Sunday, 19 June 2016

Scorching Dramaturgy: Emma Jordan @ Edfringe 2016

For those who don’t feel like they’re in the right life, online is a place to be yourself. 'Happiness. Aching, constant, consuming. On there it’s more real than real life. I’m honest on there. I’m being honest.' Out in the real world though, things can be very different. A story of first love through the eyes of a gender-curious teen, Scorch examines how the human story often gets lost amidst the headlines. Inspired by recent court cases Scorch won Best New Play at the 2015 Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards.

Dates & Times: 18.05 (55 mins), 5 – 28 August (not Tuesdays 9, 16, 23)

What was the inspiration for this performance?

I love this question - because it really provokes me to think about the nature of theatre - The inspiration for me comes from the text - the text is written by Stacey Gregg - is it my place as the director to talk about what inspired her ?- I don’t think so. And this is the beauty of theatre - the collaboration and handing of the creative baton from one to another each bringing their own aesthetic in response to what the work asks of us. 

When I read Stacey’s play Scorch I immediately understood that it was a really important story - its the story of a gender curious teenager and its inspired by recent court cases in the UK. My instinct was that it transcends its specific subject matter and allows us access to the vulnerability and confusion of puberty - and how compounded that painful journey is for a young person who is facing profound questions in relation to their gender and or sexuality. The form also excited me - Stacey leaves room for the physical exploration of the character of Kes - this unlocks the narrative text to have room for the physical expression of Kes’ inner life. 

How did you go about gathering the team for it?

I consider myself very lucky to have a longstanding artistic relationship with the set and lighting designer Ciaran Bagnall - we have worked together for the duration of both our artistic careers and we have grown together in that time. Trust and understanding isn’t essential in making good work but it helps - you have short cuts in understanding what is required. 

The same goes for Nicola Curry our choreographer and Carl Kennedy our sound designer both of whom I have collaborated with over a number of years and its worked - listening or rather hearing the artistic conversation is crucial - its about respect - but not in a referential way - rather in an honest way where any conflict can never be misconstrued as criticism but rather critique. It was more difficult finding the actor to play Kes and I auditioned in London, Dublin and Belfast.

It took a while but it was a real pleasure to find Amy McAllister - she just got it - she understood the issue was gender not sexuality. She was singular in that respect - plus she is an actor who loves to make up disco dances in her bedroom! 

How did you become interested in making performance?

I have been working in theatre one way or another for 26 years. My creativity is linked to place - its the only way I know how to respond to my environment - I sometimes wonder if I hadn’t grown up in Northern Ireland in the 70s would I have still been an artist. Theatre is the expression of the questions I have of the society and culture in which I live and the provocations that art can pose in a complex post conflict society. That sounds very self aware - its taken a while to understand that.

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

The process of making Scorch was similar to my usual process with the exception of working with a choreographer. All my work to date has been text-based so I was delighted to have the opportunity to work with our team on integrating the text with movement.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

I hope that the audience come out the theatre understanding the issues explored in the play with greater depth - it gets behind the headlines - we go on a journey with Kes - I hope they SEE Kes - and in seeing Kes the world might be a filled with a bit more empathy. 

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

Its all in the play for me - and my job is it realise that with truth and integrity, and to help Amy find that, whatever it is. Of course in the realisation of that I make the best use of working with my other collaborators in creating the nature of the engagement - there is a lot of interaction with the audience - all the barriers are broken down - so its a conversation and in that conversation you always have to try and figure out what the character wants. 

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?

My work sits within the text based Irish theatremaking tradition with sometimes radical segues when I get bored. Its all up for grabs as far as I’m concerned maybe its in the age-old tradition of adventuring through a landscape that presents opportunities and questions all the time and listening closely to what makes you excited. 

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