Friday, 22 July 2016

Life by the Dramaturgy: Ed Jones @ Edfringe 2016

Underbelly, Cowgate (Venue 61)
Aug 4-16, 18-28 2.00pm

This is the story of one man's life – written and performed by a woman. James Joseph Patrick Keogh is a force to reckon with. Born into poverty and madness, he survives on wit, laughter and ingenious schemes. But whether it's sprinting on sports day, chasing oblivion or running away from cops, a crash is sure to come. Question is, will he survive it? Former Coronation Street actor turned award-winning writer Eve Steele channels the life of this remarkable individual in a celebration of the men she's known, loved and wanted to punch in the face.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
I can’t put it better than Eve put on the flyer: The show was inspired by the ingenuity of the rogues Eve has known, loved and wanted to punch in the face. And there’s been a few of them. When we were younger (and more foolish?) and before we got together and started making theatre Eve and myself knew one another and had a few run-ins with the law.

But we’ve also been inspired to try to tell a story that is not usually told. That the people denigrated in the popular press as crooks and rogues are often the most fabulous, ingenious, funny and long suffering among us – more than capable, given the right circumstances, of out-shining anyone.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
Well, Most Wanted is basically Eve and myself, Ed Jones. Eve Steele and I are partners and we became partners during our last theatre outing several years back – a play called Lub You which won us some awards. But her children were young then and it nearly killed us, so we turned to script writing rather than writing for ourselves to produce. (We’ve both had plays on Radio 4 since) This time, it’s just stretching us to the max! We also get by with a bit of help from our friends and the children’s grandparents!

How did you become interested in making performance?
Eve is a professional actor and former dancer (she was Curly Watt’s psycho girlfriend on Corrie for a couple of years famously dying in the freezer). I was a circus performer for many years, as well as (eventually) a pro script writer for Brookie, The Bill, Holby etc. Our work is definitely inspired by this erratic mix.  

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
Yes, one of us will write a piece with the specific intention of making it ourselves – with me directing and Eve as one of the performers – to be done in a more physical, non-naturalistic style.

Over the past few years we’ve learned to make films too and intend to make a feature. We started doing this with just the two of us to learn all the “departments (editing, camera, lights, sound etc) But always as writers trying to tell a good story. And this is also typical. We are very keen to tell a story in an interesting and dramatic way, whether film or theatre, though obviously the two are very different mediums, opposites in some ways.

These film making efforts can be seen on our Vimeo site.

Most of these films have Eve in and some also feature her kids. You’ll also find our trailer for Life By The Throat there too.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
For me there’s three main things:

1. The character and his journey. Funny, terrifying, heartbreaking and emotional. It’s a hugely emotional show.

2. The spectacle. A feat of acting, pure theatre, no props, no set, one woman on stage performing at full stretch, creating a whole life before your very eyes. The element of magic is very important to me. Non naturalism, a proper physical feat, two shows in one: the play and the spectacle. In rehearsals it’s quite literally like we’re doing two shows at the same time.

3. The script. As both of us are writers we put a lot of work into the script, the meaning of the script and the levels it works at as a script. Then when we go into rehearsal we carve it all up again to make it work as a show.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
It’s all about trying to create the spectacle while also being true to the story and the feeling. Sometimes we’ll have a run where we concentrate on the actions, other times we’ll concentrate on the character authenticity. Sometimes it can more closely resemble choreography. It’s like architecture sometimes.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
I want to say physical theatre, but that seems to imply non-narrative and obscure – as well as esoteric – but this show is also a strong, vivid story, that anyone can follow, but definitely non-naturalism, also very realistic and socially conscious, political even. So it’s an amalgam of different things that we hope is original and specific to us. Even though it’s been a few years since our last theatre outing – Lub You – people remember it vividly and still talk about it.

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