Monday, 3 August 2015

Dramaturgy Review: Tara Newton-Wordsworth @ Edfringe 2015

A fast-moving mix of sketches and songs, NewsRevue propels you through the world’s news and current events at breakneck pace — all-kicking, idol-burning comedy, updated every week by a crack team of writers.

NewsRevue returns to Pleasance Courtyard for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015, 5th August to 31st August, 6.30pm. 

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Tara Newton-Wordsworth : NewsRevue actually started back in 1979! So its inspiration was a while ago and therefore I unfortunately can't tell you what it was. However, I do know that it was started by Mark Hodd and Jack Thorington who went to Cambridge together. 

So I like to imagine them in a cellar by candlelight after all the other students had gone to bed, secretly coming up with brilliant news-based sketches. I don't believe they had electricity back then… To be honest, Professor Michael Hodd is still involved with the show, so I should really just ask him and put an end to all of these fantasies. 

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
Edinburgh is where it all began actually, at 'The Gate', and NewsRevue has now returned to the festival every year since for the past 36 years. I don't know if there's any better place for a comedy sketch show to go. It's really the pinnacle in many ways for live comedy, and I consider it a massive privilege to have the opportunity to go.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
They can expect to see a show packed full of sketches, songs and gags covering some of the biggest news stories of the last twelve months. This is performed by four outstanding actor/singer/dancers being Katriona Perrett, Kieran Mortell, Simon Prag and Naomi Bullock. As well as the wonderful Michael Riley, who joins the Edinburgh run again this year as musical director. 

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
As the show is made up of a number of different sketches and songs based on different news items, it doesn't really form any kind of straightforward narrative. However, when I was putting the running order together, I did keep in mind that there are certain aspects of the show and characters that keep developing, and so the order is still important, especially with characters like Cameron or Clegg who reappear throughout the show. 

It was important to me to see those characters develop where possible and form a little narrative of their own.

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 have always loved comedy and comedians. When I was studying in New York, I was at the Comedy Cellar every week. I knew quite a few of the comics' sets off by heart, and when they would vary from what they'd usually do, I'd find it fascinating to see how differently the audience would respond if there was simply an extra beat between two lines... I discovered Black Books when I was a kid, and have loved Dylan Moran ever since. His stand up is also brilliant. More recently I have been watching a lot of Louis CK's stand up, as well as his show Louie. His stuff is so honest. I would say when I was doing stand up comedy I wasn't necessarily willing to reveal that much of myself and I feel that if you're going to be a brilliant stand up comic, that's something you should be willing to do. 

I feel a lot more at home with directing, because I truly love finding the comedy in a scene, helping performers to find that and bring out their best performances.

 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 show is an extremely collaborative process. There is a
wonderful team of writers who send in material every week. So it usually starts with reading through material, then editing it if needed and getting it on its feet. We'll do the same with the songs, picking material and then Michael will work with the cast on learning their harmonies etc. The cast are some of the funniest people I know and make my job a lot easier than it could be. For the Edinburgh run we also work with a choreographer, this year Alyssa Noble, who is brilliant at working with people of different levels of dancing ability and manages to add even more comedy to the song through her blocking. 

There's only an eight day rehearsal period and on the day of the tech it can feel a bit rushed. Thankfully Stuart Glover is a brilliant technician and when it comes to the lighting, I rarely say anything as he just instinctively does what feels right. Emma Taylor (who is the producer of the show and artistic director of the Canal Cafe Theatre) knows this show like the back of her hand and I trust her judgement completely. So, on opening night if there's something she doesn't think is working, I'll axe it. It really is such a team effort this show, which is why it's so important to have hard working, enthusiastic people who take direction well. 

 What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work? 
Laughter is such a uniting thing. And I feel there's something tremendously therapeutic about laughing together. Also, the news for the most part, is ridiculously depressing. For a group of people to sit in a room and laugh at some of the biggest stories of the year, helps give a bit of perspective. The fuss that is made about stories like the royal baby, but then what really changes? Life goes on. People keep getting up, going to work, coming home. And so for me, I believe the role of the audience is to give the work meaning. To see the absurdity of the press sometimes and even the agenda behind what news events are even covered. To laugh at a society that puts Kim Kardashian on a pedestal and hopefully find some relief in knowing that there are other people who share your sense of humour and are laughing right along with you. 
5. Are there any questions that you feel I have missed out that would help me to understand how dramaturgy works for you?

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