Monday, 11 July 2016

Dramaturgy A Little: Finlay Bain @ Edfringe 2016

Edinburgh-born actor and writer Finlay Bain brings the world premiere of Living a Little, an absurd comedy drama filled with booze and obscenities, to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival at The New Town Theatre (Venue 7) at Freemason’s Hall on Edinburgh’s George Street this August.

With not a zombie in sight, we are taken into a sanctuary of normality while the outside world rots. The play deals with the questions of what it is to be alive, to be human and what to do if you think today could be your last?

In a secure and stockpiled flat, complete with a TV, a sound system, video games and enough alcohol to host a Scottish wedding, we meet best mates Rob, an ill-mannered, politically incorrect Scottish lad and Paul, the gayest straight man ever.

The arrival of battle hardened Penelope is the catalyst of the piece as she challenges their way of life whilst seeking relative comfort and safety after living out in the wild of a zombie apocalypse.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
The inspiration for Living a Little was living with my best friend (now fellow cast member) Paul Thirkell in a flat in Birmingham during our last year at Birmingham School of Acting. It was always a very funny time, so I thought there could be potential for a play, especially if we were to write more extreme versions of ourselves set during a more extreme time.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
The cast was already two thirds done as I wrote the piece for myself to play Rob and for Paul to play... Paul (I tried using different names but in my head Paul had to be Paul!) then it was about finding the right Penelope, the catalyst of the drama. 

So Jordan Murphy (director) and myself with Paul held auditions and we immediately knew Lauren Sheerman was perfect for the part. I chose Jordan to direct Living a Little because last May he directed a 25 minute snippet of the play at The Vaults so from working with him then and seeing the response for the scratch performance of Living a Little, I knew I had a great team to take to the Fringe.

How did you become interested in making performance?
Being the youngest in a large Edinburgh family I've always been interested in making performance (my family would call it attention seeking and showing off!). I was able to tap into this more at the Edinburgh Academy where I went to school, by attending a drama after school class with fellow rugby team mates "for a laugh". Next thing you know, I was playing Nancy and Old Sally in Oliver Twist and become addicted (to acting, not cross dressing!)

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance? 
Yes I think it was fairly typical: write a play, read it, re-write, read it, re-write, workshop, re-write, workshop, re-write, rehearse 25 min snippet, re-write, rehearse, perform 25 min, listen to feedback, re-write, rehearse, rehearse, preview in London then take to the Fringe! And in doing all this giving everyone a bit of leg room to change and try things out so that the play isn't rigid in its exact format.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
Given the setting of the piece, the main things that I would want the audience to experience is the feeling that the space the characters are in is a safe haven and that outside those walls is a rotting world. And at the end of the day I want people leaving the performance feeling it was worth more than they paid for it. 

It is a very funny show with moments of real drama and emotion, but ultimately it's a show for the audience to enjoy and I'm hopeful they'll enjoy it a lot.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
We have worked hard on showcasing the comedy within the writing by taking moments out of rehearsal to really home in on the skill set of the cast. We want to give the audience a night where they laugh throughout the piece. We have carefully considered the sight lines from the audience and blocking to ensure that everyone will be able to see all of the action.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
The play doesn't fall into any kind of tradition per se, but it is a comedy drama where there is no line – and if we got to a point in the script where we found one, we most certainly crossed it!

Finlay Bain said: “In a world where the zombie genre has infected all platforms of entertainment such as books, video games, TV shows and big blockbuster movies, I felt that now is the time for someone to successfully tackle the undead on stage. 

“Basing the characters on friends of mine from acting school and an old pal from Edinburgh helped me write authentically controversial yet strikingly different people.”

Jordan Murphy, director, added: “Finlay has written such a fantastic script filled with wit, colourful characters and extremely bad language. Living a Little pushes the boundaries of friendship and love, and creates a fun and engaging atmosphere for the audience to get their teeth into."

The New Town Theatre at Freemason’s Hall offers an upstairs Film Bar and, downstairs, two theatre spaces, Mysterious and Magic. Immediately outside the venue the theatre group will put on live music, a Famous Grouse bar, a WEST bar and a family-friendly courtyard featuring a range of festivities showcasing the shows within the theatre itself.

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