Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Horizon Dramaturgy: Andy Platt @ Edfringe 2016

Underbelly Med Quad (Venue 302)
17:00 Aug 3-15, 17-27

True but forgotten story of sacrifice and an impossible dream. Stunning music and a gripping story of the blind boy who wanted to be seen. Humiliated by others, Nicholas Saunderson harbours a hidden genius and an unquenchable thirst for learning. But it's the 1600s: no Braille, nobody to help, no hope. 

Yet Nicholas has aspirations. This tale of courage, love and adversity is set against the contrasting earthiness of Yorkshire and the dreaming spires of Cambridge. Can Nicholas succeed in a world set against him?

What was the inspiration for this performance?
The show is based on the astonishing true tale of a blind man, Nicholas Saunderson who has been virtually forgotten. The great musicals tend to be about big themes and Saunderson's story is certainly that.  He was a genius mathematician but that's almost secondary.  It's his character that makes his story so inspiring. The man had nothing in his favour.  

He'd lost his eyes as a one year old, Braille didn't yet exist, he came from a tiny village in the middle of nowhere, and yet he refused to
accept his lot.  No Horizon is about a dream, it's about courage, passion and love.  And it's about taking on the world.  It pretty much demanded to be written.
How did you go about gathering the team for it?

Originally, I teamed up with Max Reid, a businessman with a passion for the arts in order to produce the show. We've had a shared goal about making a success of this and had to show some fair determination along the way - we've taken some inspiration from the subject of the show there! We've worked hard to assemble a great team, onstage and off.  

Our intention is to bring a great show to the audience that will inspire and move them so we have taken no short cuts.  The 'hands on' people have been doing a great job but we've also attracted the attention of some other influential people along the way.  David Blunkett has been a big supporter, Elaine Paige has plugged one of the tracks from the show on air and Chris Evans billed No Horizon as 'The Yorkshire Les Mis' during his Radio 2 Breakfast Show.
How did you become interested in making performance?

In education first and foremost.  I've written quite extensively in that area and you see the power of the arts close up.  The effects are magnified with children.  Writing for adults is an extension of that and through music it's possible to reach emotions in a very deep way; perhaps as children experience them.  

We've had some really positive feedback from 'try-out' performances and No Horizon really does seem to move people, as well as inspiring.  We are really encouraged.
Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?

In most ways yes, but in one significant way it's been different.  For Edinburgh, we wanted it to last no more than an hour and a half - people are on the move to different shows and we had to recognise that. There is such a lot of great story to tell that it has required a lot of discipline to keep the show to that length.  

It's been a good process though!  Every song and every word has a purpose.
What do you hope that the audience will experience?

We want audiences to come away moved and entertained.  It's a deeply touching story, and I don't think you can leave the theatre unaffected.  On top of that though, we want people to be inspired in their own lives.  Saunderson's tale can bring hope where there is none.  It shines a light on what is possible.  
What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
It's musical theatre so, for me, first and foremost it's about music that can touch people.  I hope  I've achieved that.  It's a highly accessible story so I've kept the music highly accessible too - nothing avant-garde, a focus on memorable and emotive tunes that people can relate to.
Do you see your work within any particular tradition?

Perhaps Chris Evans summed it up best: A Yorkshire Les Mis.  I think 
No Horizon is certainly not derivative, but in style and music, it's not far away from Les Mis.  More that than Starlight Express!!

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