Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Acting Alone Dramaturgy: Ava Hunt @ Edfringe 2016

     Acting Alone       Just Festival at St John's (Venue 127)
 Aug 9-10, 12 5.50pm

acting-alone-dramaturgy-database-edfringeActing Alone is inspired by the people Ava met in refugee camps in Palestine. In her unique performance style, Ava weaves together stories of immense complexity and fragile humanity with tales of her often funny and occasionally bizarre experiences of working as an actor and performing alone. Heartbreaking, witty and confronting, Acting Alone asks questions of us all – can one person make a difference? And what are we willing to risk? 

In its exploration of the complex situation faced by those living in Palestine, Acting Alone challenges the conventions audiences most often experience in theatres. It invites them to interact—to cross the dramaturgical divide and create an ending where no-one, including the performer, knows the resolution.   Paul Webb, Vice-Chair of Wirksworth and District Amnesty International Group, which commissioned the piece, said:   “it’s engaging from the outset, provocative, entertaining and motivating, and poses the question what can an individual do in the face of injustice?”  

What was the inspiration for this performance?
Going to Palestine and visiting/seeing Palestinian artists and educators was all part of making a piece of theatre based on Michael Morpurgo's children's book "The Kites Are Flying" however, I came back with more material and experiences than could possibly fit in the show of schools audiences.  But it was what happened to me out there raised so many questions I felt uneasy and was left with more questions, than answers.  So when Amnesty Derbyshire branch discussed with me about making a response to the humanitarian crises of attacks on Gaza - I realised that all those experinces and questions could be used to spark and stimulate a new piece - Acting Alone. 

Is theatre still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 
The whole form for Acting Alone is constructed to stimulate discussion and debate - I have toured the piece for over a year now both nationally and internationally to a wide range of audiences and have received many and varied responses.  The Israeli/Palestinian conflict is so complex for many it is inaccessible and overwhelming and therefore Acting Alone is a gentle journey for an audience to whom may have very different levels of knowledge and understanding. I believe that theatre is one of the few arenas where audiences can enter into discussion as to what action can be taken.

How did you become interested in making performance?
I have been involved in developing solo performance work that touches on the conflict for the last eight years, and therefore this has been a long journey - with questions such as why would an ordinary person do something extraordinary for someone the don't know? To can one person make a difference?  
My research has involved meeting with holocaust survivors, working and campaigning for international action against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.  

The form of the piece was inspired a range of artists including that of colleague Tim Crouch.  My director and I wanted to create a structure that would propose a re-positioning of the performer/audience relationship.  To break down the divide through subtle moments of participation.  This culminates to the end moment where no-one including myself knows how the show will finish - where the audience can cross the dramaturgical divide and participate in the resolution.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
I worked closely with my director and dramaturg, Tilly Branson over a period of a ten months.  The process consisted of me writing, and then coming together with Tilly to test and re-write.  Tilly would then edit and craft the material.  We then piloted the performance material carefully recording audience feedback.  I then made an Arts Council application for funding to allow us to revisit the material with the audience response and continued the writing process again.  
This process of writing followed by reflection was necessary and much time was spent cross referencing and checking our material for accuracy.  However, the participatory elements of the show also continued to develop during the first leg of touring.  The piece is constructed in such a way that enables the audience to explore the question of what action we can take as an 'international community' leading one audience member to tweet: "it didn't prick my conscience it stabbed it"

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
The audience often comment that they really value my honesty and courage to explore this complex, highly emotive subject.  Some also talk about their experiences and identify with the painful dilemmas that I had.  Feedback that I have received is often complementary however, I have experienced strong opposition - one occasion  two women spoke throughout "lies, lies.." a very animated conversation amongst the audience members with the two women ensued.  However, the fact that audiences are not all of one opinion is important to ensure that this is not 'preaching to the converted' 

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
From the beginning the audience are asked if they could help me - they are engaged with cutting up quotes with a ruler and placing them in jam jars for later in the show.  When the show starts I am in the audience and look at the empty space sharing with them that "I get really nervous"  I say that it might go wrong and maybe someone might help me if that happens, I then go onto the stage.  From this experience I then weave what happened to me in Palestine, together with folk tales, and funny stories that illustrate the ridiculous things that actors do sometimes to earn a living in contrast of being involved in direct political action. These moments of participation continue throughout until the end moment when I ask the audience if they will help me to end the show.

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