Saturday, 22 July 2017

Dramaturgy for Freedom: Pandorum @ Edfringe 2017

Pandorum Theatre Company presents
A modern-day “hero” story

A risqué and murky journey through the realms of the phenomena known as the f*ckboy. A satirical fusion of theatre and sketch comedy playing with penises and the patriarchy. Funny, sharp, and bitingly relevant.

Venue: Sweet Grassmarket: International 2
Dates: August 3-14, 16-27 (2 for one tickets August 7&8)
Time: 21:30 (1 hour)

What was the inspiration for this performance?

The inspiration for this performance was when the term “fuckboy” came to prominence on social media. According to the various Urban Dictionary definitions, the fuckboy is not a new phenomenon, but the term is. 

We wanted to explore the definition and make serious issues funny and palatable for an audience to discuss without being condescending or prescriptive.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

It’s a vitally important space for discussion! Although social media is arguably the largest space for public discussion, people often forget the merits of what is typically perceived as entertainment. Dark comedy especially is very valuable: it seems like only theatre that is considered “proper” or “serious” is given any credit or validation in raising and discussing social issues, but in reality, comedy is the way we so often deal with serious issues in life. 

Why shouldn’t this approach also apply to theatre? Life isn’t black and white, and comedy really can explore the grey areas of life very well. Performance doesn’t necessarily have to preach to people, but it can introduce new ideas in a subtler way that get people thinking about things differently and can effect change.

How did you become interested in making performance?

Myself and James started this show together back at the very end of 2015 as part of our final show project for our drama degree.  We had done both sketch comedy and theatre together and wanted to find some kind of middle ground between the two mediums.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

This is the third reincarnation of Fuckboys for Freedom and the approach to making it has changed every time – the first version of the show was produced within the university, and it was made using a series of devising and improvisation games, then a writer would script what we’d done, and it was rehearsed in a way more typical to theatre – with a director to say the least. 

We tried to cover too much with the show and it ended up spreading itself too thin and trying to talk about too much. The second production was at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe and was more typical to sketch in the way  it was created; we started essentially from scratch, and tried to make each other laugh with characters, and created a linear series of sketches trying to parallel the life and trials of a Fuckboy to the 12 trials of Hercules. It was created between 3 actors and no director beyond recording rehearsals and watching them back. 

This version was much better but we had restricted
our structure too much and became too tied to the idea of having 12 herculean trials. This year we have a cast of 4, and we have kept the sketchiness, some of the characters and the beginning of the show, but we wanted to free our structure up. We have created a whole magical land which frees up our sketch ideas and also allows for a more theatrical linear structure. 

We are also scripting as we devise, which is a melding of the first two processes. So we use a lot of different processes that develop as we go!

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

In terms of style and genre, no. F*ckboys for Freedom was under a different company name last year (Facepalm Theatre), which has since merged with Pandorum Theatre Company. Pandorum in the past two years has produced dark comedy dramas which have been in the more traditional theatrical format of a linear one act play. 

Although the type of theatre is slightly different, the company’s ideas on dark comedy as a platform of discussion for new ideas is the same.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

We hope that they’ll enjoy it – we want them to laugh, and perhaps be pushed beyond laughter when they realise what they are laughing about. At the end of the day every single person is going to take something different from the show, and we love that! What else is art for?

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

We try to make each other laugh as much as possible in the process – comedy is a shared experience, and we hope the audience will appreciate our sense of humour. 

Due to the sensitive subject matter we know that it’s likely some people will be offended by the fact that we discuss rape culture through comedy instead of by saying “this is bad”, but the people we are trying to reach with this message would not
go along to see theatre like that. There’s a reason we have been labelled as one of the top ten outrageous show names this fringe! There’s no point in preaching to the choir. 

We have discussed everything from language choice to the way physical actions are perceived on stage and made sure we have air-tight justification for all of our choices. 

Follow the journey through the life of a young man commonly described as a f*ckboy and his bizzare, hilarious, worrisome and sometimes all-too-relatable encounters with a whole host of other characters. Pandorum Theatre Company (Scottish Arts Club Theatre Awards shortlist 2016) brings you this unique piece of thought-provoking comedy theatre that you don’t want to miss.

Locally based Pandorum Theatre Company was established 3 years ago by former students of Edinburgh’s Queen Margaret University.

