Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Flighty Dramaturgy: Sita Pieraccini on Bird @ Edfringe 2016

Sita Pieraccini in association with Feral presents
Inventive physical theatre and mime are enriched by a subtle live soundscape in this nature inspired, timeless tale of friendship, courage, magic and madness
Directed and Performed by Sita Pieraccini 
Dancebase, Studio 1, 5 - 28 August (Mondays off) 16:30 (17:10) 12+

Set in a post-apocalyptic world and within an imaginary wilderness, this tender one-woman show mixes a delicate, live soundscape and a highly physical performance to look at hunger, loss and man-kind’s catastrophic and misguided interference with nature. This imaginative and compelling performance charts the epic journey of a lone human figure in a hostile landscape who forms a touching relationship with a little passing songbird. 

A post-apocalyptic world. One lone, feral
creature, starved of both food and friendship. With only a patch of soil to call her own, she must be ready to seize every small opportunity that might fly by…

Created through inventive clowning, mime and visceral physicality, and enriched by a detailed and subtle soundscape which is performed live, Bird is a timeless tale of friendship, courage, magic and madness, set in a vast and desolate world.

Sita Pieraccini is an actor and theatre maker with a background in visual art and music. After completing her degree in Sculpture at Edinburgh College of Art, Sita went on to study acting and physical theatre at the Physical Theatre Practice Course in Glasgow. 

Bird is performed with live foley collaborator and musician David Pollock.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
During rehearsals for the graduation show for the physical theatre course at The Arches in 2009, we were looking for incidental performance pieces to occur in between each persons showcase piece. Al Seed, our tutor at the time, asked if any of us had any 'tricks' we could share. 

I originally learned how to do an uncanny bird tweet impression from my dad. His ability to do this always captured my imagination as a child, and naturally, I wanted to be able to do it too - I finally figured it out. I hesitantly shared my bird impression with the group. The act was directed so as I mimed a bird sitting on my finger whilst I did the sound effect. It was quite sweet and charming but also completely ridiculous. 

It never got used in the showcase but I was inspired then by the potential for a whole story to develop about a character and her relationship with this tiny, flightish creature. I was inspired to explore this character more and what things might be revealed in her attempts at befriending a bird.

When an opportunity through Conflux came up to develop a piece of solo work under mentorship from director, Hilary Westlake, I revisited this image and created a short, three minute sketch with musician and sound artist, David Pollock. 

I was inspired to use live sound effects for Bird because it gave more focus to the subtle actions and reactions of the character. It was also a playful and light way of enhancing the world of Bird. My experience developing my skit with Hilary helped inform a more down to earth and more realistic way of performing the material. In short, she helped me take the work a bit more seriously, allowing the implications of situation along with the subtle emotional complexities of the character to shine through a bit more.

It was clear to me, after this initial outing, that I'd tapped into something which was entertaining but also posed questions about the complexities, or indeed, simplicities, of human behaviour somehow. 

Every time I went back to work on it, the world and story of Bird became more defined. I never applied too much pressure to find a finishing point as such, deciding to focus mainly on the development of the central character and her world. The search for a story or narrative arc did come in to the process later on however.

David and I share a similar sense of humour and we enjoyed putting the character through certain situations to see how she would react. We seemed to both be enthusiastic about the piece in similar ways and in this way it was really easy to keep working together. I'm a keen Studio Ghibli fan and admire their attention to detail when it comes to their quirky characters and fantastical narratives. I feel influenced by them and other animations in the creation of Bird and I often try to channel Stitch from 'Lilo and Stitch' a bit in my performance.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
I asked people who are close to me to help with the development and the performance of Bird. It was my first solo performance project and I deliberately worked with those I could trust and have fun with. David and I worked together at the CCA for a few years before we started working together creatively on Bird for the first presentation at Pitch

We'd been friends for a long time before then and working on Bird would be the first time we would have collaborated on a theatre piece together. I had seen David and his band perform as part of a theatre show called Bluey at The Arches a few years before this, and had always been inspired to use local artists and musicians in live performance.

It was great working with David because we have a similar sense of humour and enjoyed talking about the story of Bird, empathising with the character and what her story brings up on different levels and chatting in depth and how it could also be made into a film. We kept exploring the world of Bird further in each period of development. This led to a natural development in our technique as performer/author and foley artist respectively.

As the show started to grow in length we enlisted the help of David's best friend, Ronnie Phipps who was a lighting technician at The Arches. Ronnie became an integral part of the team for the two Arches presentations we did for Arches Live 2011 and then for Surge in 2012.

How did you become interested in making performance.
I became interested in making performance whilst studying on the Physical Theatre Course. I had been inspired throughout the course by how artists from different disciplines would combine their skills and outlooks to create really original and exciting work. 

I realised that this collaborative, performance focus was something I'd really missed at Art School. I was inspired by other people's work in the group and gradually by more companies such as Theatre Ad Infinitum, Kneehigh Theatre, The Wrong Crowd, Told by an Idiot, Vox Motus, Vanishing Point - most of whom have a speciality for physical storytelling and some of whom are graduates from The Jacques le Coq school in Paris. 

After graduating I had no class ensemble to work with any more
and after a year or so, I decided to focus on what I could create as a solo performer. I continued to train by way of master classes and residencies but craved to be cast by others in their feeling as though this was the best place for me to strengthen my abilities, whilst working on projects. 

Since 2011, I've assisted Angela De Castro on her annual, two week intensive Clown Workshop – How to be A Stupid, as part of London International Mime Festival. Through this role, I have been exposed to rare and advanced training in clown including Clown in Tragic Theatre and Advanced Clown Technique. This experience has also made me more interested in both the performance and creation of theatre.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
Bird developed intuitively and in line with my own development as a performer and as I learned more about clown and physical comedy. My process in creating Bird was informed by my training in physical theatre as well as the urge to create a piece of performance which allows for a close up look at one character for an extended period of time.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
I hope the audience will enjoy their experience of seeing Bird in that I hope they are entertained but also feel touched and perhaps a little tortured by the central characters journey in some way. The main character in Bird is not asking to be liked, hated or empathised with as such. 

I'm interested in presenting quite a neutral, mundane being whilst also inviting audiences to maybe get caught up a bit in her predicament so as to feel as though their own thoughts or thinking towards the piece might actually influence the outcome of her situation. I'd like the piece to function in a way so as to almost make the audience aware of their own involvement in this strange yet familiar world of Bird.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
The piece is performed in relation to or in recognition of the audience on some level. In this way it is quite clown-like, but I don't reference or address the audience directly at any point. Since the girl in the piece is supposed to be the only living creature left in her world, when she looks out, there is an openness to her state which audiences can read into or reflect on or see themselves in. Very deliberately, she is void of any back story. I aimed to create a character and setting where she is concerned only with her current situation.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
I see Bird as a piece of contemporary clown in some ways. The story and ideas behind Bird have informed the style in which it is performed as opposed to m setting out to make a clown show. It's physical storytelling and mime with a tiny bit of puppetry and it is detailed with a subtle sound scape which is performed live.

As well as creating her own work, Sita’s recent credits include A Bench on the Road (Charioteer Theatre) and Skewered Snails (Iron-Oxide). 

Sita is also a singer and bassist as part of Glasgow band, Teencanteen.

Lighting Design Consultation by Alberto Santos Bellido and Ronnie Phipps

Produced by FERAL (Jill Smith & Kathryn Boyle – formerly of The Arches Arts Team)

Development support from CONFLUX and The Actors Space (Barcelona)

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