Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Meet Dramaturgy: Ben Pettit-Wade @ Edfringe 2016

Summerhall (Venue 26)
Aug 5-14, 16-21, 23-25 3.55 pm

A cloth puppet fights prejudice every day. Fred just wants to be a regular guy, part of the real world, to get a job, meet a girl and settle down, but when threatened with losing his PLA (Puppetry Living Allowance), Fred’s life begins to spiral out of control.Contains strong language and puppet nudity.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
The inspiration for making Meet Fred came from a week long workshop with Blind Summit, in which we explored bunraku techniques with cloth puppets. Put simply, the inspiration after this week was to create a puppet show that would include our learning disabled artist working with these cloth puppets.
How did you go about gathering the team for it?
Hijinx are an inclusive company that works with artists with learning disability. We have a network of academies that train these performers throughout the year in an ongoing process. We worked with the puppets during a 8 month period with the students, exploring ideas and improvising. We then held two separate weeks of intensive R&D, in which we invited 3 of our learning disabled performers to join a number of our non-disabled tutors. It was during this process that the final cast of 7 was found.
How did you become interested in making performance?
I had an inspirational drama teacher at school, before joining Liverpool John Moores to do a BA in Drama. Since then I have become interested in and specialised in making performance that features teams of creatives both with and without learning disability.
Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
The process of making Meet Fred was fairly typical of the way we make work here at Hijinx. I believe a devising process is one of the best ways to ensure that you can play to everyone’s strengths in a group, something that is very important when working with learning disabled artists. We generally have a minimum 2 your planning and research phase before going into production on any of our professional output. I believe in everyone having a voice within a rehearsal process – for me the role of a director is dramaturgical , to recognise which ideas best serve the story, or concept that we are all trying to create.
What do you hope that the audience will experience?
I hope that an audience that see’s Meet Fred will be able to both laugh and cry, to feel pity but also joy – our piece is quite open ended at the end. I like this, I like that the audience have to make up their own mind a little on how things end for Fred and the other characters.
What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
Puppetry allows us to separate some of the big issues we are dealing with in the piece, of people’s benefits being cut, questions of identity, control and power in people’s lives and ultimately suicide. By seeing all this through Fred’s eyes the show becomes a satire, and as such we are able to view all that happens to Fred with a degree of separation, which allows us to laugh and something which is actually quite dark.
Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
Our work fits within a tradition of creating professional theatre that features artists with learning disability. It is not necessarily a particular style, because we all create work differently, but it is an ethos that our stages are more interesting the more diverse those performing on them are. These are company’s like Mind The Gap, Mooms Teatren in Sweden, Theatre Du Cristal in France and Back to Back in Australia. We are all striving to push up the quality of what we do in the belief that it is possible to achieve absolute equality on our stages and that there is an audience for this work.

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