Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Dramaturgy in Wundergarten: François Pandolfo @ Edfringe 2016

difficult | stage present

Alix in Wundergarten

By François Pandolfo
Co-produced with The Other Room and in association with Chapter Arts Centre

Cow Barn, Underbelly Med Quad (Venue 302)
3-29 August 2016

Alix in Wundergarten, François Pandolfo, Edfringe 2016, Dramaturgy database,

After taking Cardiff by storm, difficult | stage, resident company of Cardiff’s pub theatre The Other Room, bring their hilariously bold and highly acclaimed brand of theatre and comedy to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Alix in Wundergarten is a fully immersive and unapologetically black and twisted satire set in the confines of a radio-recording studio.
Alix In Wundergarten is written by difficult|stage’s François Pandolfo and was originally produced as part of The Other Room’s Blue Sky season in 2015; an entire season of work curated by the theatre to give emerging and talented companies like difficult|stage the space, time and resources to make exciting theatre.

Alix In Wundergarten Director Angharad Lee and the company, which includes François alongside Jess Lloyd Jones, Dean Rehman and Dewi-Rhys Williams, are reworking the show for the run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The show will run at the Underbelly’s Cow Barn venue in tandem with Aberystwyth Arts Centre and Joio’s production of Saturday Night Forever.

difficult | stage and The Other Room’s production of Alix in Wundergarten will run at the Cow Barn in Underbelly’s Med Quad (Venue 302) 3-29 August (every other day) at 7.10pm. Tickets are on sale now at www.edfringe.com

What was the inspiration for this performance?

I've always had an unhealthy obsession with Alice's Adventures in
Alix in Wundergarten, François Pandolfo, Edfringe 2016, Dramaturgy database,
Wonderland and how it seems to capture the essence of our fears and anxieties; time, the loss of innocence, failure and the rules we run our life by.

The children's classic worked perfectly as a backdrop with a bigger need in wanting to expose and explore the strange, hilarious and wonderful world of the arts scene as a whole. The comedy then kind of just fell into place. 

How did you go about gathering the team for it?

There were people that I knew I wanted to work with and took this opportunity to grab them while I could and basically wrote the roles with them firmly in mind. Whether they actually ended up playing the roles or not due to other commitments was irrelevant as it initially gave the characters a solid and dimensional existence on the page.

Having said that the actors new and old, have had a massive stake in who these people are and the decisions they make.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I've been an actor since going to a drama youth group at Llanover Hall in Cardiff at the age of 12. It was that or a pottery class. I'm not good with clay or clearing up so drama club was the next class.

If I'm being honest since then everything has geared towards either being in other people's productions or most recently creating my own concoctions with difficult|stage, a company I founded along with co-directors Katy Owen and Ben Tyreman.

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

It very much seems that way. Our first production as difficult|stage The World of Work written by our very own anarchic Katy Owen saw us develop
Alix in Wundergarten, François Pandolfo, Edfringe 2016, Dramaturgy database,
a freedom in rehearsals where we didn't set ourselves strict and rigorous confounds within normal theatre form. We let the actors play and find a truth within themselves so they could bring magnified aspects of their own identity to the role and narrative.

It is something we have definitely brought into Alix in Wundergarten and plan to continue with this method with future projects maybe steering it in a slightly different direction next time so as never to feel comfortable with the scary aim of testing our audiences and ourselves.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

To make them laugh essentially and leave them asking why they laughed. Like crying, laughter is such a personal thing even though it tends to be something we do collectively. Exploring the depths of what we find funny is fascinating to me and where we allow laughter to take us whether it's delirium, pain or frustration is equally intriguing.

Last year I saw a show called The Dark side of the Mime and it really tested people's limits. Even I, with my penchant for darker than dark humour was on the edge of what I could take. Who knew mime could be so hilariously frightening. The artist cleverly drew a mirror up to his audience and I like that...a lot! I hope to achieve a similar result if we possibly can.

Joan Littlewood once said 'life is a transition from darkness to darkness and anything that cheers that up is valuable' (I've paraphrased slightly but I think it's better) 'oh isn't he modest' - Kenneth Williams voice!

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

We definitely wanted to challenge the commercial crowd of theatre goers and give them a new experience. Through its boldness and unapologetic approach using black humour we planned from very early on with Alix in Wundergarten to stage a live visceral experience that was all consuming, sensory wise.

Alix in Wundergarten, François Pandolfo, Edfringe 2016, Dramaturgy database,

The result is sometimes painful and cringing to watch as well as embarrassingly funny because we recognise a lot of those feelings but they're generally not showcased theatrically and kept under wraps personally. Collaborating with a clear vision was the answer to this and surrounding ourselves with like minded people as well as creatives who may challenge and push our ideas seemed a good working ethic from day one.

After years of going to the theatre I realised that we have fallen very securely into the trap of accepting that theatre needs to be a certain way: clarity, staging and drama structure. For me this was becoming dull and uninspiring so I felt the need as an audience member and as a writer to mix things up and play around with how work is presented. James Dean, God rest him, was seen as a strange undisciplined actor by his peers in the 50's but when we look back now we realise that he was way ahead of his time and was insightful enough to go against the grain. I hope we can do the same and like sh*t, some of it will stick!

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?

I'm hoping that it's unique enough to stand out on its own. Come see it and be the judge. We've called it a twisted black comedy but our audiences may feel differently. 

We are all monkeys vying for status.
A group of actors. Trying to do a play. Locked in a studio….go tumbling down a black hole in this disturbingly wünderbar and terrifically bonkers twisted dark comedy. You’d be mad indeed to miss it… bring your own banana!
“Congratulations radio drama fan! You are invited to join our live recording of Lewis Carroll's classic, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. On attending in 2015, Lee McCarthy said 'after losing my Mother and step-brother to swine flu, watching an all-Mongolian cast record Three Sisters cheered me right up. I created the sound of mating foxes with a carrot and an oyster knife.’

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