It has since expanded to include the former Facepalm Theatre Company and to recruit theatre artists from both London and the USA. As a comedy theatre collective, we take life with a pinch of salt and a fresh perspective, disguised as a bucket of bad taste.

Local Dramaturgy: Try This At Home @ Edfringe 2017


Try This At Home Presents

The Local

Olive Studio, Greenside at Infirmary Street (Venue 236) 

Tickets: Tickets £9 (£8 concessions)

Previews: 4-6 Aug 2017  
Dates: 4-19 Aug 2017 (not 13) 

During this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Try This At Home Theatre stage the World Première of The Local – a new musical about community and change against the backdrop of pub closures in Britain. 

What was the inspiration for this performance?

The initial inspiration was hearing about the sudden closure of my local pub from home, ‘The Alexandra’. It shocked me that a place I had such emotional investment in and that tethered me to my hometown could, without warning, cease to exist. Cate and I started asking ourselves – when pubs are gone, what communal spaces will Britain have left? What will replace them? And what does it say about modern Britain that our pubs are being demolished to make way for supermarkets and luxury apartments?

There was another inspiration for the show that has only recently manifested itself. We were putting finishing touches to the 90 minute version of the script when Britain voted to leave to EU. Then our preview run at The Rutland Arms in Sheffield took place 3 days after the US election. For the Left it had been an humbling year during which the comfortable bubble of our social interactions had burst and we were forced to realise that the views we held were not as mainstream as we had assumed. 

For The Local, new themes emerged of frustration and powerlessness. The characters became less united and Liz, our protagonist, is forced to realise that she can’t rely on them to share her values. Initially, the pub is preyed upon by ruthless property developers and chain franchises but the more disturbing truth is that it is the indifference of the community that threatens the pub. That’s what we learned from 2016.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

I think that this largely depends on the medium of performance. Live performance largely requires some amount of forward planning so music, theatre, dance etc. tends to be very thought out and, though effort is certainly no guarantee or success, at least attempts to explore ideas in an eloquent and nuanced way. 

One disadvantage of live performance is that it rarely allows for discourse – if I don’t like the message of a play you’ve written, I can write my own to contradict yours but you won’t see it for at least six months, that’s if you want to see it at all. The other limitation of live performance is financial. The more expensive it is to produce, the more the artist has to charge for a ticket and these costs can make live performance prohibitive to many.

This is where social media has the advantage and should be considered a legitimate medium of performance. Anyone can share their views on Twitter and Youtube for free and, once uploaded, those tweets and videos are there to be accessed by anyone, forever. Content can then instantly be shared, dissected and discussed. 

And yes, the majority of social media interaction passes without mainstream public attention but there is always the potential for it to have a profound effect on people, particular the younger generation. It may not be as entertaining as live performance, but social media is a kind of performance and should not be underestimated as a space for the public discussion of ideas.

How did you become interested in making performance?

Try This At Home Theatre was the result of mine and Cate’s frustration with aspects of the performances we saw, as well as our failed attempts to get cast in any of them. A lot of what we were seeing centred around individuals (usually straight white men) whereas we were more intrigued by communities, movements and ideologies. 

Young people are often, even disproportionately, the subjects of stories but rarely, we found, did these stories explore what makes us tick as a generation and how we differ to our parents and grandparents. We thought we could kill two birds with one stone - if we wrote and directed our own material we wouldn’t need anyone’s permission to perform and we could also enjoy total control over the content we created.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

Our approach drastically changed over the first year of writing. Initially it was going to hyper-naturalistic, with the audience immersed in the real-time action and watching the scenes as if overhearing conversations at a pub. 

The story was going to be more simplistic too, with no major twists and turns but just a group of people drinking together and discussing the fate of their pub. This was how it went when we previewed it the 2015 Platform Performance Festival.

After Platform, we interviewed former pub managers and campaigners from the Campaign for Real Ale, at first just for a little more detail and authenticity, but the research made us think more about British society and wonder why fewer people are drinking at local pubs. 

We split the story into two acts – adding the first act, which covers the campaign to save the pub and created new characters through whom to explore the themes of loss and change such as Jack, the school teacher who worries about the younger generation’s political apathy, or Cassie & Erin, two best friends who drift apart when one moves away.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

We have only had one previous production so we can only compare The Local to that. Our first musical Character Limit was similar to The Local in that we explored how people behave in communal spaces (social media in the former and British pubs in the latter). The Local, however, is far more focussed – we felt confident enough to paint on a smaller canvas so there is no multi-roleing, all the action takes place in the same location and the band features only piano, acoustic guitar and cello with no amplification. 

