Thursday, 30 June 2016

Dramaturgy by Niggle: Richard Medrington @ Edfringe 2016

JRR Tolkien’s
Leaf by Niggle

At the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016 and part of the Made in Scotland Showcase 2016

Scottish Storytelling Centre, Venue 30
Aug 4 Preview 17:00 Aug 5 -28 (not 10, 15, 22, 23) 17:00 (75mins)
Aug 17 17:00 BSL interpreted performance

Performed by Richard Medrington
Soundtrack composed by Karine Polwart and Michael John McCarthy
Directed by Andy Cannon; Lighting by Gerron Stewart; Design Support by Ailie Cohen; Movement support by Janice Parker; Stage Management by Elspeth Murray

Puppet State Theatre Company returns to the
Credit Brian Hartley
Scottish Storytelling Centre for this year’s Festival Fringe, as part of Made in Scotland, with its acclaimed new production of JRR Tolkien’s little-known short story, Leaf by Niggle

This solo storytelling show, created and performed by Richard Medrington, draws on Richard’s personal family history as an introduction to Tolkien’s original story. 

Surrounded by ladders, bicycles and heirlooms, Richard Medrington (Jean from The Man Who Planted Trees) recounts Tolkien’s miniature masterpiece with a beautiful soundtrack composed by Karine Polwart and Michael John McCarthy.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
I first read the story Leaf by Niggle back in 1992 and was so struck by it that I approached the Tolkien Trust and asked for permission to turn it into a puppet show. At that time the answer was a polite no. Over the next twenty years or so the story stayed with me, even seemed to pursue me at times, so in 2013 I approached the Trust again and this time they said Yes! In short the inspiration was a fascinating story with as yet unplumbed depths that I have enjoyed swimming in.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
Some old collaborators from previous shows, a friend whose work I had long admired but with whom I had never worked, a musician whom I had worshipped from afar, a producer who was just great and who brought on board other fine people she had worked with in the past, and a beautiful woman who for some reason doesn’t totally object to being a company manager and my wife.

How did you become interested in making performance?
Started when I was five and was given the starring role in Peter and the Wolf. I remember the teacher saying “now Richard is going to play the part of Peter because he likes acting”. Not sure where she got that from but it’s true. Well, I like telling stories anyway. And framing them in interesting ways.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
No. A much bigger team was involved. I have done a lot of one-man shows in the past, with minimal assistance, and then ten years of collaboration on The Man Who Planted Trees with Rick Conte where I played the straight man to his comic creation Dog. This was partly going it alone again, and partly having the reassurance of a large and capable team. 

Then there was the surprising stage in development when we realised that this wasn’t going to be a puppet show after all! Somehow, we just couldn’t make it work with puppets. We tried to adapt the story – to cut down the word count, move scenes around - but in the end it seemed that the best thing to do was to keep every word, in the same order and trust Tolkien’s skill as a storyteller. (We did change one word that’s no longer in common usage and removed four words that reflected 1930’s gender inequalities.) 

The “adaptation” now mainly consists in the framing of the story. There is a prologue, during which I talk about the set elements and props, most of which are objects from the family attic. All these elements turn up later in the telling of the story and “earn their keep”.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
A stimulated imagination. A challenge to think. A feeling of safety. 

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
Lovely music, interesting visual and aural elements, without overwhelming the eye or the mind. 

We considered and rejected ideas of a walk-through installation, although in a sense the set does turn into that at the end of the show, when people are keen to look at the props and talk about the story. (Probably haven’t answered your question).

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
Story theatre? Is that a tradition?

Leaf by Niggle is considered by some to be Tolkien’s most autobiographical work, springing from his fear of not finishing The Lord of the Rings. In 1939, as war clouds were darkening, he woke up one morning with the story almost complete in his mind and wrote it down.

Niggle is a struggling artist who is trying to complete his magnum opus, a painting of a curious tree. He isn’t sure when he will need to set out on his journey, but he is worried that he won’t be able to finish the painting before it’s time to leave. 

Leaf by Niggle is often seen as an allegory of Tolkien's own creative process, and, to an extent, of his life. It is a tale of transformation, which examines the relationship between an artist, his creation and his community. 

Richard Medrington is the artistic director of Puppet State Theatre Company and for the past nine years the company has been touring the world with its much lauded production of Jean Giono’s The Man Who Planted Trees.  

