Monday, 6 June 2016

The End of Dramaturgy: Jack Webb @ Tramway

The End
Jack Webb

Friday 10 and Saturday 11 June, 7.30pm


Acclaimed Scottish choreographer Jack Webb and a company of three exceptional dancers confront and explore the dramatic notion of end points, the end of the world, the end of life as we know it, the end of good, bad and all in between. Extraordinary choreographic style and powerful soundscapes combine for a startlingly thoughtful and compelling experience that looks our very existence straight in the eye.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

THE END started life, mostly at night time, trying to fall asleep and yet being plagued by quite powerful yet irrational thoughts of self doubt and the contemplation of how might life be if I were to stop making work and dancing/performing. 

I think this is probably something that most people are thinking regularly as an artist, but somehow we are compelled to keep going, to keep making.

Rather than ignoring it it seemed right to take responsibility for it and to face it head on.

I started really with the words 'THE END'  and just wanted to see what could come from that. By facing it head on though, of course, it brought up many reasons to keep going, to keep trying,which was just brilliant. It gave birth to a whole new work and process. That was early on though and was a strong starting point, to consider the idea of dramatic endings and what they could be and since then the concepts within the work have developed, and transformed. 

Now THE END really is an invitation to consider our own mortality, our place in the world and how we contribute to it. The work wants to propose simply 'imagine that this is the end of life as you know it'. It is such a dramatic proposal that it forces us to consider what might be left behind and how can we do things differently.  At the core of THE END is a distinct need to address how disconnected we are and how slowly and systematically the fabric of our world is deteriorating whilst we simultaneously are made to  think that it is improving.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
This project started in early 2015 when I had an Artists' Bursary from Creative Scotland. The dancers in the work were all new to me, quite on purpose, to allow me to try new things with new people and to take my work to different places. 

Since then the team have grown with a lighting designer, PR person and producer on board as well as various co-production partners. Some are people I've worked with before and some not. It has all happened quite organically, drawing on people who understand the vision of the work and who want to be part of it. 

How did you become interested in making performance?
My background is in contemporary dance but I've always been experimenting with how this can be 'performance' and not just dancing. Contemporary dance can get a bad rep sometimes so I want to keep finding ways in which to extend it outwards, finding new doorways in to it so that the mystery around it can be dispelled. 

I've also become interested in performance because of a sense of responsibility.  It is really all that I do so I want to be part of something that is crucial to all of our well-being and way of understanding our complex world. But in saying that, I'm interested in making performance because I also want to challenge things. 

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
Sometimes yes and sometimes no. There is always a lot improvising happening. This just feels vital to me to ensure that there is constant inquiry, a constant aliveness. The process of making the work and the piece itself are pretty layered with many ideas and methodologies. I always work this way  to ensure that the people in the work are deep within a bigger picture and constantly pushing at it. 

There are 3 professional dancers in this work and an extended cast of six participants who have joined us for workshops in preparation for the performance. This is definitely new to me, to include people in the work who are not dancing or performing professionally necessarily but who are just really interested to come and experience the work, its concepts and what it can offer. 

This will happen at each venue the work tours to, allowing THE END to keep growing and for people to experience it from the inside as well as from the audience.

I want them to experience a sense of simplicity, a purity but also to have an experience that is startling and thought provoking. 

There is something pretty tough about my work generally, the same applies with THE END, I mean the piece is called THE END, it's startling, even frightening to me! And yet there are many moments of stillness, space, and gentle intimacy and connection/disconnection and a proposal for change and how to do things differently. I want the audience to feel like they can make positive change in the face of adversity.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
The work is in the round and is, at least for us, set in some sort of imaginary nightclub where connections and disconnections unfold. I see it a little like a holding pen of some sort in which the performers and the audience are encouraged to face the darker underbelly of things. I like this strategy for space. To bring everyone together, to see each other and almost be in the work physically and hopefully emotionally.

This work has also made me think about time a lot. With THE END I am asking the audience to slow down, look at tiny details and not be seduced by busy stage activity all of the time. I'm intrigued to see what will happen to the sense of time and place in the performance space and to see if we can look at things differently, patiently and keep re-evaluating what we see and how it relates to everyone.

The inclusion of an extended cast, sourced via an open call is important for me. Bringing   people in to work is a way in which I hope to encourage the audience to look at it differently and to not be afraid of it. 

Some might call me naive but I do actually believe that the kind of work I'm making is for anyone. It's about being open and generous with it, to invite people in and to let them know that it's actually OK. 

I'm hoping the inclusion of an extended cast, who are brilliant by the way, will shape the experience in a way that encourages people to look at the work differently, more closely and to look at it without fear but with curiosity.   

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?

I'm not sure any more, I've stopped thinking about that sort of thing recently. There is definitely something unconventional about the work, it does fit in to some sort of stranger box. I'm really just focusing on making the work and allowing it to be whatever it needs to be...

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