Monday, 20 June 2016

The Dramaturgy Builder: Vic Llewellyn @ Edfringe 2016

Vic Llewellyn and Kid Carpet present

The Castle Builder

Summerhall, The Old Lab, 5 – 28 Aug 2016 (not 16 & 22) 12.55pm (1.50pm)

The true story of an inmate in a Norwegian psychiatric institute who, over five years, built a castle on a remote headland. Vic Llewellyn(The Author) and ‘kiddy disco punk’ musician Kid Carpet (Ed Patrick) explore personal accounts and tales of other outsider artists who’ve been inspired to build gigantic extraordinary structures, alone, in secret, and without artistic validation from the real world.


Vic Llewellyn – (Co-director and co-performer) – The Castle Builder
What was the inspiration for this performance?
I was told a story about an inmate in a Norwegian Psychiatric institute, who, over the period of five years built a castle on a remote headland.  He had told no-one what he was doing. Just collected his sandwiches every day and quietly got on with it. The show built itself from that story.
I think we were really moved by his strong sense of quiet endeavour. Without asking for accolades, praise and pats on the back he built something extraordinary in what I could only imagine were difficult circumstances. I think the impetus to build also came out of difficult circumstances. The personal details that we know about him are slim but we’ve made this show about him. Also it’s about people who as we speak are building something amazing that’s out of our gaze. Shining in the corner of our eye as it were.

 How did you go about gathering the team for it?
Ed and I had worked together on a Christmas show called The Lost Present. That was when I told him the story about the Norwegian man, and we thought we would make a show about him.

We were due to perform at a scratch night in Coventry and I physically couldn’t talk and press the cue buttons to fire up our screen images at the same time.  So we asked my son Harvey to come up with us and do that job. He’s been in the show ever since and actually plays Trumpet in the final song of the piece.


We wanted to work with two directors in rehearsal. So we chose some old past collaborators; Emma Williams, who directed us in The Lost Present, and Richie Smith who I had worked with during my years with Desperate Men Theatre Company. Emma has great dramaturgical skills and can really pick out the wheat from the chaff, and Richie who has an amazing eye for visual image and stage structure.


How did you become interested in making performance?
In 1990 totally disillusioned with my career as a Biochemist, I attended a three week residency run by performers Andy Dawson & Gavin Robertson. At that time they were going under the name of Mime Theatre Productions.   At the end of the course Andy suggested that go and train with Phillippe Gaulier. So I did.  That gave me the inspiration to eventually make my own work.

Ed came at it from a different route. He describes himself as a normal young man who lived in Bristol and aspired to be a musician. Until he went to his local car boot sale with a ten pound note and returned with a plastic guitar, a child’s keyboard and a toy tape deck. He put his name into an online anagram generating machine and Kid Carpet was born.
Kid Carpet began making music with old keyboards, toys, computers, a sellotaped up broken electric guitar and a punk rock DIY attitude.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
Yes, in that it always starts with a story. Usually a very small story with no filling. Then I just wrote loads, I wrote a play, I wrote a short story, a short film script, a children’s story, all about the man in Norway. Most of it never got used.

We both read a lot of books and totally invaded and scoured the internet.
Ed and I would talk a lot. We’d say “what about a song about GOD” or “what about a song about Architects”. Then the show started to mould itself slowly around the songs that Ed wrote.

Most importantly, we constantly tried out new material and show structures in front of audiences at scratch performances and work -in -progress evenings. It gave an absolute sense of what was working and what wasn’t.

We took our time.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
I was part of the punk scene in 1977 and was totally caught up in the do -it -yourself attitude. Pick up a guitar and make your own music in a garage, or stencil what you believed on old t-shirt. I still think that.
I would like the audience to have that same feeling during a show. That they’re not watching us show off our performing skills but thinking “ I could do what they’re doing, that looks like fun” , and then going off and doing it. Not thinking that you have to train at RADA for 4 years to be able to stand on a stage and speak and sing to an audience.

That in the performance space, there is no us and them, but we’re all doing this together.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
One of our strategies in building the show was to leave things to the last minute! For instance, Ed accepted a place on a scratch night to do a 20 minute performance of our show. Neither of us had the time to rehearse or write it. In the end we put that performance together in the afternoon before the show. I think the nervous energy and excitement we put into that show really migrated into the audience reaction as well. That was the night the show really found its present form. We never forgot it; like riding a bike!

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
I used to love the Scottish rock band The Sensational Alex Harvey Band who were so theatrical in their shows; each song had a story. Also Fee Waybill of the Tubes and the San Francisco band the Residents. All doing a bit more than doing just a gig. I think our show is bit like those, more like a gig with a bit of theatre in it.

Summerhall, The Old Lab, 3 – 28 Aug 2016 (not 15 & 22), 12.55pm (1.50pm)

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