Monday, 13 June 2016

Wayward Dramaturgy: Catriona Loud @ Edfringe 2016

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
I am very lucky that the crew I’ll be working with this year was given to me on a plate. I’ve known Felipe (of The Blueswater) since university (we were in rival bands) but I joined them for few performances last year.  The Blueswater Fringe empire grew, and I was asked if I wanted my new show to be part of it. Job done.
What was the inspiration for this performance?
Blues, blues and more blues. Wayward Girls is the show I’ve wanted to make for a long time. I think the seeds have been sewn throughout a long, passionate and fruitful relationship with feminism, female singers and a contradictory love of often misogynistic music.

How did you become interested in making performance?
I always have been. That old chestnut. I didn’t think I would make cabaret, but a few years ago I was having a drink with a friend, moaning about things, and she asked me “But what do you want to do?” and the answer was “Sing. And other bits and bobs, too. Oh, I can’t choose just one thing.” I think cabaret is for performers who can’t choose just one genre and be happy. It’s for magpies. Come up and see my beautiful, sparkly nest sometime!
Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
It is only my second show, so I’m not entirely sure what my process is exactly. Ask me in five years. The experience is, however, very different in comparison to how my last show was made. I was
working with Finn Anderson on Big Night In last year, meeting up to rehearse songs I was interested in, and we slowly compiled the set list as I wrote the narrative. As the set list changed, the narrative changed with it. And when I went off on an unexpected direction in the narrative, some songs had to be changed to match that shift in tone. But I was singing with Finn a lot. 

This time around, it’s been a very solitary process, but much more focused. Blues music became the foundation, the backdrop, the overarching theme, the initial incentive for the new direction Cat as a character is going in. I almost knew exactly what the beginning, middle and end of the show would look like before I chose any music. I wrote the opening of the show, was happy with it, and then I spent about two weeks just listening and choosing music, not writing at all. I really knew what I wanted to say and how I wanted to feel at each point in the story, and when I was happy with the set list, I finished the first draft. A few songs have been swapped out, and the order shifted around, but the show hasn’t been as fluid as the last show, and I haven’t been as wishy washy in what I want to say. There’s been very little trial and error, which is also perhaps owing to having less time. By March last year, Finn and I had previewed the show already, but I’ll be launching straight into this festival.
What do you hope that the audience will experience?
I’m really excited about the songs I’ll be singing this year, so I hope audiences will come away happy to hear songs they are familiar with sung my way, and fired up about discovering new music. I’m also singing some songs that I think have provocative lyrics, because blues is by nature fairly shocking, subversive and politically-charged. All the things I have to say about being wayward and being a girl will hopefully generate some meaty, revelatory moments in amongst the banging tunes.
What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
I perform in character and sing songs written by other people, but through those disguises, I want to be honest. It’s a style of performance that requires its performers to look their audiences in the eyes and connect, and I don’t think it’s possible to do that and have an audience trust me unless my heart is on my sleeve, where it belongs. So when I’m on stage, wearing myself as a character, talking about how problematic I find the lyrics to Hotline Bling, it’s because I am truly taking umbrage with the lyrics to Hotline Bling, and if someone in the audience is sitting there thinking “OMG GIRLFRIEND, ME TOO” then my work here is done.  
Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
The more I research the blues, the more I want to belong to the tradition of blues singers. So much of the blues I listen to is about common human experiences – your baby leaving you, or you leaving your baby; getting treated badly, or treating someone else badly; drinking too much; sleeping around too much; spending too much money or having no money to spend; staying in and not having fun at all – and the songs are about feeling the lightness or weight of these experiences and then sharing those feelings with whoever is listening. 

It’s a genre of extremes, and lyrics are either full of gleeful euphemism or are brutally explicit. Two examples would be Bessie Smith singing “I want a little sugar in my bowl”,  compared to Louisiana Red's lyric “I have a hard time missing you baby, with my pistol in your mouth”. 

I think the big question to ask when considering singing a blues song is “Will I get away with saying this out loud?” Another big question I ask myself if “Do I empathise with this song?” If the answer is no, it is discarded. 

There’s almost no point in singing the blues unless you feel it, I don’t think. There’s more feeling in a single Muddy Waters chord than there is in the entire Top 40. I’m happy to argue that. There’s also a fair amount of misogyny in the blues tradition, so claiming certain songs as my own and owning the wayward behaviours they describe is my defiance of that tradition.

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