Thursday, 14 July 2016

Belfast Dramaturgy: Matt Regan @ Edfrnge 2016

Little King’s Greater Belfast

A gig like no other, these are songs for a city growing greater and greater.Greater Belfast blends poetic storytelling with powerful contemporary composition for a string quartet to paint a moving portrait of a city still aching from the violence of its recent past.

This is the patter and slang of Belfast, the caustic black humour of Belfast, all bent together into words and music that cut through the sleech and speak to the heart.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

A few things, I think. I wanted to write in a different way. I was a
songwriter for the longest time, and sometimes I would finish a song and feel like there was much much more to it. Lyrics can be so restrictive; it's hard to have a lot of info in them, so I felt I needed to expand the songs. Trying to make songs as immersive and story like as possible is a big inspiration.

The other side of it would be my feelings of Belfast. Living away from Belfast for years helped me get some perspective on how I feel about the place. Now feels like a good time to talk about Belfast in a different way.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?

When I was starting out I asked people I knew who would be best at the job. I'm lucky to have had my producer Michael O' Neill and director Claire Willoughby as an outside eye from the get go. Alice Wilson was the first person I thought of as a designer, I loved working with her on The Forbidden Experiment. The original musicians were all great players who joined in as a favour, and I cannot be more grateful to them for all they put in to those first goes at it in rehearsal rooms and scratch nights. When we got a little further on, strength of word of mouth and buzz around the show meant our team got bigger, with the likes of the Cairn String Quartet or Julian Corrie (aka Miaoux Miaoux as album producer) joining. As well as Simon Hayes our lighting designer. But now with the fringe, I feel like the team is even bigger, extending to kind people in the Tron who helped me make the work, and now the Traverse!

How did you become interested in making performance?

I think it was mostly thanks to the company I kept really. When I
moved to Glasgow from Belfast, I fell in with a crowd of actors/theatre makers/directors. I started to work in theatre and I think by osmosis, performance and theatre started to influence me. I did some acting when I was young, but it never really made sense to me.

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

The process for Greater Belfast was completely new to me. It mixes composition, songwriting, writing words and considering performance. It's a real mix, a mix of everything I've been interested in over the years finally coming together really. The process was like jigsaw pieces finally falling together.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

I hope they imagine Belfast vividly, and feel connected to it. The work jumps, sometimes quite quickly, from emotion to emotion. I want the humour of Belfast to be felt, the hope of the future and the pain of the past. I’ve chucked a couple of songs from the show online to give people a bit of a taste –

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

When I was writing the work I constantly asked myself “what do I want the audience to feel at this point?” nearly everything is geared toward that question. The composition of the music, my performance, the words, the lighting. I worked really hard to make sure that what I want the audience to feel is clear, and felt keenly.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?

The performance I make is a blend of familiar things, done in a very personal and idiosyncratic way. It's a gig/theatre piece down the line. The form is as important to me as the content, and messing around with ones idea of what an album or theatre piece is, is very exciting. In my head I make albums. But they're weird albums admittedly...  

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