This new adaptation of Leaf by Niggle is a reflection of Richard’s long held ambition to perform a staged version of the story. In 1993, Richard gave an acclaimed one-off storytelling performance of the piece at the Carberry Festival and has nurtured hopes of performing it to a wider audience ever since. 

The Fabric of Dramaturgy: Abi Zakarian @ Edfringe 2016

A powerful new play by Abi Zakarian exposing the shifting roles and expectations of women in today’s society asking how, if ever, they can be fulfilled.

Performed by Nancy Sullivan

On tour 22 June – 22 July 2016 I Edinburgh Festival Underbelly 4 – 28 August

Leah has lost her friends, family and dignity. Forced to move for a third time following a harrowing court case, she is sorting through all the stuff that has accumulated in her spare room: clothes she doesn't wear, books she doesn't read, things she doesn't need anymore. 

Leah relives painful events in her past as she desperately tries to unpick just where it all went wrong and who is really to blame. FABRIC is a hard-hitting play that deals with the aftermath of a rape.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
Tom, Nancy and I were interested in producing a piece that reflected on the inherent inequality of women in our society and what those inequalities result in; how they shape society and attitudes. 

We spent a lot of time coming up with exercises to test Nancy in
everyday life so she could gather information about how she was treated in certain situations, or to behave in a certain way and see how people reacted.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
Tom and Nancy had worked together before (Tom directed Nancy in Fastest Clock... by Philip Ridley) and they wanted to work together on a one woman show. They approached me through my agent, and after an initial meeting with Tom where it was clear we had many similar ideas and inspirations I joined the team as writer.

How did you become interested in making performance?
I worked for many years as a picture editor for several newspapers; one project I worked on was a book about the Iraq war in 2003; which was compiled as the conflict was ongoing. I had to edit the raw images as they came in – it was so disturbing that at the end of each day I thought I would go blind. 

I was struck by this idea of psychosomatic blindness (which I later learnt afflicted many soldiers returning from the trenches after WWI) and decided to write something about it. This became my first produced play A Thousand Yards.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
It was a different route from a normal commission in that the project came with a director and actor attached but the opportunity to collaborate was great – being able to observe Nancy and her mannerisms allowed me to create the character of Leah in a different way.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
Personally I hope the audience will respond to the challenging subject matter in a way that allows them to question previously held notions. The subject matter is not easy to tackle and it may provoke extreme reactions. But this is good if it forces us to confront and discuss it.

Nancy Sullivan (The Rise and Fall of Little Voice and Les Miserables) stars as Leah in this premiere production directed by Tom O’Brien.

Full tour dates are: 22 – 25 June, EM Forster Theatre, Tonbridge; 2 July, Theatre Royal, Margate; 5 July Old Fire Station, Oxford; 6 – 7 July, Mercury Theatre, Colchester; 8 – 9 July, The Cryer, Carshalton; 11 – 14 July, New Wimbledon Studio, London; 20 July, The Hawth, Crawley; and 21 – 22 July, Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury and Iron Belly, Edinburgh 11.55am 6 – 28 August.

This brand new play was developed by TREMers and is supported by Arts Council England.

Creative team

Directed by Tom O'Brien

Set & Costume Design by Alyson Cummins

Sound Design by Max Pappenheim

Lighting Design by Zia Holly

Recommended for age 15+

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Verge of Dramaturgy: Quentin Beroud @ Edfringe 2016

Verge of Strife
Assembly George Square (Studio Two), Edinburgh, EH8 9LH
Thursday 4th – Monday 29th August 2016, 14:15
Jonny Labey (EastEnders, In the Heights) leads this poetic and spirited ensemble production, based on the life and works of WWI poet, Rupert Brooke.

A man who exploited and despaired at his ability to play the parts required of him is put centre stage for the first time in this dynamic production.
On his death in 1915, Brooke was feted as ‘the voice of England; his patriotic sonnets had caught the imagination of a people in the early days of the war with his voice of early-war naivety.

His poetry depicts the struggle to find a voice capable of expressing all he experienced, a struggle shared by all young contemporary artists caught amongst the conflicts of human nature.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
Rupert Brooke led an incredible life. By the time he died at 27 he was held up as a war hero despite never having actually seen battle. It's an irony that sums up Brooke's many contradictions nicely. 

