Thursday, 1 June 2017

Power Dramaturgy: Julia Croft @ Edfringe 2017

Created by Julia Croft and Nisha Madhan
After her inaugural visit and a highly successful presentation of If There’s Not Dancing at the Revolution, I’m Not Coming at last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Julia Croft is returning to Summerhall for the 2017 Fringe with award-winning Power Ballad.

Power Ballad is the second in a trilogy of feminist performance artworks by Julia Croft, and is an investigation of language, the hidden ideologies and power dynamics hidden within it, and an attempt to find a new language of pleasure, anger and femaleness.

It’s also a mighty loud 80s power ballad karaoke sing-a-long, featuring the full synth beauty of Pat Benatar, Patti Smith and Annie Lennox. Power Ballad was directed by Nisha Madhan (of Shortland Street and The Blue Rose fame) leading to the declaration that

Summerhall Demonstration Room
2, 4 - 28 August (No shows 14, 21) Time: 19:30 Duration: 50mins
What was the inspiration for this performance?

A few different occurrences over the course of 2016 -  reading Revolt she said, revolt again by Alice Birch, the misogynistic train wreck that was the 2016 US election and the implicit gendered narratives that were played out in the politics and media of that time, as well as a life time of personally feeling the ways in which language was used against me as a woman and the ways I felt (and still feel) that language can be an impossible bind for women. 

Over the course of making the show, the concept of language began to also stand in for all those other seemingly immovable patriarchal structures we are all trying to live within or against. They seem permanent but they aren't-things could be different. 

I think the show at it's core is so optimistic. Things could change. This show started to become a small rally cry - or at least my own attempt to begin to understand what a resistance could look like and my reminding myself of the importance of being hopeful. 

Then as we began rehearsals for the show millions of women around the world marched collectively. And it is one of the best things I have ever seen. the show sits inspired by all those things. By some deep feminist rage but also optimism and the feeling in my gut that things are shifting. That and a long held love for impossibly uncool 80s music and Karaoke. I like to think karaoke is my super power.

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

Yes and no. I think the theatre space has become a space of privilege, especially if you are charging for tickets (which is mostly a necessary evil)-so mostly the discussion is being had by relatively privileged folk- in a space of privilege. 

But it does also provide a space where bodies are somehow forced to acknowledge each other. Where we can create a sort of utopia. That can be a powerful thing. And I have personally felt the richness of conversation that has happened between myself and my friends, and strangers after a show that is way deeper and more complex than what would happen in a pub. 

And it's all I know. I've been in theatre for most of my life- and it's the only way i know to give form to any kind of public discussion.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I started as an actor from a very young age and assumed that I would keep being a straight actor until i finished drama school and low and behold there was no work.Then it became a situation of either start making the work, or find another career. I was raised in a family that talked often and openly about politics and social justice and I always thought of that as a part of myself that was seperate from my life in the theatre. At a certain point a few years ago I finally clicked that these two things weren't seperate, in fact they were so inextricably interlinked that one couldn't exist without the other. I have to feel like my work is politically as well as artistically necessary- even if it is just adding a tiny drop of water. 

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

I think I approach making work very playfully and instinctually. i start with a lot of academic theory and then attempt to let that go as much as I can to follow whatever my body wants to do. It always starts with feminism and theory and always ends in something chaotic and filled with joy and pleasure. With this show it was the most successful collaboration I have ever had on a work. Me and Nisha Madhan created this work together. Both of our brains birthed this baby and I can't tell in the show what is mine and what is hers, because everything is both of us. We have a playful way of making together. We gave ourselves some concrete theatrical propositions- a microphone and a loop pedal and just played in a room together for 6 weeks. tried to find the task or the game in each moment. And tried to make each other laugh.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

In most ways- it feels like a good progression of form. I think we were able to push into something deeper in this work because we allowed ourselves fewer devices and attempted instead to really see an idea through to it's bitter end. We have referred to it as the "evil twin" of my other solo- it feels darker, and maybe less celebratory, perhaps a sign of the times. 

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

Joy, arousal, intellectually robust debate, beauty, rage. At it's loftiest i want them to feel like they can change the world-like the feminist revolution is arriving. Like It could happen at any moment.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?


Julia Croft’s recent work includes co-directing an upheaval and feminist intervention into one of New Zealand’s most classic theatrical texts Foreskin’s Lament (it’s about rugby, no kidding), for our largest theatre company, Auckland Theatre Company. Croft is also working on co-writing and performing in Body Double, a work about female desire with the director of Jane Doe, Eleanor Bishop (playing at Assembly Roxy).
Nisha Madhan is a long time conspirator and collaborator with Julia Croft, director of Town Centre “a theatre cult that is dedicated to mining the social potential of performance.”

Winner: Best Performer at Auckland Fringe 2017 - Power Ballad Winner: Best Live Art/Contemporary Performance at Auckland Fringe 2017 - Power Ballad

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