Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Dramaturgy and Stuff: Sean Kempton @ Edfringe 2016

Sean Kempton presents:
Cirque du Soleil clown Sean Kempton mixes mime, clowning and the odd bit of dance in an absurdist show about love

Assembly George Square, Omnitorium, 4 – 29 Aug 2016 (not 15), 4.30pm (5.30pm)

International performer Sean Kempton makes his Edinburgh Festival Fringe debut in his first solo show, a highly physical piece of theatre that journeys through the fragility, awkwardness and hilarity of love. 

Taken from interviews from people aged six to 93, Stuff is the love story of everyone from the primary school girl who gets engaged with a Haribo ring, to the teenager who screws up his first date to the couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. 

The Cirque du Soleil artist combines theatre, clowning, mime and a bit of dance and audience participation to create a warm and intimate performance that is playful, fun, sad and all too familiar.

Sean Kempton – (Performer) – Stuff
What was the inspiration for this performance?
There were a few reasons why I started this project. I have been working abroad for many years and wanted to come home a create work here for a while. I have been performing for many years in large-scale shows performing to up to 8000 capacity audiences at a time. As a reaction to this I wanted to create a piece that was much more intimate with direct honest connection to the public.

In the shows I have been working on I use a lot of audience volunteers and became very curious about how I would choose them, particularly in different cultures. I was very interested in the different forms of contact I would make and how different the energy was with each person. It was fascinating to see what we project and how we protect ourselves. I was interested to see how we can really break these blocks down a bit.

I also wanted to make something that was very personal and honest and at the time the most immediate thing around was how I was feeling about my daughter and wife. So started the journey looking into Love and human connection.
How did you go about gathering the team for it?
Really I didn’t gather a team .I would draw from people around me for different elements of the show. I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by some extraordinary performers which a very diverse skill base. As I developed an idea I would quiz the appropriate person, for the more acrobatic elements I would approach the gymnasts, movement for dancers etc. Lack of finance didn’t really allow me to set up a proper creative team as the project evolves I will be able to bring on various designers.

As an outside eye I would bring people in for a day to look at the piece again using people from different backgrounds. This proved to be a much richer experience than having one single director

How did you become interested in making performance?
I feel that I have been making ever since I was a child. My brain is forever ticking and sometimes I have to make these things so I can sleep! My initial actor training was very helpful in terms of understanding how to create work and this enabled me to really get
stuck in and become excited about exploring ideas. I was working in Las Vegas for a while and repeating the same show over and over for a few years and really needed an outlet. A friend started up a sort of open mic late night variety show, as at the time there was very little subculture in the town but a huge amount of performers working and no longer building their own work. I decided to create two pieces a month, which became an important discipline. Some worked and others failed miserably but it was very important for me as a practice to evolve who I was as a maker.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
It varies from project to project and depends on what form I am working on .If I am directing a circus show I do a have to do a large amount of prep work. Developing ideas with a creative rigger and designer long before performers come in.

I guess my work always fits into a 5-point process that David Glass was good enough to focus me on.
1 Preparation - Gathering of material, research and training/preparing the body for the physical needs ahead
2 Creation - Using lots of different processes start to create and gather sequences images and ideas. These are not necessarily related to the show but just a jumble of moments
3 Formation - Starting to find the patterns between things created in the previous phase. Trying to place them into some sort of form. Essentially the development of the shape of the show.
4 Presentation - Performing the show in a scratch format in front of various people
5 Evaluation - Picking apart the show from my own and others responses. Not being afraid to pull it apart and start again. Repeat the last two sequences until happy

For this show I started by interviewing a series of people about love. I chose people from the ages of 6 through to 94 and a lot of the show evolved from their responses.
For certain sequences I let music take the lead. As I wanted this work to be as honest as possible I played with being as still and simple as for possible until I felt almost uncomfortable and something would start to pop out.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
I want the audience to have had a really fun time at the same point to be touched and moved by the piece. The show needs to be open enough for them to project their own experiences on it and I want them to be excited and talking to each other as they leave.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
I think the more I distill my ideas and the simpler I present them the more open the work is and the more room for play there is. I make sure I connect in someway to everyone at some point in the show. When I use audience members I do so with utmost care and really follow their lead in terms of how far we play. At no point do the volunteers feel vulnerable or stranded and they come out a hero. The rhythm of the show is very carefully planed out and the emotional journey is gradually built bouncing between playful moments and much heavier emotional elements to allow the audience to breath.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
It is always very tricky to define where your work sits. Mine is a sum of all of my experience as a performer, Clown, ensemble/physical theatre. All in all I think it is an eclectic mix that’s seems to work and that I am proud of.

Assembly George Square, Omnitorium, 4 – 29 Aug 2016 (not 15), 4.30pm (5.30pm)

Sean said, “The show was developed out of a need to create a more simple, intimate and honest performance than the large spectacles I was working on at the time. The smaller space allows me to reach everybody and have subtle nuances, dealing with complex subjects that could be lost on 3000 people. It was important to approach the subject and emotional weight without uttering a word and have the ability to move a crowd at the same time as keeping them laughing.I spent a long time distilling the essence of each moment to find out what I was saying and where the perfect game was. The result is very playful and hopefully quite touching.”

Sean Kempton has over 23 years of international experience as an actor, circus performer and director with a career spanning the West End, Broadway, The Kennedy Centre, Las Vegas and Alaska. He was an artistic director and part of the founding team of Generating Company, who tour large scale circus shows around the world, alongside designer Mark Fisher and producer Paul Cockle. 

He was an original cast member in Franco Dragone's epic water show Le Reve in Las Vegas and one of the lead clowns in Cirque Du Soleil's productions of Kooza, Quidam and Varekai touring worldwide.

As a comedian he has been entertaining audiences with his own brand of humour in cabarets and variety shows throughout the US and UK. 

Sean has been a successful teacher over the past 15 years developing his own style of workshops teaching physical theatre and comedy in Britain and the US and is currently a core teacher for the National Centre for Circus Arts.

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