One of the reasons the play is so good is that it doesn't shy away from the darker sides of his life; it is interested in the hold he had over people, how he could charm and manipulate some of the most gifted men and women of his generation, who also populate our play. We want to conjure up the spirit of that age, while creating something new.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
The producer, Arsalan Sattari, the writer, Nick Baldock, and I have known each other for a while now. We have worked together developing other scripts, but we felt this was the right one for Edinburgh before any form of touring or transfer. With the commemoration and the centenary of WW1, we felt this was the right time to tell this story. 

We've assembled a great team to help us do that, with a fantastic
cast, led by Jonny Labey. Ben Newsome Casting brought Jonny in to read, and we were really struck by his talent and work ethic - he was always willing to try new things out, and I knew he'd be perfect for leading our talented ensemble cast - which we built at a separate casting session, around Jonny.

How did you become interested in making performance? 
When I was a kid I would read a huge amount, and as I got older I started to be interested in film, but the theatre has always had an incredible hold over me. When I got the the chance to go onstage, I found connecting with an audience the most amazing thing. 

Making them laugh or cry or lament - all the clichés about stories and going on journeys with those watching you, come alive. Now as the director, I'm back where I started - in the audience, (hopefully) enjoying the show. 

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
This show requires a balancing act. There's so much historical material to deal with Brooke and his contemporaries- he was part of an extraordinary generation - but at the same time the script demands, and this is how I like to work anyway, that we take a fresh approach to it. 

So rehearsals are about marrying the historical and the new, inspiration and creation. This is very much an ensemble piece, we're creating the story together, everyone's invested in making the play something fresh for the audience. So in that sense it is fairly typical - that feeling of collaboration, of building something together, is something I like to foster as much as possible.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
Brooke was a complex and often unlikable man, but as I've
researched him more and more I find myself falling under his charm more and more - his combination of wit, naivety and self-deprecation make it hard not to. Hopefully the audience will go on a similar journey. 

Most of all, I hope they understand why we're making a play about him, and enjoy the play, whether they like Brooke himself or not.

 What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
Nick Baldock's script is really brilliant at capturing the different facets of his personality, so we really get a complex character, which is always interesting to watch on stage. Then the other characters in the play offer us glimpses into a world that was changing rapidly; strong women and men, all of whom were captivated by Brooke. 

I also think it's important for this story to be told in an unexpected way. Brooke's poetry was controversial and pushed boundaries in his own time - he wrote a sonnet about vomit - and his story needs to be told in an equally creative way. This could easily have been an Edwardian drawing-room drama, but I think far more interesting to use the best elements from that genre and blend them with a more innovative style of story-telling. That's why Edinburgh, and a Fringe audience, is the perfect place to debut Verge of Strife.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition? 
I take inspiration from things that I like in all traditions. The exciting thing is figuring out what works together, and constantly learning from other theatre makers from all backgrounds and approaches. Theatre is a collaborative medium - learning and experimenting are paramount.

Based on his letters and told through his poetry, Verge of Strife goes back to Brooke’s early years, looking at the young poet who embraced Socialism, atheism and the counter-culture of Edwardian England. Described as ‘the handsomest man in all of England’ his looks, charm and wit left a trail of bruised
egos and broken hearts right to the upper echelons of British society.
His life and inspirations are reflective of so many classic and contemporary artists and reveal an extraordinary man whose star burned incredibly brightly during his short lifetime.
Director Quentin Beroud (Richard II, House of Parliament) comments, I’m amazed we haven’t explored Brooke on stage like this before - he was a mystery that everyone around him, and even he himself, seemed to be constantly trying to figure out.

Nick Baldock’s brilliant script is an amazing moving portrait of a flawed genius who's been sidelined by history in a way that he never was during his lifetime. Brooke’s poem are the backbone of the piece and I want to build an ensemble piece around the poet and his words, flashes of his life that reveal more and more about him. I’m really looking forward to putting Rupert Brooke back where he belongs – right in the forefront of people’s minds.
To encapsulate the many facets of Brooke, the creative team gained access to his poems and private archived letters in King’s College, Cambridge, where Brooke was a student.

