Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Dramturgy in the Spotlights: Charles Booth

Don’t be frightened, little deer, be fabulous! Charles Booth (one of Time Out’s Character Comedians to Watch and graduate of Second City) returns to Edinburgh with a brand new, one-man sketch show. Deer in the Spotlights is a wild solo extravaganza full of wit, warmth and some wondrous ballet. Expect an hour of dazzling originality and sweeping variety – there might even be a unitard involved! 

‘Booth’s acting range is mightily impressive’ (Time Out). ‘A masterclass in restrained comic performance’ (Chortle.co.uk). 

‘Utterly convincing and with genuine range…There’s a TV show in this one’ (LondonIsFunny.com).
Just the Tonic at The Mash House (Venue 288) ​ 17:20 Aug 6-17, 19-30 50 minutes 

The Fringe
What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Charles Booth: Since sketch comedy is - and should be - a fairly random selection of wildly different ideas, I like to cohere them together at the start with a few core concepts:
a general theme - and this years it's summed up by the tagline “Don’t be frightened, be fabulous!”
a genre for the entire soundtrack - this year is epic classical soundtracks
a very vague ‘vibe’ - I wanted to be bigger and bolder with Deer in the Spotlights

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
Because nowhere else in the world do you have the opportunity to (potentially) present your material to a huge swathe of people who have never even heard of you before. It just makes sense to follow the other lemmings up there!

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
I always endeavour to make each sketch feel different from the last, to act as a sort of ‘palette cleanser’, so that each new idea feels fresh, rather than more of the same. This makes the show as a whole feel like a frantic and mystifying journey, but with a swell of tenderness and elation at the end… that’s the idea anyway! 

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
Well, my degree was in German literature and I studied sketch and improv at The Second City in Toronto for two years - a place where they really put a premium on making each scene a theatrical event, rather than just ‘some comedians lumped together onto a stage’ - so my personal preference would be to use the stage, the running order, the balance of characters in far more adventurous ways. Even if a particular scene isn’t staged in a particularly daring way though - they are mostly character monologues after all - structure to the writing is everything!

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 grew up with both British and North American comedy shows to watch. I embrace that transatlantic style. Obviously there is no ‘one British way’ and ‘one North American way’ of doing things, but in general, I think my best material combines the grounded humanity of latter with the flair for poetic language of the former. 

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’s a long and circuitous and solitary process. The key thing is the desperate hunt for a series of great premises I can sink my teeth into. Each one has to be rich enough, original enough, funny enough, different-from-the-other-things-I’m-working-on-already enough. Usually ideas need a lot of time to gestate. I came up with a funny voice two years ago - playfully sinister, like a ‘slow-motion Kenneth Williams’ - and I’ve only just found an idea to link it to - a professor in a gothic castle who writes misleading science articles for the Daily Mail - this time round. 

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work? 
The waxing and waning of laughter from the audience dictates the pace and energy of the work on such an instinctive level. The piece can’t really come alive without them. However, for me, the parts I love the most are when you can feel the rapt silence in the room during the emotional beats. If all my characters were simply vehicles for laughter, it wouldn’t have much meaning at all. 

Are there any questions that you feel I have missed out that would help me to understand how dramaturgy works for you?
The interesting aspect for me is being both the (only) writer and the performer. By the time I perform the material I’ve spent so much time buried in each of these sentences and gestures, it’s like performing a musical piece where you hope each note you hit feeds into the next, matching the precise tune in your head. The tricky part is that the audience is the conductor!

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