Monday, 17 August 2015

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.

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