Saturday, 23 July 2016

Zero Dramaturgy: Popcorn Productions @ Edfringe 2016

1pm, 4th-28th August, Belly Laugh, Underbelly Cowgate. (Not 16th)

Popcorn Productions is returning to the Edinburgh Fringe after the success of Submarine, (One of the top 150 rated shows at Ed. Fringe ‘15) with work from emerging writer Rachel Ruth Kelly.

Beth is turning 21, sitting outside the club, trying to forget him. Bringing to life a whole host of characters: an overbearing mother, a Christian fundamentalist, a best friend, too busy getting off with the DJ to care about her, Beth would rather be anyone but herself. 

Dark, funny and poignant, this one-woman show takes Beth apart, piece by piece. This is powerful new writing that will stay with you long after she has stumbled back inside.'

Beth’s experiences are ‘all public fucking knowledge now aren’t they’. Zero covers several taboo topics the tension between love and abuse, relationship rape, mental illness and suicide. Ultimately trying to grasp the struggles of a girl on the brink of adulthood.

Rachel Ruth Kelly and Director Sarah Flanagan

What was the inspiration for this performance?
Being northern and proud, Rachel Ruth Kelly, our writer, wanted to set her piece in the North without the focus having to be ‘the North’.

It is a reflection on adolescence; the intensity of emotion, the relationships all fraught with tension and the fact so often normality for a teenager is in actual fact a long way from normal.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
It is a personal play, so sharing it with the world took guts on
Rachel’s part, as such she asked her best friend to direct. Positive feedback from a preview performance gave her the confidence to find a company to take it to the fringe. Having worked with Popcorn Productions previously, they were an obvious choice.

Since the play is about a girl growing up both Sarah and Rachel were keen to work with an all-female team.

How did you become interested in making the performance?
For Rachel performance has and always will be a means to educate, on big issues: mental illness, feminism, (As an all-female team we had to mention the ‘f-word’ somewhere.) peer pressure, or simply the feelings of others.

In regards to this performance, all of us would say it was all about having the privilege to read the script. It was so powerful, brutal and captivating that we felt compelled to be a part of ZERO’s team.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
Yes, although since it is a one-woman show a much closer bond was formed in rehearsal between Sarah and Grace. (Director and actress) This is something we see coming across in how the work developed for stage and now as the piece continues to evolve.  

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
Complexity. The complexity of what it is to be human. We hope they don’t just sympathise with Beth but understand her, seeing her imperfections, and both trusting and distrusting her and the story she has to tell.

Like any theatre producers we hope to transport our audience, but not just to the dingy exterior of the gaudy nightclub where Beth sits, but into her very troubled thought process.

We want them to understand Zero’s true tragedy, Beth; chatty and bubbly yet hopeless and dejected in equal measure, has been chewed up and spat out - by literally everyone who should be there to comfort her.

Zero has its moments of hilarity, where hopefully our audience will feel themselves akin to Beth, warmed by her presence, I hope that these will enable Zero to resonate with our audience. We hope it will remind them that those who laugh the loudest, are sometimes the loneliest, those who feel most trapped by their own past.

We want them to leave Belly Laugh unsettled, uprooted and, hopefully, with eyes a little more open to the lingering pain behind an oh-so polite, oh-so British, ‘Yes, - I’m fine, thank you. How are you?’

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

Sarah, our Director says, ‘The main thing was to get really into the text - Rachel gives you the words of those who laugh to hide the pain, who joke to conceal insecurity and who are bumbling through life just trying to ‘get by'. How do you convey that to an audience? This was the challenge for Grace as an actor and myself as a director. We had to focus on each individual clause, pulling it apart in rehearsal.
‘We sought to find the disconnect between what Beth says and what she really means. Such a script requires a sensitive, thoughtful performance. The majority of rehearsal was used to capture the minutiae; the tiny flinches, the twitches, the nervous ticks of flicking a cigarette and the tiny undulations in Grace's voice that tell the audience 'actually, I'm not alright, this is actually really, really shit.'

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
To some extent; there has definitely been a rise in ‘Fringe-Esque’ one person shows, and young female writers for that matter. But Zero is really all about telling a woman’s story, and that is so much bigger than just one tradition.

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