Thursday, 9 June 2016

Dramaturgy to Tell in the Middle of the Night: Francesca Millican-Slater @ Edfringe 2016

Francesca Millican-Slater
Something awakes you. Perhaps you were never really were asleep.
I’ll take you through the night.

Its highs, its lows. Those frustrations.

Turn on the light.

Look at the time.

We’ll  populate the long dark hours, and the small light hours, with stories. People. Keep you awake and locked. Somewhere between now and morning’

A live late night radio show for those that can’t sleep, instead of songs this DJ, she’s playing, telling stories. Stories that fracture and cut.  Recalling old loves, missed possibilities. Horror. Frustration in the tangling up of sheets. Some hope perhaps, as morning breaks.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
It comes from waking up in the night, knowing of others awake for different reasons. Of listening to the radio and raconteurs in story telling making legend out of small stories (Iggy Pop, Ronnie Wood). It comes from wanting somewhere to put all these small, slightly odd, stories that I had been writing for years and noticing the difference and speed of change in technology as a result of updating them. Of questioning how connected we are. It comes from wanting to do something different and outside of my previous practice. 

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
I work with my producer, Pippa Frith, to talk through what I might be wanting from a team. I am predominately a solo performer with an attitude that errs on ‘Write the theme tune, sing the theme tune’ this comes from previous financial restraints and a want to make things as easy as possible. Pippa, however can translate what I think I might want into people, a sound artist (gathered from suggestions) and a designer (who I have worked with before) and for the first time in the more contemporary work I make, a director, Lekan Lewal. This happened after he saw a scratch version of the original idea and conversations that developed from that into finding a working relationship together. I am still learning how to work with a team and share ideas, give up ownership of certain thing and accept help. 

How did you become interested in making performance?
I used to make shows about atoms for my parents, annoying and precocious as I was. I wanted to be Lady Macbeth and auditioned for drama schools when I was 18, I didn’t get in, and after a series events involving my college not sending off my UCAS form I found myself at Darlington College of Arts. I didn’t realise how formative this would be for me. 

I hated it for two years. Didn’t understand the rolling around on the floor, the being left to our own devices, but in my final year, I finally started to get it. Making my own work, using intervention, research and conversation as a tipping point to tell stories. Stories that didn’t have to be told in a play where the audience pretended the actor was pretending that the they weren’t there. It was about that live moment, and small stories, interactions and history. 

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
Yes and no, an idea that I have been thinking of, writing, wrestling with for months, is typical. The material, working with a director is not typical. I am not steeped in historical research as has been my previous practice, but allowing stories I have been writing to take the forefront, experimenting with different ways of performing as well as working with sound. It still is in process, which is frightening, and still exciting. Still getting to know what it is.  

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
Entertainment, first, intimacy, a familiarity with some of the stories they hear and see. Moments to think. A few laughs, maybe, a touch of being unnerved, a reminding of their own stories and hopefully some hope. Some hope somewhere. A feeling of having gone through a night, together, in an hour. 

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
The stories, how they are written on the page and how they are told, different ways to engage through voice, contact with the audience, and images. A structure to the whole piece, as while they are strange stories that there is some sense of connection to them, a continuity. That I have to believe and see the story I am telling so the audience are with me. 

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
It has some sense in traditional story telling, but thinking of contemporary tellings; Spalding Grey, Curious, Mem Morrison, some of Forced Entertainments story telling, language based pieces (The travels) Daniel Kitson, Ursual Martinez. There is some element of stand up in what I do but more in tropes than being an actual stand up. Performance presentations have figured as a big influence with Robin Deacon with some influence from Performance Art rather than theatre. Although it’s all just story telling really. 

Summerhall, Red Lecture Theatre, 13 – 28 August 2016 (not 15 & 22) 10.15am (11.15am)

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