Sunday, 9 August 2015

Evil Dramaturgy@ Company of Wolves @ Edfringe 2015

a duet about the lies we tell each other, and ourselves.

Who looks back when we look in the mirror? Which version is really us?

How easy it is to find ourselves somewhere shocking, doing things we'd never imagined.

With humour and darkness, sorrow and light, Company of Wolves investigate what happens when we listen to the voices inside us, or not.

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
It was inspired by the two creator performers' experience of a year in commission-only direct sales in London.

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?

This piece is more intimate and smaller scale than our other recent works, which makes the Fringe easier. We were already planning to perform it in the Anatomy Lecture Theatre. Rupert Thomson suggested we might like to do the Fringe with it and it felt like the right time.

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

Hard to say. The phrase 'two cats in a sack' has been bandied about in rehearsals. I'm not sure that's quite it though. 

The Dramaturgy Questions

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

We try to approach dramaturgy from within. 

So we follow a train of impulses, inklings, hunches. I was interested to read Kenneth Branagh the other day saying that he meditates so that when he works he is aware of 'unformed hunches'. That's exactly what we're after. 

We follow this process and at some point the content begins to determine form, the order of elements in the performance and how they relate to each other, character, the scenography, the costume. And eventually we begin to see what it is we've made. At that point, it's possible to look at the overall picture and move things into sharper focus, to begin to think about meaning. 

In that way, we try not to impose a dramaturgy on our work, but let the material guide us. Why? Because our subconscious mind is far more powerful than our conscious mind, so this is all an attempt to let the subconscious be in charge and make the decisions, rather than thinking things out with the rational mind.

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?

We're definitely influenced heavily by Polish laboratory theatre. I was a member of Song of the Goat Theatre for 6 ½ years and Anna did her PhD on this strand of theatre. But the main thing we take from this is the experimental method. We try things out to see what works. And that means having a standard of what works. 

In laboratory theatre the director is the standard. We're experimenting with different standards of what works. For example our current work was made mostly without a director, which means finding a way that you can self-direct. We're also interested in the audience as a standard of what works. 

As far as specific genres or artists go, we incorporate a lot from British physical and devised theatre, and from performance improvisation. Keith Johnstone, John Wright, Katie Duck & Alfredo Genovesi, Kristin Linklater, to name a few.

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're trying not to. We feel that how we make the work should be determined by the material of each project. That said, we're interested in the unexamined or underexamined sides of human experience. That leads us to working with the body and with the non-rational and the non-verbal, because our current culture is so cut off from the body and so predicated on rationality and a kind of smog of words. 

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?

That changes project to project. Our audience is very important to us and we'd like to make work that is open and that they can feel themselves part of. We don't always manage it, but that's the intention.

I've just looked at the question again and it's about meaning. Oh. Yes then. The meaning of the work is entirely in the audiences hands. We try not to determine interpretation – so that people can take different things from the performances. So what each performance means should be personal to each audience member and not necessarily the same as what it means to anyone else.

Are there any questions that you feel I have missed out that would help me to understand how dramaturgy works for you?

I think often it's seen as the dramaturg's job to help make the story clear, to make sure the right meaning is communicated. Many people think that ambiguity and vagueness are bad in performance. I'm not so sure. I think we live in an age where ambiguity, vagueness and confusion are engulfing so much of our lives that to make work that presents these comforting clear stories with beginning middles and ends is a falsification. Neurology is starting to find out that we are much, much less rational or in control than we think we are, we're just very good at convincing ourselves of our own rationality and reason. 

Performance shouldn't be comfortable; it should wake you up, like ice water, not lull you to sleep like a bedtime story. That's just our taste of course.


Company of Wolves is a physical theatre company based in Glasgow that creates performances which are dynamic, visceral, and accessible. Their work uses elements of theatre, dance, music, and improvisation to pry into the darker corners of our shared experience.

Although we've been going since 2012, and have successfully toured our previous works Invisible Empire and Seven Hungers across Scotland, we're excited to be performing at the Fringe for the first time. We felt that the intimate and intense nature of this show is right for the Fringe, and particularly the Anatomy Lecture Theatre as part of Summerhall's exciting Fringe programme.

Company of Wolves is led by director performer Ewan Downie and performer musician Anna Porubcansky.

Ewan is an award winning writer, performer and director and was a member of Poland's renowned Song of the Goat Theatre from 2006-2012.  With Song of the Goat he won multiple awards, including a Fringe First and an Herald Archangel in 2012 for Songs of Lear; as well as devising and performing in Macbeth (2006-2012) and The Crucible (2010).

Anna is a performer and musician whose work draws on choral, traditional, and experimental vocal techniques and styles, and is rooted in the training methods of Roy Hart Theatre and Kristin Linklater. She spent six years studying Polish experimental theatre (Song of the Goat, Gardzienice) both theoretically and practically, and holds a PhD from Goldsmiths in ensemble theatre practices and community engagement.

Created and performed by Ewan Downie and Jonathan Peck
Directorial Assistance – Al Seed
Lighting Design – Lex Burnhams
Costume Design – Catherine Barthram

Summerhall, Anatomy Lecture Theatre
25 and 26 July, 19:30, £8/6

Summerhall, Anatomy Lecture Theatre
7-11 August 2015, 21:50, £10/9

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