Sunday, 25 June 2017

Out of Dramaturgy: Elinor Cook @ Edfringe 2017

A Paines Plough, Theatr Clwyd and Orange Tree Theatre production
By Elinor Cook

Lorna and Grace do everything together. They share crisps, cigarettes and crushes. That's what happens when you're best friends forever.
But when Lorna gets a place at University, and Grace gets pregnant, they suddenly find themselves in starkly different worlds. Can anything bridge the gap between them?

Time: 1.25pm (70 mins) Dates: 4, 6, 9, 11, 13, 16, 18, 20, 23, 25, 27 August. 

What was the inspiration for this performance?

Very simply, I wanted to write something that fore-fronted women's voices and desires. To write complex, knotty female characters in all their viscerality and intellectualism. The spine of Out of Love is the waxing and waning friendship between Grace and Lorna, but it also serves as a springboard to explore bigger ideas about identity and aspiration, class and privilege, and particularly about sexuality and mortality. 

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

I don't think it could ever not be. There's always a dialogue between performer and audience, always questions being asked, in both directions. Theatre celebrates (and demands) empathy and imagination, which will always be a catalyst for ideas as far as I'm concerned.

How did you become interested in making performance?

Theatre, for me, is about the distillation of truthful and electric human emotion on stage. That moment when everyone in the audience is leaning forward in their seats and you could hear a pin drop. I think I'm always looking to distil that truth in my own work, in the most immediate and direct way that I can. 

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

James and George at Paines Plough talked a lot about how the Roundabout space demands a particularly robust and front-footed kind of playwriting - live decision-making happening in the moment. It doesn't really allow for passivity of any kind, in either your characters' behaviour or in the subject matter being tackled. 

In Out of Love, a lot of the emotional peaks are quite complex, so it was about finding a way to convey the layers and subtleties of those moments without compromising the dramatic drive.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

The play has an intuitive rather than a linear structure, which is something that seems to happen a lot in my plays! For me, stories happen in fragments and flashes rather than as one thing after another. The scenes are linked together by motifs and images rather than by events.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

Before I started writing the play I'd devoured the Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante. For sheer storytelling and atmosphere they are extraordinary, but I was particularly amazed at how the tale of two young women in 1950s Naples resonated so much with my own experience, despite the very different social and historical context. 

I recognised so much of myself and my relationships in Ferrante's characters. In Out of Love, I wanted to create a world that, although rooted in a very particular place (it begins in the North East of England as the mines are closing) nevertheless has that same universality and heart.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
Again, I think it's just about distilling the
 truth of that human emotion. I want to write characters that people recognise, both in the people around them and in themselves. I say this tentatively, but it's maybe become quite fashionable to do away with 'character' altogether - and I've certainly written, or attempted to write, those kinds of plays. 

I think, in writing this one, I realised how attached I am to 'character', and how so much of the pleasure of writing is in creating people who are unpredictable and alive and contradictory. 

A tale of friendship, love and rivalry over thirty years from award-winning playwright Elinor Cook.
Elinor Cook is the Winner of the George Devine Award for Most Promising Playwright (2013)

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