Monday, 13 June 2016

Dramaturgy In Utero: Judy Alfereti @ Edfringe 2016

In Utero

 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Surgeons Hall @theSpace, 5th August-27th August 2016

After receiving distressing news that their child will be born with an untreatable condition, Jenni and David descend into a pit of self-loathing, resent and guilt. 

Jumping between past and present, morals and motives are questioned as the pair desperately try to reclaim their happy ever after. Perfectly balancing comedy and tragedy, Fonmanu Creative presents an honest and frank look at love, loss and blame, in their debut Edinburgh Fringe show.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
In Utero is a development of a short play I wrote and produced last year, which was heavily based on my own experiences and decision to have an abortion. 

However, with In Utero, I didn’t want to focus on whether or not the couple will have a termination, but rather on how having some unexpected bad news can wreak havoc on your emotions, morals and rationality. I took the flurry of feelings- ranging from ecstasy to despair; hope to guilt- and applied it to a different (but similar-ish) situation. 

The characters are given the unfortunate news that their child will more than likely be born severely disabled, and I wanted to explore the affect this will have on a relationship, particularly when the couple have opposing views of what to do. Writing wise, I take a lot of inspiration from Dennis Kelly, Anthony Neilson and Zinnie Harris. I like how they can take a dark subject and make something beautiful and entertaining, whilst keeping it harrowing.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
Luckily, the script is a two-hander, so I only had to cast for the male lead. Amir Tabrizi was my first choice. Having worked with him on several projects before, I know we have a strong chemistry, and gel very well together so can create a believable and turbulent couple. The challenging part of this project was sourcing a director. I am clueless about directing and creating something visually appealing, and finding someone who could recreate my vision whilst bringing in strong ideas of their own was difficult. 

After meeting with several directors, Mitch Tyre stood out as the one with ideas most like my own and so he joined the team. I’m very lucky to have friends who can operate the tech side and work the PR, and am eternally grateful that Craig and Kat were able to join us too.

How did you become interested in making performance?
As a struggling actress, this started off as a way to showcase my acting skills and hopefully generate future work, but it has developed into so much more. I want to tell my story, and to address any stigma attached to a woman’s right to choose.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
When I get an idea in my head I tend to go full steam ahead with it, and that’s exactly what I did with this project. I had several sessions working on the script with my acting coach Mark Westbrook, who also gave me a lot of Fringe advice. I like to do things a certain way, I guess I’m a bit of a control freak, but if there’s anything I don’t know about then I outsource it or get advice from people who can do it. 

For example, I’m fairly clueless about lighting and the technical side of production, so I had to get people who knew what they’re doing. I just tell them very briefly (and not very technically) what I want and leave them to it.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
I want them to laugh, to cry, to get angry, to root for a character one scene then despise them the next. To feel hopeful that everything will work out ok in the end. I want them to constantly question the characters’ actions. I want the audience to realise that this is more common than they realise and to ask themselves honestly what they would do in this situation.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
The script jumps between before and after the couple receives the bad news, so in one scene they are all happy and excited and the next they are distant and struggling. By chopping and changing the time frame and the emotions, I’m hoping the audience will experience a whirlwind of confusion and will be constantly changing their minds on the characters. 

We’re hoping to integrate voice-overs featuring testimonies from people who have experienced this to demonstrate and really hit home just how common this situation is.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
I’m not too sure to be honest. I would say it’s a traditional theatre piece, with the focus being on the story and the characters. It’s a realistic piece, just trying to tell a semi-true story.

Producer: Judy Alfereti

Director: Mitch Tyre

Writer: Judy Alfereti

Cast: Judy Alfereti, Amir Tabrizi

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