Thursday, 1 June 2017

Dramaturgy in front of closed doors: joue le genre @ Edfringe 2017

Presented by joue le genre and Noel Gay Artists
By Calum Finlay and Emma Bentley
Attic, Pleasance Courtyard

‘Molly. 19. Homeless… I’ll press play.

Hundreds of miles underground, a young woman is searching through a room full of old cassettes. Playing tape after tape she gradually pieces together Molly Brentwood’s story through the ordinary, forgotten moments. The unremarkable moments that brought about a remarkable turn in Molly’s life.
At just nineteen years old, following the death of her mother, with deteriorating mental health, and without a network of support, Molly finds herself homeless.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
Moving to London. I couldn’t stop thinking about homelessness when I saw the amount of people sleeping on the street and begging on the tube. How did they get to that place? What are their lives like? What support is there out there? I have worked in a mixture of jobs, different pay checks, different pay days, whether I’m going to have enough money at the end of the month to pay my rent is always a worry at the back of my mind. In this case I always think, I’m lucky because I could go and stay with either of my parents. But it is not that easy for many people. I wanted to investigate into what happens when you don’t have a support network to rely on.

Molly’s character was originally inspired by some of the young women in a very powerful Panorama documentary ‘Young, Homeless and Fighting Back’. My time volunteering at St Mungo’s has also fed into Molly’s character, specifically with her resilience being drawn from the people I have worked with.

Calum (co-writer/ director) and I are hugely fond of Complicite and Daniel Kitson’s work, which is where Calum’s inspiration for using cameras and screens for the onstage live action came from.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas?
Yes, it is. However, we need to get people who are not just actors, writers, directors, and people working in the industry to go to the theatre. If they are the only ones to see productions then it becomes all about the ideas of how the show was made, rather than what was created and what it did. Individuals should take others who don’t usually go to the theatre. If you have one person who works in the industry and one person who lives in the real world you can open up an incredibly diverse conversation.

I’m interested to see what the audience for my show have to say about homelessness. I assume many will already be well informed about the issues that young people face, leading homelessness. However, it is likely that, for many, the show will be more of a shock that perhaps first anticipated.

How did you become interested in making performance?
My parents were both musicians, my dad still is, and my Gran is the actress Wendy Craig-  I grew up surrounded by the arts. Playbox Theatre Company’s Youth Theatre in Warwick allowed me to experience directing and devising short pieces of theatre every weekend. Then, from there, I went to LIPA, spending a lot of time collaborating with many different people. In my final year I directed a production of Laura Wade’s Breathing Corpses, with other students creating some wonderful lighting and sound design. It was a very exciting time for me.

When I moved to London, IdeasTap was still running (a resource that is still very missed) and I used to go to as many different workshops as I could. After I finished To She or Not to She, joue le genre’s debut show, I joined Soho Theatre Young Company.
I did this all out of necessity, though. I never got the acting jobs that I was put up for, so I kept on making work. It turned out to be the best thing I could have done- I have pushed myself, met more amazing people, learnt more about how I work best, and learnt what makes me happy.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
Sort of! I always start with the research. I often find watching documentaries and interviews more helpful than written media. Then, usually, there is a lot of mulling over, which doesn’t feel like work, in fact it feels incredibly unproductive, but I think you have to wait until you have the first light bulb moment. Then I’ll start writing some bits and pieces and share them with my friends. I think it’s good to book something, a scratch or a preview or a sharing, because it gives you a deadline and something to work towards.

For this project, that first sharing was at Pleasance, where we had written a few different characters; a Mancunian drunken man with a dog, a sort of poverty tourist who was trying to get money outside of Sainsbury’s and Molly. Molly just shone through- we made up her whole life. Then, we had to piece it together.

What you’ll see in Edinburgh will probably be draft 10.9 or something. It’s gone through a lot of changes. But it’s good not to panic, we are just trying to figure it all out and put it together before our first preview on the 9th July.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?
There are some similarities between To She or Not to She, our first show that we took to Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2015, and What Goes on in Front of Closed Doors- both of them are about a teenage girl becoming a young woman for a start. 

They deal with the complexities of sexual relationships for women during this time, the likelihood of achieving your dreams and the affect this takes on your mental health. However, this show is very much a branching out moment for me, going outside of my comfort zone of more comedic work. The technology that we use in this show I never dreamed of using but it’s actually extremely exciting.

Calum’s beautifully lyrical writing is also not something I imagined performing but it makes me so glad he started writing his own version of the play. It’s very special for me that he took the idea and ran with it whilst trying to stay true to what I originally envisioned.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
A friend who came to the work in progress performance described one part of the piece as a fantastic Lear moment that Molly experiences. In the same vein, I hope that everyone feels the power, rage and utter madness that we’ve tried to put into the piece. 

I hope that they feel like they have had a personal encounter with someone who has experienced homelessness, leaving with the will to find out more about the possible solutions. 

What Goes on in Front of Closed Doors is the culmination of eighteen months of research by writer/performer Emma Bentley. Having spent a year volunteering for homeless charity St Mungo’s, time on a writing placement at Cardboard Citizens, and with advice from young people’s charity New Horizons, this show explores how everyone is just a few steps away from homelessness.
From the team behind the 2015 Edinburgh success To She or Not to She, joue le genre return to the Festival Fringe, working with Calum Finlay (National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Almeida Theatre), who is making his director/writer debut.

Company information
joue le genre was founded in 2014 by LIPA graduates Emma Bentley and Camille Favre to create new writing. Based in London, Warwick and Lille, their first show, To She or Not to She, questioned the lack of female roles for women in the theatre industry. Their current work includes Camille La Fille, a one-man show about homosexuality in France, and SH@kespeare’s #SHrews, continuing the work of To She or Not to She by exploring feminist approaches to Shakespeare.

Listings information
Production: What Goes On In Front of Closed Doors
Company: joue le genre
Venue: Attic, Pleasance Courtyard
Audience: Suitable for 14+
Date: 2 – 28 August (not 14/21)
Time: 12:45 pm

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