Nick Baldock
Nick Baldock is a Cambridge University and Yale graduate with a PhD in History. He went on to train at New York's American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) and is an alumnus of Royal Court's Young Writers' programme. Nick is a playwright, lyricist and librettist. His latest musical, an adaptation of Shakespeare's The Winer’s Tale, was performed at a rehearsed industry reading in New York early 2015, composed by Leo Hurley, following the success of The Better Part in late 2012. His work has been seen in London, New York and Boston, most recently at Manhattan's Duplex Cabaret in late 2014. Nick’s future work includes Mrs Fleming & Mrs Mallowan, about a meeting between Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, Nothing to You, a thriller set in an alternate reality of 1949 and two other commissioned pieces.
Jonny Labey

Jonny can be seen in the role of Paul Coker as a regular in EastEnders. He was nominated for the British Independent Film Awards best newcomer as David in Soft Lad (Brown Boy Productions). Jonny trained at Bird College of Dance, Music and Theatre Performance. Theatre credits include: Graffiti Pete in In The Heights (Southwark Playhouse); Eddie Cochran in Rock'n' Roll Heaven (UK Tour); White Christmas (Dominion Theatre).

Pitch Dramaturgy: Skye Reynolds and Jo Fong @ Edfringe 2016

Performed by Skye Reynolds, made in collaboration with Jo Fong
17th- 21st August, Dance Base Venue 22
A double bill with A:Version by Indepen-Dance

Pitch is a realisation: how are we living our lives? The act of selling oneself, selling an idea. One woman: a provocation. Trying, winning, failing… however ridiculous, something has to change. Maybe the world? Do something! Pitch is fresh, funny, honest dance theatre.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
I wanted to explore the concept of pitching - selling oneself or selling ideas… 

Having gone through that process to promote creative ideas for development, I found it challenging to present this particular ‘face’ – something artificial about it, almost painful! How to fit 'myself' into the 'sell'...what am I selling, what is of value? Then I stared thinking ‘How are we living our lives?’ How am I living MY life?

 Inspired by people and artists who make powerful, funny, insightful work, especially in this time of global turmoil, I wanted Stand Up, take responsibility. Then the question was how to turn these ideas into performance!
credit: Lucas Kao
I really wanted to work with Jo Fong, I love her work and I decided to create my first a solo - a woman coming of age at 44… 

Standing up – get my act together. But actually getting Skye’s Act together.

For me – its about coming to an age where I have opinions and for some reason I haven’t not put them into the world. I vote but I suppose on some level I find it difficult to stand up and say what I think. To do something that implicates positive change. Somehow through the making it has also been revealed how powerful we are as individuals but also how powerless and futile the act of standing by what you believe can be.

The idea that things can be better and to make a work that could actually implicate change.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
Jo and I met performing in Wendy Houston's Stupid Women and after that I was a Guest in Jo’s show An Invitation. I wanted to work further and dig more deeply into Jo’s process so I asked if she would mentor me to create a solo. 

We began with a couple of research weeks supported by Creative Scotland and Dance Base, not knowing what would come. We had a great time and discovered PITCH, a work that we believe in and have enjoyed creating so we are continuing to develop it together. Other team members gathered en route. 

Lucas Kao, filmmaker and photographer, has captured some lovely visuals and we share an aesthetic sense of humour. Sarah Buckmaster is creating lights (we met at Yorkshire Dance, when PITCH was presented as work-in-progress) and Anna Cocciadiferro made the costume. My daughter Lula makes an appearance on vocals whilst practising the piano…and I’ve been talking with producers about future possibilities. 

We met doing a show by Wendy Houstoun for Yorkshire Dance’s Juncture Festival and then again through my work An Invitation…
where Skye played a guest role. 

I think Skye was somehow interested in my work and how working more together would help her to grow this new solo.

How did you become interested in making performance?
Things clicked for me in Sydney in the 90’s when I discovered experimental dance – performing in drag acts, jazz improv, art galleries, night clubs, site-specific. 

It was thrilling, I decided this was what I wanted to do and traded in a law degree. I loved the creativity, the complicity, the people. Performance is like an act of heightened reality that requires a focused thinking and an honesty that I find transformative.

For me, it’s about having a voice, after years of being “just a dancer” a clay for someone else to create with. Reaching the age of 29 / 30, suddenly it was time to start working out what I think and how to articulate this to audiences. 

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
This was a new process for me, and my first solo. Using spoken word with movement, humour, a ‘live’ conversational style – I’ve been exploring these approaches to find a voice with my own work and within that of different choreographers over the past few years. 
Jo and I have discovered and created this piece en route. It’s about truth, made from authentic life material. 

