way to extend that to a 45 minute play which was sparked by seeing a picture of Tom Hardy as Bronson and thinking' "what if we had always known that image as Shakespeare?".

Where does your piece at the fringe fit with your usual work?
This is the first time I have attempted to write anything but in terms of work as an actor I believe my work has always been a physical, raw, intense yet always playing with ideas of convention and imagination. 

Working with the company Action To The Word that has brought shows like Clockwork Orange and Dracula to the Fringe has definitely inspired my work.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
I hope they will leave 'drained and entertained'. There is a lot of questions being asked in the play, questions of what makes an artist, questions of Shakespeare's authorship, of morality and belief. Overall if they leave provoked then I would consider it a success.

The Dramaturgy Questions

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?
One of the plays main statements is that new work, new art is always influenced by the world around us, by other artists but this doesn't mean it isn't new art so there are a host of genres and artists that have inspired me from Shakespeare to This Is England, It's A Wonderful Life to practitioners of Shakespeare such as Mark Ryland and Tim Crouch. 

I would hope I am both a part of tradition and part of something

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 is the first thing I've ever written so in terms of process I can only look to this work. It has often felt like solving a murder, surrounded by clues and theory and then letting Wild Bill's voice answer those questions in his own unique way. For if 'the Bard' did return I'm sure he would have a lot to say and his own way of saying it.

Michael Longhi This is Michael's first venture into writing and also his first Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He trained at East 15 Acting School and has worked in television, film and theatre most recently in the award winning film Night Bus and the highly acclaimed theatre production of A Clockwork Orange by Action To The Word.

Alex Wheeler Alex trained at East 15 Acting School. Since graduating Alex has built a varied career in directing, design, casting and teaching. In casting he has worked on the feature films Four Lions and Submarine as well as hundreds of commercials. In design he has art directed music videos for Band of Skulls, Feeder and The Moons featuring Paul Weller.