Initially we also wanted to have the show be in real time but abandoned that when we realised the story we wanted to tell had to take place over a larger time scale. Still, our intention was to bring the audience into this tight knit community that we had invented, whereas before we’d focussed on comedic parody of current events. This time around we felt more confident that we could make the audience emote with our characters that we didn’t have to make them into caricatures.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

We hope the audience never feel like they’re attending a lecture. Before research and development, our own opinions about UK pub closures were strong but uninformed. When interviewing experts, we discovered the situation is more nuanced than we originally supposed. 

That’s why we made the characters a cross section of the pub-going public, so that both sides of an argument could be explored in Ken-Loach-film-style group discussions wherein the audience are encouraged to come to their own conclusions.

Ultimately though, I hope we successfully put forward the argument for the preservation of the local pub. While we tried to avoid using archetypes, one of our characters – Terry – is the quintessential ‘barfly’ and perhaps someone the audience will feel like they’ve met before. At the emotional climax of the show, Terry shares his fears that, without the local, he will have nowhere to feel like a part of a community. 

We hope audience members – particularly those who don’t see pub closures as any great loss – will spare a thought for those who have built their social lives around these institutions.

On a Friday night many of us have faced the dilemma of whether to go out to the pub with friends or to stay in with a discounted bottle of supermarket wine. In our dialogue, the act of going to the pub is always framed as a choice, and we often hear about it from the perspective of Liz and Martin, the two staff members, who rely on people deciding to come there. 

We hope that, after seeing The Local, audience members will make the right decision and understand that their choices as consumers have a very real effect on the people who make a living serving drinks.

Every week, up to 29 pubs are closed in the UK alone. This once-booming industry is slowly being bought out by property developers and huge corporations, and the people behind the bar are losing their jobs and livelihoods.

At Try This At Home we wanted to explore why this was happening, and if there’s anything you can do to stop your local closing: ‘We kept seeing some of our favourite pubs, including where I had my first drink, being boarded up and shut down, and we felt pretty powerless, so we just knew we had to write something about it’ – Composer and Musical Director Dominic Lo. 

The Local follows Liz, who has managed her pub for over 15 years to discover it’s been bought by a property developer, and so bands together with her regulars to help save the pub.

A heart-warming and moving new musical, The Local is the second musical from Try This At Home Theatre, whose previous work has been described as 'a genuine find' and 'brutally acerbic' Broadway Baby.

Time: 14:00 (55min)

Box Office: 0131 618 0758


For further information, images, or to request a media ticket please contact Ms Cate Berry on trythisathometheatre@gmail.comor 07851917930.

Twitter @TryThisAtHome1


Scribble Dramaturgy: Andy Edwards @ Edfringe 2017

Andy Edwards and Amy Gilmartin present


Assembly Roxy Downstairs (Venue 139)
3 – 27 August (not 15, 22nd)

Winner of the 2017 Assembly Roxy Theatre Award (The ART Award), Scribble is a piece of new writing about mental health and supernovas from Andy Edwards, directed by Amy Gilmartin.

Ross is studying for a PhD in cosmology. He's interested in science, the universe and how
stuff works. Bran flakes, anxiety and gravity. The smallest moments in history. The largest events in the universe. 

Ross can’t stop thinking about her yellow shoes. He is standing on the brink of a black hole; an event horizon stretching into eternity and gone in the blink of an eye.

Ross has a scribble in his chest.   

What was the inspiration for this performance?
Scribble draws a lot of inspiration from my own experiences of ill mental health, particularly focusing on patterns of obsessive thought and compulsive action. This lived-experience was really the gateway to a more sustained period of research into OCD.

I’m not particularly clear why I felt compelled to write Scribble, beginning as it did out of a compulsive response to a particular obsessive thought I was experiencing at that time – and that I had been experiencing for a while. It was a written a little bit in the first instance out of illness, out of a need to do something with a thing but not knowing why or even what that thing was. 