The performance has to be alive and fresh, I'm addressing the audience, playing the score. It’s a real challenge to both ‘play’ and ‘be’ myself. I’m still working that out, uncovering layers and finding textures - how to make a ‘dance action’ within a performance frame?

My process always changes with each show I make and in addition of course with each new collaboration. Skye and I have had fun making this show, I tried to lay out improvised experiences from which to draw material. Tried to support her in what is not an easy task. We discussed what we think about how we could create an artwork that is also an action. 

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
I hope the audience will feel a sense of connection with the performer, recognise moments within themes and material –trying, winning and failing. Can the work provoke thoughts about action, positive change? I feel there is a currency right now in terms of the search for values and place, it’s something we are sharing as a society and beyond. PITCH looks at this – How are we living our lives – it’s a question we are exploring.

Jo - Through the pilot showings we’ve had at Dance Base and Yorkshire Dance, people have noted how they have enjoyed the show, been touched, laughed and literally end up thinking about how they personally could change or do something to make the world a better place for everyone. 

What strategies did we consider towards shaping the audiences experience?
We wanted to present the work in a conversational frame, it’s live and it’s happening right now. It intentionally exposes the vulnerability of the performer as she explores how to ‘Be,’ taking confusing, impossible aspects of human existence and opening them up to the possibility of connection and laughter. 

We want to raise issues that we think are important, both individually and collectively. The audience are not asked to do anything but there is space in the show for reflection and perhaps the feeling of shared possibility for action.

Jo –
I suppose audience interaction is a big part of the work. Not that we ask an audience to actually do anything but the way the show is set up gives the idea that audiences feel very much a part of the show. Its funny, Skye does an amazing job of lightening the space almost the idea that anything could happen, she’s like a politically informed cartoon talent show optimist.

I suppose a super uber ambitious aim has been to influence audience members so that they actually start to think about what it is they could do. What action in their own lives either small or large would they be able to initiate towards positive change. 
We’ve been thinking about the end of the show a moment where it shifts from the personal to the collective and we hope to try out different endings. I’m interested in a promise, a pledge or even just a consideration, but maybe if I’m honest what I’d really like is through the humour and the seriousness of the show that there is a resurge of energy and hope. 

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
New Scottish work!

Over the past few years I've been influenced by dance work that uses direct address, is multi-artform, humourous, ironic, approaches performance-making in new ways, addresses contemporary personal and politic themes. Communicates on different levels. 

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Two Kittens & Dramaturgy: Christopher Wilson @ Edfringe 2016

 Two Kittens & A Kid (A Gay Man Raising His Inner Diva)

theSpace on the Mile (Venue 39) ​ 19:30 Aug 5-6, 8-13, 15-20

A gay, white, suburban man suddenly becomes 'Mr Mom' to an adolescent, black, urban girl. White-knuckled on a roller coaster of teenage angst, this new parent falls off the precipice into the mystery of black hair, menstruation, boyz, and ultimately mental health and addiction. 

Often comedic but always honest, this one-man musical cabaret is a poignant and sometimes heartbreaking story of love, cultural understanding, and desperately trying to find your way!

What was the inspiration for this performance?
Two Kittens & A Kid (A Gay Man Raising His Inner Diva) is a deeply personal and autobiographical story of my parenting journey with a beautiful teenage girl.  As a foster parent, I was forced to negotiate huge emotional challenges, nurturing a child who was victim of substance-abusing parents. 

This piece is an authentic account of caring for an adolescent who
struggles immensely with self-care. I consider this work to be an homage to that dear young woman, though expressed theatrically.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
The creative team is predominantly a team of one, in this particular case with Two Kittens & A Kid.  I am independently writing the book, music and lyrics – quite Quixotic, I'll admit.  In essence, I know clearly what I am striving to express - and am engaging all of my training, instincts and experience to harness the craft to do so.  

I will also be working closely with two dear friends and fellow artists here in Toronto, Canada, for dramaturgical and directing support.  With a one-man show, an outside eye is paramount to me to keep the work authentic and grounded, though stylized.

How did you become interested in making performance?
Having lived through some deeply challenging and profound experiences, I believe that my desire to make performance was born out of a compulsion to express – or better, exorcise my deep inner challenges and demons.  Often, I believe that our most conflicted emotions are better expressed outward rather than held inward.  

