Friday, 29 January 2016

The Pulse of Dramaturgy: Mairi Campbell on a one woman musical theatre (without jazz hands)

The award-winning musician Mairi Campbell presents her new solo theatre show Pulse. Mairi steps out on a quest to heal ancient wounds and to “come home”.

In Pulse, Mairi sings, acts, plays and dances the story of her musical homecoming and journey of the heart. Mairi weaves live viola, voice, animation, movement and storytelling with tracks from her latest groundbreaking album Pulse.

The show, which is directed by Kath Burlinson, begins with Mairi feeling creatively stultified by her classical training at the Guildhall School of Music in London.

She then travels to Mexico and Cape Breton before returning to Scotland to take up her bow in the traditional music scene.

In the background is her love story with her husband and musical collaborator Dave Francis, who teaches her to play her first tune by ear.

Pulse is deeply touching, funny and potent. The show is a significant development in Mairi’s artistry and is performed with an incredible power, commitment and energy.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
Seeing a pal who is an orchestral clarinetist doing an amazing one-woman show – bringing so much more to the table. My story was wanting to emerge and seemed to be calling a broader frame than just a gig. She inspired me. 

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
Pulse was funded by Creative Scotland so that meant I could pay a director and producer, which is the bedrock of the team. I asked Kath Burlinson to direct the show – we’ve worked together for a few years now and I love her work. 

How did you become interested in making performance?
I’ve always been interested in the exchange between audience and
performer. I’ve been a musician for 30 years and played concerts across the globe, engaging with audiences in music. 

Kath is deeply engaged with pedagogy and process in theatre and this has made me more aware of what can happen and to ‘showing up’ on stage for the sake of the work. Being vulnerable but with a strong craft is a powerful combination.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
No. Normally, I work on a bunch of songs and then play a concert with ad hoc chat between them. A lot’s changed in the last few years though – live improvisations are a big thing for me these days.  

What do you hope that the audience will experience?  
Deep emotional connection to the story, both my personal one and the wider story about Scotland. Hope that’s not too much to ask! 

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
Using the various elements that I can bring to performance, and blending them in a realist/abstract fashion. The audience gets enough of the story to know what’s going on, but experience an abstraction of events through sound and movement, which I think gives more room for personal interpretation. I’ve also been inspired by a method called InterPlay which combines movement, sound and story. 

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
Maybe it’s closest to music theatre without the jazz hands…

Are there any other questions that might help me to understand the meaning of dramaturgy for you in your work?
Kath Burlinson is a dramaturgist and pioneer in this work today. Her ability to extracting authentic expression is quite extraordinary and helping me, a completely untrained actress, to bring that to a show is impressive. It’s not an easy path, that’s for sure, but her approach is a good fit for me and my voice. 

Mairi Campbell: Pulse premiers at Celtic Connections at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow on 27th and 28th January

1 comment :

  1. Hi Mairi, fascinating interview, you give the viewer a fascinating insight into how Pulse was born....great stuff, Mairi!!! Take care, all the best!! Cheers, Vicky xxx