Sunday, 24 January 2016

A Woman's Dramaturgy: Amy Conway on 30:60:80

Amy Conway in association with Platform, Glasgow presents
As the strive for equality continues, the experiences of three generations of women are explored in this new verbatim performance, staged as we approach International Women’s Day.

Scottish Tour: 12th February – 11th March 2015

This new autobiographical performance compares and contrasts the lives and experiences of three generations of women as they reach their milestone birthdays – Sheffield born and Glasgow based artist Amy, her mother and her Grandmother. 

When Amy’s Grandma turned 30, she had three children and was thankful to finally live in a house with an indoor toilet. When her Mum turned 30, she was an NHS professional, had a mortgage and was pregnant with her first child. 

Amy has just turned 30. She is a single, freelancing chancer and worries about almost everything. An autobiographical piece of theatre that uses verbatim techniques to compare and contrast the lives of three generations of women - Amy, her Mum and Grandma- as they reached landmark birthdays this year.
Amy Conway said: “At a time when women are still finding their place in contemporary society, and in theatre, women's voices still have a tendency to fade into the background, I decided to create a show that put three generations of women centre stage and where better, than from my own family? 

The biggest revelation was to hear the most important women in my life talk about themselves. I had known them as care-givers, love-givers and sometimes, to my shame, live-in maids and now they were real and whole. I was inspired to create a piece of theatre that listened to and documented these female relationships to put daughters and mothers and grandmothers in the foreground. I wanted to make a show not just about the women in my family, but in everyone else's as well. 

By delivering the verbatim wisdom of my elders, along with my own neuroses and ramblings about life, I was able to share not only an exploration of my personal heritage but a universal celebration of maternal relationships.”

What was the inspiration for this performance?
Amy Conway: I was turning 30 and I felt lost – a feeling I suspect is utterly normal when exiting your carefree 20s. Coincidentally my mum had also just turned 60 and my grandma, 80, within a few months of each other. I'd been interested in making a verbatim show for a while and I was in need of some maternal wisdom so I decided to interview my mother and grandmother respectively and record their words. 

I wanted to know what 30 had been like for them, what were their hopes, what kept them awake at night, and how had they changed over the years. I found vast generational differences between us and was comforted by a wealth of shared experience. But the biggest revelation was to hear the most important women in my life talk about themselves. I had known them as care-givers, love-givers and sometimes, to my shame, live-in maids and now they were real and whole. 

I was inspired to create a piece of theatre that listened to these female voices and documented these maternal relationships -that put daughters and mothers and grandmothers in the foreground.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
30:60:80 has a pretty small team, it being a one woman show. But I invited Victoria Beesley to direct the piece when it was first selected for Arches Live in 2014 since she had made verbatim shows in the past, mainly with the testimony of refugees, and we had a good working relationship from collaborating on other projects. 

Vickie has a wonderful knack of knowing what seemingly insignificant details to include and can find the throwaway comment that reveals the heart of a person. 

Michael O'Neill came on board once funding was in place in his capacity as attachment producer at the Tron, a brilliant scheme that has given emerging artists like myself support that I might not have found elsewhere. He'd seen the show at Arches Live and totally got what I wanted to achieve.

How did you become interested in making performance?
I did the MA in Classical and Contemporary Text at the RCS in 2009 as an actor and wasn't expecting to become a theatre maker. I'd tried directing and writing whilst I was in STaG (Glasgow Uni theatre society) but never felt that was my forte. It's only been through total immersion in Scottish theatre since then, particularly in observing the swaths of emerging artists making performance in Glasgow, that I've started to make my own work. 

It's partly due to how unsatisfying I found the life of an actor. I've done the gruelling slog of theatre in education tours a number of times, for shit money and often pretty poor material - kids deserve so much better (these were all English companies by the way)! And then not having the control over the parts you played because you were just happy to be working. 

But for the most part, I began to make performance because I was inspired by the work I was seeing from my contemporaries and some foolhardy folk at the Arches were willing to take a chance. The Arches gave me a way in and I've been making performance ever since. Thinking about last year's closure still makes me sad.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
I have to say, I don't really have a process. I was never trained to have a process for making theatre. So I just start with the idea, do some research, give it some time to gestate, and get in a room with some people I trust creatively. In the beginning I made a few pieces entirely by myself, but those experiences were stressful and lonely and I've since come to my senses. I tend to start from what I know. 