I don't mean to express in any way that my writing in this piece is all doom and gloom – quite the contrary.  This new work is layered with frivolity, humour and levity. I must say that I am both intrigued and facinated by the emotional resonance and potential impact that can result, when using one's passion and artform as an expression of personal experience.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
Two Kittens & A Kid (A Gay Man Raising His Inner Diva) evolved rather organically in its development.  The autobiographical source material of being a gay, white dad to an adolescent, black girl is an experience of sitcom proportions, in and of itself.  

My parenting journey with my foster daughter was full of nuance, rich in anecdotes, and fierce in emotional challenge.  There was a great deal to write about when it came to expressing both my experiences with her - and my deep compassion for her.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
My ultimate goal is to create a strong emotional bond with the audience - one firmly rooted in honesty.  As most of the material presented in this piece is autobiographical, there is a sense of vulnerability that I strive to achieve and openly share with those willing to walk into my theatrical world.  I am representing myself authentically on the stage – or at least, a thearical version of myself.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
For me, engagement is the number one priority with an audience experience.  I am capiltolizing on the intamcy of this work in its performance space, hoping that the audience will feel comfortable and intrigued being invited into my personal world.  My intention is to encourage the audience to personally engage with me as artist, as they comfortably choose.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
My work is driven by a marriage between spoken and sung word.  Music is ultimately my soul language - so I suppose both this new work and my previous original writing fall into the tradition of musical theatre. Two Kittens & A Kid also possesses a cabaret element in its construct, though the piece is structured with scenes exploring specific themes and subject matter.

Paper Hearted Dramaturgy: Liam O'Rafferty @ Edfringe 2016

Underbelly: Iron Belly
13.30 (14.30) 4-28 Aug (Not 16)

World premiere of uplifting new British musical set in a high street bookshop. Aspiring writer Atticus Smith lives avidly through his novel's characters until the arrival of the spirited Lilly Sprocket. 

With a contemporary pop-folk score performed by a company of actor-musicians, Paper Hearts is about passion and finding you place in the world, among books!  Directed by Daily Mail Award-winner Tania Azevedo

What was the inspiration for this performance?
I love bookshops and the fact that you can lose yourself in them, and its a pretty cool space on different levels to perform.

So I thought, why not set a musical in a bookshop?

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
I contacted theatre director Tania Azevedo who has taken several shows to the fringe. She has a network of contacts, including MD Daniel Jarvis and set designer Anna Driftmier. As a writer, this is my first musical and with no formal training it was difficult to break into the theatre world. Tania has been a fantastic collaborator and the team, now fully formed are passionate about the show and taking it to the fringe

How did you become interested in making performance?
My wife Denise was a member of a local am-dram society and after seeing their performance of Chess I was so impressed that I got the bug.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
As this is my first musical I can't really answer that question. I would imagine that everyones journey is different

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
Some thrilling songs and a great story, and I'm hoping that they will leave singing the musicals finale; Paper Hearts

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
Paper Hearts is set in two worlds, the bookshop and the imaginary world created by the protagonist Atticus.

He is writing a novel set in 1942 Russia. The music from both worlds merge gradually together as we understand the characters
Think Nottinghill meets War and Peace with humour!

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
There is a nod to some of the classics, such as My Fair Lady (which I love) and Once has also been an influence.

the idea of the performance as a gig: what qualities do you think make this the case? what do they share?
The actors and musicians are playing in many  scenes where a band would be appropriate and not out of place, for instance a Wedding and bar scene. They use body parts, bottles and feet/hands to make percussive expressions and this  makes for an exhilarating performance to watch

what is it about musicals that... they seem to be all over the fringe... and how they differ from a 'non-musical' form in terms of engaging audiences - and performers?
As well as comedians, there’s quite a lot of heavy/serious shows at the Fringe. Its nice to have a bit of light, and that’s where musicals fit in! They aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but we are trying to make our musical assessable to everyone, to be fun, engaging but also to shock. We have a Russian roulette scene that’s not expected.  We are lucky that we have fantastic musicians that are fabulous singers, and they make the show

are there any musicians you'd point to as an influence - or a pleasure that may not influence but gives some sense of your approach to music?
Jason Robert Brown has been a big influence, I love the contemporary feel and closeness in his work. More recently I’ve become a big fan of Lin-Manuel Miranda, the guy is a genius. Its re-thinking the way we look at musicals. Paper Hearts draws from different styles, from Motown through to folk pop and modern classical but each song is tied in with the character. Having different style of music for the sake of it can confuse an audience, or worse, turn it into a duke-box musical!

what is gained by live musicians on stage?
Musicianship, seeing them play. I love a  string section with a band and fusing the music. 
You can feel their passion and it’s good to see them on occasion, ands not in a pit

and is anything lost?

