Thursday, 21 July 2016

Sacre Dramaturgy: Zoe Murtagha @ Edfringe 2016

Devised by Zo­­ë Murtagh and
Victoria Copeland, Sacré Blue is a performance piece confronting anxiety through poetry and storytelling. 

An uplifting performance about panic attacks based on personal experience and shared stories.

It's a bubble bath, a protest, a slice of toast, a balloon. There'll be punk music, popcorn and some clumsily explained analysis of neural pathways.

Let's make something happen, even if it is just in this room right now. We like to think of it as being a bit like a riot organised by your nan. 

What was the inspiration for this performance?

The inspiration for this piece was initially my own personal experience of living with anxiety and panic attacks. Although as soon as I begin to talk to people about this, the themes opened up to include the ideas and experiences of a wide range of other people either going through something similar, or being close to someone who was. 

We've (myself and collaborator Tory Copeland) have always been interested in creating strong visual staging but through using cheap/DIY techniques. We're consistently inspired by music by female/female-fronted punk bands as we felt this gave a strength to the piece and 'strength' is something that is a word not too often associated with mental wellness. 

We are also heavily influenced and inspired by film, science and popular culture. Film is a big source of inspiration for the work. We love for the piece to take on an almost film aesthetic, despite not using any actual projection. We are inspired by films with strong vibrant colour patterns and exciting sound tracks. The piece regularly references the films Amelie and The Labyrinth

How did you go about gathering the team for it?

As this piece was something that began as being an exploration of something quite personal, it was essential to build a team around me made up of people that were both good friends and brilliant artists. Myself and Tory were making work together throughout university so it was a natural progression to have Tory on board to continue the collaboration. 

I could not have made this piece without the amazing imagination, resilience and passion that Tor has. She wore many hats during production - collaborator, co-deviser, director, stage manager, lighting design etc. We also worked with Bethany Bratby, a recent graduate artist specialising in movement and choreography. We'd seen Bethany's work with a large group of actors in training and were so impressed we stole her to work on the piece whilst she was still studying. 

In order to continue the theme of using female vocals for the soundtrack of the piece, I recruited my best friend from school Anna-Kate Golding to record a track for the piece. 

How did you become interested in making performance?

When I realised I had too much to say! We initially began making performance in our second year of university. The work was probably pretty awful but it was so much more fun and liberating than what we had done before. 

Discovering and learning techniques for devising, script writing and spoken word poetry really gave us a freedom artistically, personally and politically that we hadn't been able to express before when being involved in other productions. The responsibility that comes with making work that is so raw and our work is very reactionary - to current events, to our personal experiences, to popular culture and attitudes... 

I think theatre can and often should feel like a gig or a party, a protest, a jukebox, a commune, a place for conflict, compromise and inter-generational friendships and this clicked when I began to make work. We are all still very very early in our careers (Sacre Blue is our first full length show) and have so much to learn and explore. 

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

This is the first full length piece we have made so we don't really have a typical process yet. The experience of making Sacre Blue was highly beneficial moving forward as we can refine the things that work for us and scrap the things that don't. 

We do have some specific ways of working. For example we always begin with the image (for Sacre Blue the images were a yellow raincoat and a medical diagram) and we build around these key images to create scenes and stories. We use an almost collage-technique of creating scenes that could exist as self contained sections and then rearrange the order to create a structure that compliments the material. 

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

We hope the audience have an experience. Ideally we'd like to think that in the hour in which the show takes place, we build a small community. We ultimately want it to be a fun experience. 

The piece is uplifting despite the serious nature of some of the subject matter. We can't control what people come away with but we want them to come away with something, whether that is a sense of empowerment, a love for a new song, a few new facts or just having had a whirlwind hour of emotions and experiences. 

We hope it will encourage people to talk about mental wellbeing, to share their stories or speak to those close to them, we hope it will encourage people to be open and receptive to these experiences. We want people to enjoy the poetry, the movement, the music, the film references and ultimately we hope to play our small part in contributing to the ever evolving conversations around mental health. 

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

We found ways to make the experience inclusive, creating small tasks that challenge the audience and ourselves. We use comedy and the piece varies in pace and discipline. 

Flipping from conversational speech to storytelling to spoken word poetry and improvisation, we make it clear that I am not an expert, but I would like to speak to them about what I have learnt and would like to hear about them too. 

The music, (ironically) relaxed atmosphere and honesty help to build this audience experience, as well as some whacky costumes and lots of paper/popcorn/cups of tea. 

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?

Not a tradition as such. We are inspired by cabaret and muti disciplinary work that always offers something slightly unexpected or surprising. We were making this piece at the same time as Bryonny Kimmings & Tim Grayburn's 'Fake It Til You Make It' & Brigitte Aphrodite's 'My Beautiful Big Black Dog' and there are cross overs. These are also artists who's work I hugely admired before I became aware of their work surrounding mental health so they have been influences. 

Ultimately we make part-scripted, part-devised work that is playful, vibrant and unique. In the early stages of making this piece we were also being given brilliant advice by artists Selina Thompson and RashDash who's work really resonates and inspires us. For us it is about considering the things we love about other artists across several mediums and identifying where that sits within our work and creating our own loud voices within the work. 

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