I had a desire – and this desire was unhealthy and misguided in lots of ways – to write it out, to sort of get rid of it in some way, to put out into the world what had been something I had felt unable to speak about before. The healthy side of that desire was that I wanted to relax the grip on these thoughts, thoughts I believed to be incredibly dangerous, and find a way to not worry about them so much.
I was a bit at the end of my tether with keeping quiet about what was going on in my brain. The more I researched OCD and reflected on my own experiences the more it seemed apparent that there might be something useful about sharing that experience of reaching the end of your tether, both for myself of course but also for other people experiencing similar patterns of thought, or for anyone who has ever had to have a relationship, including a friendship, with someone who was going through a period of ill-mental health.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 
Yes I think so. That’s not to say it isn’t without its problems, by which I mean that the space in which those ideas are discussed is as contested as any other space. Performance doesn’t exist apart from the world in that way, it’s not neutral in any sense – there are structures that mean that certain kinds of work get made and certain kinds of work don’t get made, for example. 

That’s a little vague but what I mean is that yes it is a good place to discuss ideas but that the terms upon which that discussion are held are something that needs to be continually challenged and questioned. There’s nothing inherent in performance that means it is a good space for discussing ideas from the off I guess.
I suppose my approach to it as a performance-maker is that it is useful to work out what performance can’t do, what it isn’t useful for. Certain mediums, especially digital ones, are much better at reaching wider audiences for example. So I suppose performance is useful if the type of discussion you want to have is of a certain type. 

That type is still pretty broad but at least in the work I make I find performance useful because of its immediacy, that it happens in the same time and place as its audience. That immediacy is useful but then I can imagine a lot of contexts where that immediacy is totally unhelpful.
With Scribble we’re definitely interested in that meeting between audience and work as it happens within the same time and space. There’s a discourse that will happen outside the room - we do hope that people feel engaged enough by the work to speak about it afterwards - but with Scribble our focus is on the conversations that are happening in the room, in the performance, in the moment. 

Specifically the work focuses on a dialogue that is happening between me and Amy – where we are negotiating our mental health in relation to each other – and that meeting between Scribble and the audience. Both these conversations are both produced by and produce each other too. We’re interested in what this approach might mean for how we talk about mental health in the present tense, about how those acts of speaking and listening occur in the moment.

How did you become interested in making performance?
I’m not particularly sure to be honest. I didn’t really engage with theatre that much when I was younger but I started writing at a fairly early age. I remember wanting to write film scripts but then realising I didn’t have the resources to pull that off. So a move into performance sort of happened and I started writing for that because it was much cheaper to do, and then I did a bit of acting, a bit of directing and got super hooked on it as a student at Edinburgh. 

Having Bedlam Theatre on the doorstep was a huge help, a building to just muck about with was a great resource which I definitely didn’t appreciate enough at the time. After that I fell madly in love with dramaturgy and I’ve been banging on about that quite a lot recently…

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
Possibly one of the most interesting things about the approach is the manner in which the most recent draft (draft forty-nine) of Scribble was written. 

The work was first developed under the Playwrights’ Studio Mentoring Programme with Rob Drummond as my mentor. 

I wrote a lot of drafts during that period, mostly hunched over a laptop and mostly on my own. The resulting work had this slightly contorted slightly self-abusive tone to it. I experience some emotional difficulty as a result of my current state of health and find myself lapsing into patterns of obsessive thought and compulsive action. 

That illness really bled into how I first wrote Scribble, and right up until me and Amy presented it at the Traverse Hothouse I was still in this mode. It wasn’t a great way to work for me.
After we won the award I got a fair bit worse, as I really didn’t want to go back to that method of writing. I really wasn’t in a place where it was healthy for me to work on my own – and the work that would have emerged would have been pretty crap I think, too self-involved, too chasing its own tail. 

So I and Amy met up to try and resolve this and as a minor solution we started writing the last draft together, in the same time and space. This process was pretty fluid, sometimes I’d look at the laptop by myself and Amy would do admin (or bang on about Mad Men), sometimes we’d go to Greggs and chat about the work on the way there and back and sometimes we’d both sit at the laptop or I’d get up and perform what I’d just written to her. 

It was exactly what I – and the work – needed; it opened up some breathing space, gave the work a real lift. 
There’s something really poisonous about the notion of the lone writer crafting their masterpiece on their own, or at least, I find it a really fucking horrible way to go to work each day in that way. It probably works really well for some but I’d much rather be a writer on my feet in a room with other folk in it. Writing with Amy, breaking out of that obsessive state, lightening the load and – perhaps most importantly – not trying to make a masterpiece but just trying to make a piece, was a smart move.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?
Before sitting down to write this play I hadn’t written anything that resembled a play text for a significant amount of time. I had just finished a trilogy of ecographies, maps constructed through language that documented and re-performed a durational journey aboard the Glasgow Subway, a conference on heritage at Timespan Arts and
an exhibition at GENERATORprojects in Dundee. 