If the musicians are not an integral part of the show then the audience could get distracted. At the fringe, you are tight for space so you need to be inventive.

Ruby and the Dramaturgy: Elizabeth Godber @ Edfringe 2016

Ruby and the Vinyl 
by John Godber and 
daughter Elizabeth Godber 
heading to Edinburgh

Ruby and the Vinyl, a new pop-up acoustic musical set in a Hull thrift shop will open at Underbelly’s White Belly Venue on 3rd August. 

Written by Olivier Award and double BAFTA winner John Godber, and emerging talent, BFI film academy screenwriter and winner of Best Play award at the Ovation theatre awards, Elizabeth Godber, the production will run nightly at the Cowgate venue until 28th August. 

Producer and co-writer Elizabeth is a final year student in Creative Writing and English at Hull University and is going on to study M.A. Writing for Performance and Publication at The University of Leeds. 

 What was the inspiration for this performance?
The piece is a musical, and a comedy, about two students who come together over a shared appreciation of TV box sets, but a lot of the ideas central around loneliness at university, and a desperation to find someone like yourself. 

Things like Netflix and Amazon Prime have changed the social landscape of University, with people just sitting in their rooms for hours on end watching episode after episode.  

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
We auditioned all of Hull University’s first year drama students for our two leads, and the actors we got, Grace and Jake, really stood out as they are both musicians as well as actors. They can both play guitar and have great voices, so it just made the whole process of learning the songs much quicker.

How did you become interested in making performance?
I have grown up in a theatre family, with both my parents being writers, director and actors. I think if I hadn’t become interested in making performance then it would have been weird. I know a lot of people say things like ‘I was in a school production…etc…’ but it really wasn’t like that for me, when you want to write and direct you have to do stuff on your own and learn yourself, there’s no other way to do it.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
Yes, I think so. Although I have never worked with a musician before, so that was very exciting, and Ruby Macintosh who has written all of the music for the show is fantastic, she's a LIPA graduate and BBC Introducing Artist. 

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
I am hoping that the audience will experience joy and happiness with the performance, although it covers certain issues, it isn’t a depressing piece. It’s a musical, its feel-good, but it also raises awareness about problems many students face.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
People from 8 to 82 had to be able to appreciate it. Just because it’s about young people doesn’t mean older people can’t come, and just because it features retro-inspired music doesn’t mean younger people won’t enjoy it. It’s a balance.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?

As the show has to deal with so many box sets and TV show references, it is seriously meta, and this is reflected in the music as well as the dialogue. Everything is very knowing, and there are nods towards classic musicals, contemporary musicals and American box set dramas within the show.

The show features original songs, written and performed by Yorkshire based retro pop siren Ruby Macintosh, a BA first-class honours LIPA graduate who studied song-writing under Paul McCartney at the world renowned arts institution. 

Ruby's self titled debut album is currently on release, and she is a listed BBC Introducing Artist. She is joined by two Hull University drama first years; East Yorkshire girl Grace Christiansen (whose album Three Corners is currently available on iTunes) and musician and singer Jake Marsden from Halifax, in a tale of love, communication problems, second-hand clothes, retro, vinyl and box sets.

Lucy, Dramaturgy and Lucy Barfield: Lucy Grace @ Clapham Omnibus 2017

Narnia doesn't exist. Lucy’s just realised. She's 26.

Tue 16- Thu 18 May, 7.30pm

She’s still reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. If the adventures of heroine Lucy Pevensie can’t help, then perhaps C. S. Lewis’s dedication to his god-daughter, Lucy Barfield, holds the key to another wardrobe.

Unpicking a life less documented Lucy, Lucy and Lucy Barfield, is an intimate show about holding on to adventure, falling through the cracks and finding your own way back.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

My Dear Lucy,
I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say, but I shall still be your affectionate Godfather,
C. S. Lewis.

That’s CS Lewis’ dedication to his goddaughter Lucy Barfield at the front of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, published in 1950.

