Monday, 12 June 2017

Once were Dramaturgy: David McVicar @ Edfringe 2017

'Once Were Pirates'
Gobsmacked Theatre Company

Following critically acclaimed seasons at The Adelaide and Edinburgh Fringe 2016, with their production of

DROPPED, Australia’s Gobsmacked Theatre Company return to The Pleasance with Emilie Collyer’s darkly comic and
poignant Australian play, ONCE WERE PIRATES.

Venue:  Pleasance 10 Dome - Venue 23
Performance dates:  2/8/17 – 27/8/17 (not 14th & 15th) at 13:20 Running time: 60 minutes

Shane and Gareth are Pirates who have somehow been marooned in the present. They soon learn that this world
is vastly different from the world they have come from – it is infinitely more complex and frightening. 

How will Shane and Gareth survive – how will we all survive?

What was the inspiration for this performance?

I read Emilie Collyer’s darkly funny play ONCE WERE PIRATES while I was thinking about doing a performance that explored aspects of contemporary masculinity. 

I was instantly intrigued with the way her text used a humorous conceit to explore the serious issue of how confusing it can be for young men to navigate a complex and dangerous world. In the Golden Age of Piracy, Shane and Gareth lived outside of the societal, sexual and political restrictions of the time but their lives were governed by a strict code of conduct (The Pirate Code). 

The audience see Shane and Gareth after they have been marooned in the present and the code of conduct that they used to rely on to guide
them no longer exists. Collyer’s play cleverly explores how Shane and Gareth redefine their masculinity in order to survive the conflict and confusion that they witness around them?

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

Absolutely! Theatre has been, is and always will be a fundamental human cultural experience where people come together at an agreed time at an agreed place to watch story telling which allows them to reflect on, and discuss, their individual and collective perception of aspects of their society. That doesn’t change.

How did you become interested in making performance? 

I have always expressed my world view in creative ways - primarily through theatre. I have been a theatre maker for over 40 years. I find that making performance allows me to use layers of meaning – through text, mis-en-scene, music, visuals and semiotics - to talk about aspects of society that concern, move, delight, humour and
intrigue me.

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

For this production the playwright has generously allowed us to change the text to suit our interpretation. The actors and I played with the text for some time before settling on that interpretation. 

I like having a big mixing pot
of ideas and inputs which are collaboratively sifted and sorted until the ideas are cemented.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

Yes – I like to use a combination of striking visual imagery, distinctive text, a heightened performance style and a darkly comic sensibility. The main differences are that this production incorporates more physical humour and
original songs than my usual productions– also it is the first time that I have used a robotic parrot.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

Once Were Pirates is very funny but underneath the humour are some very interesting questions about how men can define their masculinity without using the so called ‘innate’ male propensity for aggression and violence. I hope
the audience are entertained but are also challenged to think about the ideas raised in the production.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?The semiotics utilised lead the audience on a journey from pure comedy through to a ‘discussion’ about how young men deal with an ever changing world. There is a deliberate ‘peeling back’ of the comic stylistic devices that are
used in the opening scenes as the play progresses and the stakes are raised. 

The use of a grey scale set is punctuated by moments of colour in costume and props - which challenges the audience to think about the
meaning at key moments in the production.

As Shane
says, ‘this world is a nightmare. People fuelled by self- pity and entitlement with no moral code. The wealthy - a master race apart. It’s dusk in the second age of reason.’ And as Gareth says ‘We can’t stay here. There’s nothing
we can do to stop it. The mass exodus, the drownings and tragedies and killings…children... Everything!  The

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