Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Fire Dramaturgy: Amy Blakelock @ Edfringe 2017

Inspired by verbatim testimony, ‘Firewater’ is PARADOX Theatre Co.’s debut production. 

Aug 14 – 19 -14:00 theSpace on North Bridge, Royal Mile, Edinburgh, EH1 1SD (The Argyll Theatre)

Firewater’ is a piece of new writing by Amy Blakelock, co-directed with Nicole Moran. 
Connecting with real-life experiences, it tackles consent and intoxication whilst still aiming to be a sensitive and at times funny insight into today’s generation. 

What was the inspiration for this performance?

Firewater’ was inspired by true stories, collected from verbatim testimony. The themes of the play; consent and intoxication – are really relevant today, especially because of uni and college culture, and we wanted to create a play that not only reflects these issues, but also the mindset and attitudes of our generation now.

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

Definitely – we believe theatre exists of course to entertain its audiences; but principally to evoke discussion and bring important issues to light. Somewhere like the Edinburgh Fringe is particularly great for this as everyone is making new, cutting edge work and that’s really exciting. The best performances are the ones which create some sort of change, even if it’s as small as altering one individual’s opinion on a particular topic.

How did you become interested in making performance?

Nicole and I, the founders of PARADOX Theatre Co., have both just finished our Drama degrees at Exeter University. So we both had a real interest in performance from the start of the course; although Nicole has more of a focus in directing and I (Amy) have a focus in writing. But we realised we had common aims in what we wanted our theatre
to achieve; hence founding the company.

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

I drafted the script a lot, and even throughout the rehearsal process we’ve edited, added and scrapped bits as we go along. When we were casting, we looked for really receptive actors that could also add their own stamp on the script – so there are also some nice bits of ad libbing and some dialogue that’s come out of improvisations. 

I think it’s important as a writer nowadays not to be too precious about your words, as you never know; someone else might find a better way of saying it! Nicole has evolved a way of working that’s really collaborative, and I think this shows in the final product.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

In one sense, yes. Nicole and I have often created shows addressing pertinent social issues, or issues often classed as ‘dark’ that we feel merit discussion. ‘Firewater’ is different for me as a writer because I’ve also started to realise the value of comedy alongside these darker issues; we have some bittersweet moments where both genres are mixed in tandem. But Nicole has a good eye for comedy, so we’ve also brought out that aspect of it further, and it sometimes accentuates the worrying topics even more.

I haven’t done that kind of combination as much before, so it’s been a really valuable experience for me to see how it works.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

We hope the audiences will be able to laugh and experience a sense of commonality with the characters they see onstage, as there are relatable and light-hearted elements to the script. 

But overall, we hope they can see that these issues, such as consent, are issues which do happen to real people every day, and not in the obvious ways you would necessarily expect. Rather than some kind of abstracted theatrical situation, we want them to see that they could be watching real life.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

The directorial approach, which has included ad-libbing as above and has really focused on relationship work, has given our actors a really natural chemistry and spontaneity with each other. 

Alongside the script, which is naturalistic in itself, we hope we’ve created a performance that can really connect not only with our age demographic, but with people in general as it presents the characters honestly. Also, we were always wary of creating stereotypes or anything that is too black and white; we wanted our audiences to be able to make their own judgments about characters that they see. 

The inspiration for the piece - the verbatim - also brings an added sense of realism that other plays might not have.

In a climate where new writing is in abundance, ‘Firewater’ hopes to push its boundaries. Voices need to be heard, and this play gives those people their platform.

Cast: Esme Lonsdale, Eden Hastings, Will Jarvis and Alex McKeon. 

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