Tuesday, 27 June 2017

BlackCatfishDramaturgy: Dylan Coburn Gray @ Edfringe 2017

Award-winning Dublin theatre collective brings a double-bill of technology, sex (and sex with technology) to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe!

LOVE+ and BlackCatfishMusketeer a double-bill by MALAPROP Theatre
Two stand-out hits of Dublin Fringe will have their international debuts at The Red Lecture Theatre, Summerhall alternating from August 2nd - 24th at 7.10PM.

BlackCatfishMusketeer is about trust, doubt, closeness at a distance, worrying about your nudes being leaked, and fearing that you'll die alone and your cats will eat you. You meet someone online. All you know is their name and that they seem to like you as much as you like them.

In fact, you think you love each other. But do you? Can you? What even is love, anyway? Maybe we not only don’t know, we can’t know; we can only know what love isn’t. So, let’s say what it isn’t.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

1.  Blackcatfishmusketeer is the result of three impulses.  First, I wanted to make something about uncertainty.  Second, it had to acknowledge that uncertainty is nothing new, but that the internet puts it front and centre in interesting ways.  Third, it had to not lean too heavily on any one interface or idiolect we currently all dig because they age very very quickly.  

That film The Spectacular Now was just on the telly and misogynist; it was also made 4 years ago and all of the messaging interfaces already look dated.  Our go-to line throughout the process has been that it's supposed to feel like the internet, even if it doesn't look like it.    

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

2.  If it ever was then yes!  Performance can be a public discussion or it can spur public discussion.  I don't know that I see any huge difference between the two.  Is it a good space?  

If so, how good?  I don't know, but I'm tempted to quote Churchill quoting that guy no one's heard of and say that performance is the worst space for public discussion, except all the others.  How good is it supposed to be?  It's slower and in-depther than Twitter and faster and punchier than encoding poems in DNA.  At least one of those has to be a plus.  There's a lot of moving parts in this question.  

Is it secretly asking whether performance is a good space given Everything In The World Right Now?  That I REALLY don't know.  

How did you become interested in making performance?

3.  I was an art baby; my mother is a writer/director and my dad runs a contemporary dance company for boys.  I failed to run away from the circus to become an actuary, so performance in some discipline or other has always been a part of my life.  I think a bit of mishmash is healthy, it reminds you that discipline boundaries are squishy and it ultimately comes down to offering the audience something.  

A Start From First Principles kind of vibe.  Will there be music?  Movement?  Text?  Whatever is needed.  Reverse engineer the specifics from the desired audience experience.  Which is not me throwing up my hands and saying Wahey Everything Should Be Collages All The Time, you can make a cake or cook bacon but a bacon cake is a bit weird.  

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
4.  It's hard to know how to characterise an approach, not least because MALAPROP have made our shows under very different circumstances every time.  I suppose I'd say the key for us is to get everyone in a room.  Rooms are the enemies no plans survive contact with.  Rooms are where you learn to hate your great idea, and your other great idea, and that other slightly less genius but still totally genius idea, before the really exciting bit where you collectively hit on something that actually works and no one person could have arrived at by independent reckoning.  

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

5.  As above, we've made each of our shows under very different circumstances.  Our first show was co-written, as are our third and fourth shows, so in that sense Blackcatfishmusketeer is the odd fish out.  It's a script I sat down and wrote on my own, but it fits with the others in that the staging process was very collaborative.  It also very much fits in with our stated ethos of work that challenges, delights, and speaks to the world we live in.  

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

6.  I hope that the audience will leave having laughed at least once and gone quiet so as to listen better at least once.  I hope they'll think at least one new thought about their online life.  I hope they'll go home and google at least one thing.  I hope they'll realise two seemingly disparate things are actually connected, which is the experience I go looking for in art a lot.  The title Blackcatfishmusketeer is a riddle posed in that spirit; watching the show equips you to figure out how and why those words belong together.  They do, I swear.   

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?​
7.  I mentioned above that we tried to capture the feel of online spaces, not their appearance.  The play itself happens in a number of real locations, none of which you see.  Rather than showing the internet as it appears in real life, we show real life as it appears from the internet.  We put the audience inside looking out.  Similarly, the people in the show are known entirely through the things they do online.  That's a partial image, of course, but it's interestingly partial.
There's also a character who talks the way we pay attention to things online; engaged but not exclusively, getting the idiosyncratic gist of lots of things rather than the whole of anything, passing that idiosyncratic gist on to the audience in an idiosyncratic way, leaning heavily on their presumed familiarity in that way that internet humour does.  Encountering a meme for the first time is like walking into a room in time to hear the punchline.  If you stick around and pay attention you'll pick up enough to laugh next time, and that's how we tried to have the show work. 

Best New Play Nominee, Dublin Fringe 2016


Production Credits Directed by Claire O’Reilly Written by Dylan Coburn Gray Set & Costume Design by Molly O’Cathain Lighting Design by John Gunning Performed by Catherine Russell, Aoife Spratt & Ste Murray Produced by Breffni Holahan & Carla Rogers

MALAPROP is a Dublin-based theatre collective that aims to challenge, delight, and speak to the world we live in (even when imagining different ones). Previous work includes: LOVE+ (Winner of Spirit of Fringe & Project Commission Award 2015), BlackCatfishMusketeer (Best New Play Nominee, Dublin Fringe 2016), and JERICHO (Bewley's Café Theatre commission 2017). 

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