Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Is This A Dramaturgy: Andy canon @ Edfringe 2017

Is this a dagger? The story of Macbeth
Andy Cannon’s take on the Shakespeare classic presented as part of  
Made in Scotland showcase and Edinburgh Festival Fringe

By the pricking of my thumb, something wicked this way comes….
At this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe Andy Cannon, one of Scotland’s finest storytellers, will take audiences on a thousand-year journey from fact to fiction and back again, in his telling of Shakespeare’s classic tale.

A tale of foul and fortune, murder and deceit, Macbeth is a gory, bloody and darkly wonderful tale of one man and his pursuit of power. In Is This a Dagger? The Story of Macbeth, Andy Cannon distils the essence of this epic play into a one-man, one-hour version, making it appealing for audiences young and old.

Suitable for everyone over eight, Is This a Dagger? The Story of Macbeth explores the paths between fact and fiction, myths and truths. A perfect introduction for newcomers to this wicked tale, and a fresh take on it for Shakespeare aficionados.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

The Isle of Lewis Chess set in the British Museum. Staring at the King piece I was struck by the fear in his eyes - a powerful warrior all alone waiting for fate to take its course…

The enigma that is Macbeth has fascinated me since I was wee. Adults would mention his name in hushed tones - occasionally referring to someone as a "Lady Macbeth" or in more jocular moods declare "Lead on MacDuff!" before heading off on a trip - a quote which at the time I never appreciated they'd got so terribly wrong!

I didn't actually see the “Scottish” play until I was an adult but by then I had acquired in my mind a clear picture of this treacherous Scottish Monarch. I presumed (if I ever gave it any thought at all that is) that although Shakespeare doubtlessly used a little artistic licence in his re-telling of the tale - the drama played out on the stage was by and large based on actual historical events.

I then became increasingly aware that many people had no idea when the "actual" Macbeth ruled Scotland or indeed if he was ever even a real king or not. 

My interest piqued - I determined to discover the truth behind the tale and in doing so unearthed not only the markedly different tale of the eponymous eleventh century king but also the intriguing political story behind the first staging of Shakespeare’s celebrated play. 

And so Is This a Dagger? was born…

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

Absolutely - Perhaps the most important! In my opinion, what singles out performance as a positive catalyst for the discussion of ideas is the very act of coming together to witness a performance (more often than not a sharing of a thought, a fear or even a hope!).  

After engaging with a performance - whether you have agreed, connected or recoiled from it - there seems to me to be a far better chance of a meaningful and respectful exploration of the myriad of different perspectives that an audience will bring to the issues raised.

How did you become interested in making performance?

To be honest - it was the only thing I was good at! I didn't really do school (I left at 15) so consequently it took quite a few years before I thought it was the kind of profession someone like me could legitimately do. Fortunately, in 1982 fate led me to Washington Street Arts Centre in Glasgow and the rest as they say is history!

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

I began with the simple idea of telling the story of the ‘real’ Macbeth but very quickly realised I also wanted to tell the tale of Shakespeare's fantastic drama too. This process led me to a deeper appreciation of the play and indeed the bard’s genius (I'd never studied Shakespeare at school - which on reflection arguably gave me an advantage as I approached his iconic tragedy purely as a story). I often employ the essence of "poor theatre" and I was determined to keep any props to an absolute minimum (I also wanted to give a nod to the plays Jacobean routes by making the production as portable as possible). 

I then set myself the challenge of restricting the entire performance to an hour so as to keep with Macbeth’s observation that “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more.”

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

In many ways it's typical of my work but with one major exception - I'm by myself and not accompanied by a live musician (though there is great music - composed, played and recorded by my good friends and regular creative collaborators Wendy Weatherby and David Trouton). Lonely as this is it feels right - as Macbeth is ultimately in my mind a story of isolation.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

Time well spent. An engaging hour that is both entertaining and thought provoking - my goal is always for the audience to talking about the story and the characters more than the style of the delivery. That said I'm proud of the simple staging and aesthetic of the piece - which I'm developing with my good friend and brilliant theatre maker Shona Reppe.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

I wrote an interactive prologue to firmly place the tale of Macbeth in the context of its time - a time when a belief in the supernatural was very much part of everyday life - as well as playfully introducing the central themes of ambition, fate and the paradox of self-fulfilling prophesies...

Andy Cannon, formerly of Wee Stories Theatre, is one of Scotland’s best-loved storytellers.  His work sits between storytelling and theatre and is loved by audiences young and old. With a compact set and original music, Andy communicates directly with the audience, drawing them into the story.  Cleverly weaving Shakespeare’s original language with his own storytelling style, Andy creates a performance where parents and grandparents are as captivated, challenged and intrigued as much as the children sitting next to them.

Andy has previously taken on Robert Burns (Oor Rabbie), and Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island) and Anna Sewell (Black Beauty). He’s a writer and performer who can take on the greats and put his own, award-winning spin on them.

Is this a Dagger? was first created by Andy Cannon in 2007 and has continued to play to Scottish audiences in schools and theatres since then.  2017 is its 10th year anniversary and will see the production updated for a run as part of the Made in Scotland showcase.  Andy will work with trusty collaborators Shona Reppe (design), Dave Trouton and Wendy Weatherby (sound and music) and Red Bridge Arts (producing) to update the production for Fringe audiences.

Is This a Dagger? The Story of Macbeth is part of the 2017 Made in Scotland showcase programme, in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The performance runs from 3-20 August, at The Scottish Storytelling Centre at 3pm.

Andy Cannon: Writer, Director, Performer
William Shakespeare: Co-writer
Dave Trouton & Wendy Weatherby: Composers and Cound Designers
Shona Reppe: Outside Eye
Kate Bonney: Lighting Design
Alice McGrath: Producer

Scottish Storytelling Centre, Venue 30

Thursday Aug 3 – Sunday Aug 20

Preview: Aug 3, 3pm
Aug 4-20 (not 10, 17), 3.00 pm

Running Time: 60 mins; for ages 8+

Scottish Storytelling Centre Box Office: +44 (0)131 556 9579

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