Monday, 3 August 2015

Imagine Dramaturgy: John R Waters @ Edfringe 2015

Lennon: Through A Glass Onion

Fresh from a 122 performance sell-out Off Broadway, the life of John Lennon is told in word and music in this internationally acclaimed show getting its Fringe debut. 

Created and performed by Australian TV and Film star John R Waters, and approved by Yoko Ono, Lennon: Through A Glass Onion features 31 Lennon and Lennon and McCartney tracks interspersed with monologues from John sharing moments of Lennon’s life as seen in a flashback in the moments before he dies.  
It’s at Assembly Hall from 6 - 28 August. 

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

John R Waters: This production came about through unemployment, and the desire to do something about it. Looking at Lennon's work back in 1992 I was surprised to learn that there hadn't been many shows done on such an influential figure. I knew Stewart D'Arrietta from working together on previous productions and was keen to find a way to work with him again. 

When an invitation to perform at Sydney's Tilbury Hotel arrived we had the perfect opportunity to make the show. As its premise the show looks at the moment when the bullet leaves Mark Chapman's gun and in that moment Lennon knows he is going to die and his life flashes before him. What we've done is unfurled those split seconds into a 60 minute show looking weaving monologues and songs in a unique way to portray the complexity and genius that way Lennon. The result is a part biography, part concert that charts the key moments of Lennon's life.

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
We love to tour, and this show was designed for that. Having had international success in Australia and the US we are keen to build on that and the opportunity to perform at one of the world's great festivals is a big bonus.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?  
Usually our audiences take a few minutes to realize this isn't a happy-clappy Beatle-fest, and then plunge into the journey with us. It's a seductive and hypnotic effect.

The Dramaturgy Questions
How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
It's hard to categories our show within traditional theatre boundaries. But it's a 'performance piece' for two men, and as such is guided by normal techniques of engagement with 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?
I had very little idea of where this show fitted in. The best way I can describe it is as a 'TV documentary on stage'

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 started by imagining a man's thoughts about his life; what he maybe might say about certain aspects of it - then fleshed those thoughts out with the songs. Always the monologue was 'spoken' and not 'written' words. Plain working-class language. Then collaboration was essential between Stewart D'Arrietta and myself to get the 'narrative through song lyrics' to seamlessly entwine with the spoken word.

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work? 
More than anything I have ever done, I rely on a strong feeing of interaction with the audience without ever inviting them in. It really is like TV. I take them with me, but I do all the initial work for them. Then I leave certain things unexplained.

Are there any questions that you feel I have missed out that would help me to understand how dramaturgy works for you?
All I can say is that it's a big question, and that I mostly hope it works for me through the instincts that I have developed over the years. I try to trust those, and just jump off the cliff.

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