Despite being the namesake for one of the most famous literary heroines, Lucy Barfield is not a well-known name. I was surprised that no one seemed to have spent much time wondering who she was or how her relationship to that dedication developed as she became “old enough to start reading fairy tales again”. I wanted to know why and how she seemed to slip out of the discourse surrounding the Narnia series.

When I found out what her story was, I was determined to tell it, to look away from the fantasy land heroine I had always wanted to be.  I wanted to look at the Lucy who found Narnia and tell the story of a Lucy for whom the real world became a very difficult place.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?

2016 is the year producer Chrissy Angus and I formed our theatre company How Small How Far after working together on my debut show Garden at last year’s Edinburgh.

Joining us is director Dan Hutton, who is a member of Barrel Organ. I met Dan when he directed me in a piece for a scratch night run by Etch. I had been mulling over having a director for Lucy, Lucy and Lucy Barfield but knew it would have to be the right kind of director to work on a piece where the performer and writer is the same person and the piece is quite personal. 

Anyway working with Dan, I could see he would be the right kind of director. I think it helps that he works in two camps, as a more traditional director of his own shows and also in more of a theatre maker role with Barrel Organ.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I studied Theatre and Performance at Warwick University before working as a drama facilitator and actor for a few years. I always had strong opinions about theatre, the sort of theatre I wanted to watch and the sort of stories I would tell if I created my own. 

Actually I had very specific stories I wanted to tell, I just needed to bite the bullet and put the fears I had about leading the creative process aside and get on with it.  At the moment I’d say I love making performance because it allows me to be preoccupied with all the big talk you can’t go around discussing every day. I am not good at small talk.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
I thought this process would be quite different from Garden as it isn’t linear storytelling and there isn’t a character leading the action or any “characters” as such. But I have a preoccupation with rhythm, subtext, conciseness and imagery so have found that the traditional means of writing then rewriting a million times before entering a rehearsal room works best for me at the moment!

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
The form of this piece contains a lot of threads and sections.  I am thinking of it like a kaleidoscope of thoughts, stories, memories, anecdotes etc, falling to create a bigger picture. I hope that means the piece will be surprising, intriguing, involve emotional leaps, be challenging, jarring. … a good way!

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

Juxtaposition of language, tones, rhythms, opposing delivery styles, lighting/sound shifts.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
Well there is a lot of solo performance being made right now. People who are putting their own individual experiences and perspective of life on the stage; People making sense of the world and their existence in it, sharing vulnerability with other people. I see myself as part of that right now and I hope in 2017 that a part of How Small How Far’s work will be to connect these solo performers and create more of a cohesive community.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Come With Dramaturgy: Helen Duff @ Edfringe 2016

at the Pleasance Courtyard 
Fringe First-nominated Duff takes her audience on an 'absolutely shameless, boldly ridiculous, embarrassingly funny journey' to achieve the sexiest climax of the festival. Expect to be aroused, amused and a little frightened by the lengths she'll go to achieve her first big O...

What was the inspiration for this performance?
I've never had an orgasm so I thought dressing as a sperm, creating an online survey all about sex, then recreating a giant orgasm with an audience, might be fun.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
To start with it was just me, sperming about and getting smashed to bits by Ginger Nuts. Then Tom Parry (one third of sketch legends Pappy's) came on board to help shape my quest towards ultimate pleasure.

How did you become interested in making performance?
I studied acting at LAMDA, but you never get put up for the kind of parts I make for myself (unsurprisingly!) so I headed to L'Ecole Philippe Gaulier in Paris then worked with the amazing Bristol based clown teacher Holly Stoppit, to feel more free fooling about on stage.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
I gig a lot on the open mic circuit and audiences loved being chatted up by a sperm - even when I compare a one night stand to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre - so I knew I was onto something.

What do you hope that the audience will
Ultimate pleasure of course!

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
The show sounds confronting and I know from personal experience that there can be a lot of shame associated with talking openly about sex, so it's been amazing to  see how enthusiastically women, men, couples, even my parents (!) respond to the stupidity and irreverence of the work. It's a really liberating show and that's clear when  everyone goes bananas (quite literally) in the orgasm at the end.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
Clowning takes lots of different forms but the fundamental idea running through all the people whose work I admire - Lucy Hopkins, Dan Lees, Spencer Jones - is the connection with their audience. Whatever you've planned to do, if you're not playful and alive to what's in the room, I'd rather be watching YouTube.