So my one-to-one show, I-HAPPY-I-GOOD, came from the 3 years I had spent working for Sense Scotland as a support worker for 2 women with deaf-blindness. And my next show, Super Awesome World, is an interactive live video game quest for good mental health, and came from my own struggle with depression and my obsession with Nintendo growing up. I'd like to make work that is less personal at some point, but for now this feels like the most natural way to create in a connected way.

What do you hope the audience will experience?
30:60:80 is a gentle show. I'm not expecting it to rock the theatre world. But it will be striking in it's intimacy and authenticity. The show is autobiographical but there are so many universal themes that I think the audience will find it easy to see themselves and their own families in the performance. At Arches Live we had mothers and daughters come up to us afterwards and say, 'That's us!'.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
The show's USP is the use of recorded delivery. During the show, I listen to an edited recording of my mum, my grandma and my own words through headphones and speak it back to an audience as accurately as possible. 

This removes the much of the inevitable falseness of performance – the disconnect from the original moment when the words were spoken that happens when a performer interprets the lines. The testimony is unadulterated, and uttered in all it's imperfect glory, with 'ah's and 'um's and nervous laughter. It's more human that way.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
Not really. I want to make work that gives voice to the under-represented – people that are rarely in the limelight. I think their stories are often more interesting than the sensational ones we hear all the time. What tradition is that within?

Amy Conway is dedicated to creating new work that speaks for the voiceless and under-represented; women, minorities and the vulnerable. Her immersive promenade performance I-HAPPY-I-GOOD was performed at On The Verge Festival in October 2015 at Hope Street, Liverpool as a co-production with Conflux.

Victoria Beesley is Artistic Director of Terra Incognita Arts, an organisation that specialises in using theatre and the arts to share the extraordinary stories of ordinary people. She is recently toured My Friend Selma, a solo storytelling performance created by Terra Incognita to schools, museums and theatres across Scotland.

Platform, run by Glasgow East Arts Company (GEAC), is the arts centre at the heart of The Bridge complex in Easterhouse. Launched in 2006, the award winning leisure, learning and arts facility has become ‘an important magnet for the community’ Rab Bennets, RIBA Jury Chair.

GEAC’s aim is to provide high quality, accessible arts programming and cultural events to local residents. They aim to work with and support inspiring and engaging artists to develop work in direct conversation with those around us and have worked with notable artists including Karla Black, Alex Frost and Katy Dove.

Company Information

Devised and performed by Amy Conway Devised and directed by Victoria Beesley

Lighting Design & Production Manager Laura Hawkins Producer Michael O’Neill

Supported by Creative Scotland and developed with the support of The Arches/Arches LIVE Festival 2014

Touring dates
12 - 13 February Platform
The Bridge, 1000 Westerhouse Road, Glasgow, G34 9JW
7pm & matinees at 2pm | £8 (£4.50/£3.50 conc)
Box office: 0141 276 9696 (opt 1)

18 February The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen
5 West North Street, Aberdeen, AB24 5AT
7pm | £12 (£10 / £5 conc)
Box office: 01224 641122

23 February Eden Court, Inverness
Bishops Road, Inverness, IV3
8pm | £10 (£8 conc)
Box office: 01463 234234

26 February Beacon Theatre, Greenock
Custom House Quay, Greenock PA15 1HJ
7.30pm | £10 (£8 conc)
Box office: 01475 723723

2 – 5 March Tron Theatre
63 Trongate, Glasgow, G1 5HB
8pm | £10 (£7.50 conc)
Box office: 0141 552 4267

8 March Paisley Arts Centre
Witherspoon Street, Paisley, PA1 1UR
7.30pm | £10 (£6 conc)
Box office: 0300 300 1210

10 March Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh
43 – 45 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1SR
8pm | £10 (£8 conc)
Box office: 0131 556 9579

11 March Cumbernauld Theatre
Kildrum, Cumbernauld, G67 2BN
7.30pm | £10 (£8 conc)
Box office: 01236 732887