Thursday, 23 June 2016

Bricking Dramaturgy: Joanna Griffin @ Edfringe 2016

Meet Pat, a 73-year-old Irish builder. Meet his daughter, Joanna, a 29-year-old writer/performer. They've swapped jobs and made a show about it. 

Comedy virgin Pat will learn how to be a comedian, while Joanna will build the stage for his first ever Edinburgh Fringe. Pat thinks his daughter's never done an honest day's work in her life. Joanna thinks you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Bricking It looks at how much of what you do affects who you are.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

My mum passed away two years ago and I became very aware of time, how quick it goes and what we spend our time doing with it. I was particularly interested in these ideas in terms of jobs. My dad, Pat, is a 73 year old Irish, working class builder. I’m a 29 year old, middle class artist. What would it be like to walk in each other’s shoes?

How did you go about gathering the team for it?

I wolf whistled Pat off the building site and hurled him onto a train to the cultural melting pot that is Battersea Arts Centre. The BAC have been incredibly supportive in helping me develop my most ambitious project to date.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I’ve been lucky enough to experience a whole range of innovative work, back since my school days as a snotty nosed teenager. For example, Complicite’s  A Minute Too Late: A Comedy About Grief, which I saw well over a decade ago, still sticks with me today. I like to see a whole mix of styles -  be it theatre, comedy, performance art. I particularly enjoy shows that blend genres and play with what a performance can be.

I started to question the polished shows, churned out year after year, century after century even (!) more concerned with prestige, personal ego and pomp than really interrogating the stories we and audiences need today.  Since studying Drama and English at Bristol University and graduating from the professional acting course at LAMDA a couple of years ago, I’ve been a writer/performer ever since.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?

Jesus no. Rehearsing (and use that term loosely) in builders’ cafes and different Wetherspoon pubs across London has been a completely new experience. My dad and I have become more focused on the price of pints and the contents of fry ups than the content of our show.  Plus, try getting a 70 plus old man to remember his lines when every two minutes he’s asking where his phone, glasses, keys, wallet are?

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

An experience akin to being at home -  in the chaos and mayhem of the family living- room.  Accessibility is a key aim of my work. I want it to be an honest, warm and playful experience as we celebrate the simple power of story- telling. My dad’s mates down his local pub (some of whom have never stepped foot in a theatre before), should be able to enjoy the show and take something from it just as much as any regular theatre-goer “in the know” might.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

They’re going to be plied with hefty cups of builders’ tea and in true Irish tradition, an ongoing supply of ham sandwiches. Much to my dad’s annoyance, I’m a vegetarian, so a cheese option will be available too. The audience can take their shoes off, heck their bras even if it makes them more comfortable – Pat certainly will be.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?

I’m particularly interested in work that uses non-performers or “real” people, like Byrony Kimmings does or Victoria Melody who immerses herself in completely different environments to make her shows. My dad finds it hilarious that he has to rehearse “being himself”. Although, pipe down Pat, you’re finding it “much more fun hanging out with the boho artist types than making cement on a Tuesday morning” – a direct quote from the horse’s mouth.

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