Monday, 6 June 2016

Sweet Child of Dramaturgy: Bron Batten @ Edfringe 2016

Gilded Balloon, Bron Batten and The Edinburgh Fringe Festival 
Sweet Child of Mine, 
featuring performer Bron Batten and her 65 year-old parents live onstage.

Watch as they discuss art, theatre and what Bron actually does for a living. Their insights are poignant, earnest and at the same time, painfully hilarious.

Asking themselves and and the audience: what exactly is the POINT of art?

VENUE: Gilded Balloon Teviot- Dining Room, Bristo Square Edinburgh
DATES AND TIMES: 1.45pm from the 3rd- 29th of August 2016 (no show 16th or 23rd)
TICKETS: £5.00/£9.50/£10.50/£11.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

The inspiration for this performance (Sweet Child of Mine) was born from a place of frustration. The piece was made in 2011 and at the time I was watching a lot of theatre in Melbourne that required a degree in contemporary performance theory to engage with. And I thought (and still do) that that wasn't the point of art- that the form shouldn't exclude people from engaging in it or having an opinion about it. 

And I'm not by any means saying that means theatre should be dumbed down or made with any less rigour or imagination- I'm saying that it can all all those things and still be enjoyed by someone who didn't go to drama school. 

So I decided the best way to investigate this would be to talk to my parents about art, theatre and what they think I do for a living. My Mum's a retired midwife and my Dad was a taxi driver for 15 years so they're not engaged with the creative industries at all- so I figured they'd be a good starting point for what normal people think about theatre in Australia.

What resulted was a frank and funny discussion about art- but one that also offers an insight into our family and my relationship to my parents, as well as their relationship to each other. I asked them to do this- and even though they didn't know why, or what I was doing it for, they helped me because they love me. And now five years later, my Dad and I are still touring this show.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?

I found them in my parents lounge room! Because of the lack of funding for theatre in Australia, it was made with a very small team. Myself and my parents, an outside eye director called Gerard McCulloch and a sound composer called Edward Gould.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I've always been interested in making performance- ever since I was bossing my siblings into performing dance routines as a five year old. I studied devised theatre as the main part of my undergraduate and post-graduate degrees and was never really interested in being in other people's work. Of course I have and do appear in other people's work and have always learned and enjoyed the process, but I suppose it also comes from being somewhat of a control freak that I want to create my own performance.

I also create work primarily from my own life experience so in that way the performance is intensely personal and auto-biographical, which can make it hard to include other artists and performers. I'm drawn to the medium of theatre because it creates something from nothing and it's practical yet ephemeral.

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

Yes I suppose it was... The starting point for Sweet Child of Mine was recorded video interviews with my parents, around which the piece was built quite organically and intuitively. My most recent live-art piece is called Onstage Dating and involves me going on first dates with strangers from the audience live onstage. It was made after I went on 50 first dates in a year, arranged with strangers through the internet. So you could say I take quite a practical approach to my work! 

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

Everyone has parents- of some kind- and everyone brings that lived experience to Sweet Child of Mine, for better or for worse. It can be an emotional experience as well as an emotional topic for people and we try to be sensitive to that fact. We try to create a joyful live experience, one of sharing and openness, where people and their parents can engage playfully with each other. I want people to leave the theatre happier than when they arrived.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

The audience experience as well as the audience participation in Sweet Child of Mine is developed very gradually and very deliberately. The first interaction we have directly with one another is one that they volunteer for, as well as it occurs from the safety of their own seat in the dark. 

It also happens about half way through the show, after they've had a chance to get to know Dad and I a little bit and feel confident about our skills as performers. The next section asks for audience questions that Dad fields about anything they want to know about his life, and the third asks them to come onstage to complete a role play with me about my relationship with my mother.

I believe that audience participation is something that most, if not all audiences are up for, they just need to feel confident in the way it's being handled by the artists and feel like their contribution is going to be valued and not used as fodder to make fun of them.

I consider audience experience as a whole as the most important thing in my work. It's the whole reason to work in a live medium, in a world where staying home binge watching episodes of Game of Thrones is infinitely easier and cheaper. If people are going to leave their houses and pay money to come and see my work, I'm damn well going to include them in the experience and not pretend we're in a 19th century drawing room behind a fourth wall.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?

I suppose I would place it in a post-dramatic tradition. There is no fourth wall, the artifice of theatre is fully exposed and I don't do acting. Neither does my Dad- mainly because he can't remember his lines.

Devised and performed by Bron Batten and her parents, James and Linda Batten
Outside Eye Direction: Gerard McCulloch
Sound Design: Edward Gould

WINNER: Best Experimental Performance at the 2011 Melbourne Fringe Festival
SPECIAL COMMENDATION: Best Theatre, Adelaide Fringe Festival 2013
NOMINATED: Best Theatre Production, 2013 Perth Fringe World Festival

A mixture of theatre, dance, stand-up and awkward family function, Sweet Child of Mine is for anyone who has trouble talking to their parents about who they are - or what they do for a living.

Come and hear some Dad jokes- direct from the source.

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