Wednesday, 22 June 2016

A Swansong for Dramaturgy: George Chilcott @ Edfringe 2016

DugOut’s new show, Swansong, sees four survivors of an apocalyptic global flood come to terms with their circumstances in a swan-shaped pedalo. Turning to stories to deal with the responsibility that now rests on their shoulders, through music and humour they consider what’s worth remembering about the 21st century.

Penned by writers of The Sunset Five Sadie Spencer and Tom Black, and directed by DugOut artistic director George Chilcott, Swansong is a warm, thoughtful and hilarious ride through the realisation that the end is only the beginning.

Swansong runs through the Edinburgh Fringe at the Pleasance Courtyard. Tickets are available now. The show will preview at the New Diorama Theatre on 27th July 2016, book now.

What was the inspiration for this performance?Funnily enough, the whole process began with reading Cannery Row. We loved the book and wanted to adapt it. Unfortunately, the laconic American style wasn't an easy marriage with the style of our theatre company and we resolved not to do it. But, what we had enjoyed was the process of adapting and staging a novel as we found that it gave us the freedom to conjure multiple worlds using just the actors and instruments we had in the room. It prompted us to tell each other stories and to look at new ways of staging the written word. So, we decided to write a storytelling piece and that was the start of Swansong.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?Most of us met at Leeds University and we are mostly actors, sketch comedians and musicians. This is what gives our work its flavour and what originally drew us to each other. There is a core group of 10 or so members - most of who have either helped with this project or have recommended someone for the project. We like to work with people who share our sense of humour, who capable actors and musicians and, above all, are able to fit in with our ways of working.

How did you become interested in making performance?I began as an actor with the NYT and went on to university with the ambition to go on to drama school and become a professional actor. The NYT showed me a way of making work that involved method and rigour and aspired towards excellence. I found that some of the plays at university, though fun and a great way to meet people, weren't meeting those standards. So, I set up my own theatre company with the intention of directing and acting in classic plays. Subsequently, the creativity and talent of those who joined the company pushed us towards devising and made us believe we could write and make plays ourselves.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?Yes and no. It began with a look at storytelling and the different ways of telling and adapting novels and short stories for the stage. This was new to us. When we came to find a holding world for our stories, however, we returned to the more familiar territory of building characters and then creating dialogue out of improvisations.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?Above all, we hope the audience will be entertained. We hope they will laugh uproariously, enjoy the live music and be carried along by a cracking yarn. We want to capture the audience's imagination and transport them to multiple worlds using little more than our actors and instruments.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?The main strategy we use is to keep it simple. The power of theatre is its liveness. In theatre, the live audience can be made complicit in astonishing acts of the imagination and we feel that it is our duty as theatre-makers to harness that power. We believe that it does not require large spectacle or expensive pyrotechnics to engage your audience. In fact, we often use little more than our versatile actors and their ability to play live music to evoke whole worlds.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
We are influenced by sitcom and sketch comedy, modern and classic film, music of all ages and the playful and inventive work of companies such as Kneehigh, RashDash and Filter. We try to make work that is as theatrically innovative as it is laugh-out loud funny. Think Monty Python meets Complicite.

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