Monday, 11 January 2016

Blood of Dramaturgy: Paul Brotherston's Golden Arm

Blood of the Young is a Glasgow based theatre company led by Paul Brotherston. Comprised of theatre-makers, sound artists and musicians, we make dynamic, physical work with a strong visual and sonic identity.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
The music of the band primarily. Their lyrics always have striking images and bold narratives that felt theatrical, while the pop energy of a three piece rock band also felt, at a basic level, to have its own theatricality.

Beyond that, I am interested in making theatre that harnesses the energy and directness of a gig. This show was to be loud, direct and pop.

How did you go about gathering the team for
The actors in the performance all play multiple instruments, which is key, but they are regular collaborators of mine through my fledgling company, Blood of the Young. Both David James Kirkwood and Isobel McArthur were part of the cast for our co-production with the Tron Theatre, Daphne Oram's Wonderful World of Sound, which we have been making with the sound artist Anneke Kampman. 

The band, Golden Arm are all old friends of mine and I have known them for many years. They have all been in multiple bands but this is the first one I have felt had this sort of theatrical potential. In fact, point 5 in the band's manifesto is 'never be afraid of a bit of theatre'.

How did you become interested in making performance.
At Edinburgh Uni I got involved in acting and then ultimately directing. My practice has evolved through training at the royal Conservatoire of Scotland and then through my work since graduating with companies like Company of Wolves and on shows such as Lanark.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
It was typically scattered and messy and energetic. This was new as the band were new to theatre and the actors new to the band, so the whole meeting of pre-existing materials was interesting (songs + plays).

This show began by giving several playwrights, new and established, a song each as stimulus. It was important to me that the play they wrote take its inspiration from the whole song, one line, or even simply the feeling the song gave them. Each writer had no contact with Dylan (lead singer and songwriter) so the responses varied vastly. We then set about finding ways of adding new musicians to the band and adding the band and their music into the plays, trying to make the whole thing as symbiotic as possible without compromising either individual bit of it.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
our aim is to make this show feel as much like a gig as possible. I have seen shows that aim for this and don't quite achieve it and I think it is a tricky negotiation. 

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
An initial idea was that the audience would stand, as in a gig, but we thought that might be a bit unforgiving so we went with a cabaret style arrangement. An important part of the show is that all of the plays are done as direct address into mics, so there is no blocking or staging in the traditional sense. It is very presentational and involves the band as much as possible.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
There is definitely a tradition of this style of work. Brecht for a start I guess, and in Scotland we have seen plenty of companies like 7:84, Wildcat and Communicado have live music as an integral part of the work. 

What is different about Golden Arm Theatre Project is that it works so closely with a pre-existing band to create new theatrical work inspired by them. I also think that the pop-music style of the piece differs from the more folk-inspired work of some of these companies.

Featuring Kim Allan, David James Kirkwood and Isobel McArthur (w/Golden Arm)

A gig like no other.

An eclectic mixing of live music and theatre featuring new short works by some of Scotland’s leading playwrights - Clare Duffy and Isabel Wright – all inspired by the songs of Edinburgh indie-pop band Golden Arm. Expect dancing.

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