Beyond that I was regularly collaborating with a Nottingham-based choreographer on a duet of improvised text and dance called the ground, the highest point. All these works were primarily about how language relates to the world, about how language positions and affects speakers and listeners. So my artistic practice at present is pretty linguistic-orientated on the whole I think.
Scribble fits into that in lots of ways I think. I was curious when starting out writing to think about what the language of obsession and compulsion might sound like, about what it might mean to write OCD – what a dramaturgy of OCD might look like. That’s there in the language, there’s a good deal of repetition and minor linguistic variation, and at a structural level too.
Mental health – which is a pretty vast topic – is something I’ve written about before. The last full length play I wrote, anchor was based on my experiences of hypnotherapy and I’ve written short pieces of work about OCD before. 

I’ve also volunteered and worked in the context of healthcare too, so it’s a discourse I’m invested in from multiple positions.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
That’s a difficult one to answer I think, partly because what the audience experience is governed by so many factors that aren’t within our control. But I suppose what we’re hoping the audience to experience in some sense is the affective quality of anxiety – how it feels to experience obsessive thought patterns, and how the experience of particular thought patterns commonly associated with OCD can make someone feel incredibly isolated.
Hope is important too. Scribble is a work with a lot of hope I think, that carries itself quite lightly at certain moments. We want the audience to experience that lightness, a lightness that emerges through conversation, through listening and speaking, through making attempts to understand how each other are feeling. That’s really important to us. We don’t have much in the way of answers – we’ve no guidance for solutions apart from some signposts to people who might -  but we do have a good deal of hope. It’d be great if the audience experience that.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
One of the most interesting strategies that Amy is using to shape the audience’s experience of Scribble is to introduce an element of liveness to the work. There are two
roles in the work, Alan MacKenzie plays the central character Ross and there is another actor in a supporting role. 

This supporting role will be played by a different actor every day, who will be reading the script for the first time on stage in front of an audience. We’re really excited by this idea because no one will know what’s going to happen next in Scribble, the work will be different from moment to moment, performance to performance. 

This strategy isn’t us reinventing the wheel, not at all - there’s a long list of work that has employed a similar mechanism – Nassim Soleimanpour’s White Rabbit, Red Rabbit is probably the most famous example. Tim Crouch’s An Oak Tree too. 

With Scribble though we’re interested in how this mechanism might help perform the idea that our mental health changes every day, as well as reflecting the fact that experiences of ill-mental health cut across the whole of society. The end result will probably be a little messy, it won’t always work and things are bound to wrong. We’re really excited by those mistakes and miss-steps. 

That feels really important to making a work about mental health, and it certainly rings true with my own experiences.

On the hope front Scribble has at least two jokes in it, so that’s a good place to start, we think. They’re both nicked from Tim Vine – and he’s always making people laugh.

Based on experiences both real and imagined, Scribble is an exploration of the complexity of obsession and compulsion and supermarkets.

The production is a two-hander and the creative team are taking an innovative and ambitious approach to casting the play by featuring a different actor playing the supporting role in each performance. As a piece of work Scribble is never finished because the treatment of mental health is a continual, ongoing process. Every supporting actor will be reading the script for the first time on stage, with no rehearsals. This is in response to NHS statistics which show that approximately 1 in 4 people experience a mental health problem at some point in their lifetime.

For the creative team this approach has two aims: firstly to represent the changing nature of individual mental health on a daily basis, and secondly to represent the range of people affected by mental health problems across society by working with actors from a variety of backgrounds. The performance will be different every day because our mental health can be different every day.

Scribble was developed last year under the guidance of Rob Drummond (Bullet Catch, In Fidelity) when Andy was selected for the Playwrights' Studio Scotland Mentoring Programme. Development of the script was supported by the Tom McGrath Trust, and an early draft of the play directed by Amy was presented as a rehearsed reading at the Traverse Theatre’s 2016 Hothouse season for emerging Scottish talent.

Scribble is supported by The ART Award - a brand-new Award funded by Assembly Festival for developing Scottish performance companies in the 2017 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Twitter: @scribble_play
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