Saturday, 24 June 2017

The Girl Who Loved Dramaturgy: Campfire Stories @ Edfringe 2017

Have you ever wanted to bang a dictator?
Campfire Stories Theatre Co.
The Girl Who Loved Stalin
@ The Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017

Showing at TheSpace @ Jury's Inn, 3pm, 4th-26th August 2017 (excl. Sundays)

Campfire Stories Theatre Company’s bold Fringe debut is a lust-filled extravaganza about online dating, hopeless romanticism, sexual repression and the fall and decline of the Soviet Union in the late Cold War period.

A rough guide to romancing, wining, dining and wooing a communist dictator – whether they’re the real thing or a curly-haired soldier with a self-esteem problem in a cheap costume. Four stories of unconventional romance in Soviet Russia. 

What was the inspiration for this performance?
We'd just finished working on another piece set in Russia and I felt that we hadn't explored every faucet that we could have. The show's dating website angle came from a lot of experiences we'd heard about online dating - funny ones, ridiculous ones and sometimes downright scary ones. The truth really is about online dating that just about anyone who can be into any kind of thing (good or bad) can put themselves out there and we saw that as a really great opportunity to explore dramatically. 

While we can't deny that Catfishing and Stalinism are an odd mix, our experimentation with this piece has really brought out a lot that we didn't expect to see, like how you can incorporate the crumbling decline of the Soviet Union into just about any joke if you try hard enough.

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

I don't think there's any better place for it! The difference between theatre and any other medium is that your audience is subjugated to listen to all of your ideas regardless, primarily because if they don't listen the only other option is to leave and waste however much you paid for a ticket. 

It allows performers to put across a well informed argument, and the whole argument, in a culture where it's all too frequent for people to switch off a film, butt in when you're debating, or merely refute everything outside their own echo chamber. Theatre is one of the few integral medias which allows people to actually say what they want to say without being cut off too soon.

How did you become interested in making performance?

Our company is relatively fresh off the boat in terms of making performance, but we've really become interested in devising in the past few years studying drama and producing our own shows as students. I think we were all originally searching for some kind of artistic outlet and opportunity to experiment and that's what brought us together to create performances. 

We all have our own individual passion about what makes theatre great and that's what is wonderful about being in a company of seven, as we can all bring something different to the table and
everyone has their own reasons for being interested in creating performances.

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

The beauty of The Girl Who Loved Stalin, in my opinion, is the fact that it's a constantly redefining piece of theatre. Our script now looks entirely different from the script we produced in January and while that's a scary thing, it also shows how far we've come in developing it. A lot of our backgrounds as actors is comedy and so we've been able to get quite a lot of off the cuff stuff which really adds to the initial sphere of the show. 

It's kind of like a hodgepodge of all the ideas we want to throw in, ironed out to their maximum potential. Sometimes in rehearsals we've found a new niche or element to explore and then spent the next few rehearsals refining it and I've always thought of that being a really great way of designing performance. 

We were really heavily inspired by the work of Dario Fo and so reading his plays has been a great way for us to push ourselves further and further to create something really artistically unique while still sticking to those age old laws of comedy.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

Given that it's our first major show, I suppose we'll have to wait and see! It certainly has links to, and a basis within our previous show called "The Babushka" (no link to the daytime television show, they stole the name from us as far as I'm concerned) which was also a Russian tragicomedy, but we really wanted to bring something new to things we've done in the past and I think The Girl Who Loved Stalin certainly goes farther in its politics and humour than we've ever delved before.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

I'd like to preface this question by answering first what I hope they won't experience - which is something regurgitated or bland. I hope they don't sit there in silence while our version of Robert Mugabe laments about what kind of a lovelife he enjoys and I hope they won't pass out at seeing some of the more raunchy moments of our play. 

At the end of the day, I hope that they see something that they find a little bit off the wall but still incredibly enjoyable and something that leaves them with a lot of questions and thoughts about the way dating in our society works and also about the feasibility of a Communist state.

From a bawdy housewife to a sex-crazed German soldier, this is a coming of age story about loving your country – maybe a bit too much. Boris is a man whose love life has been about as successful as a North Korean missile system. 

He decides to sign up to a dating website called "" which promises love, lust and laughs but finds himself instead dragged across the crumbling Soviet Union by a gay Ketamine dealer called Grigori who only became a matchmaker because he was promised £34 an hour. Will Boris ever meet his match? Is all love destined to fail? Will Communist rule in the Ukraine disintegrate? All questions "The Girl Who Loved Stalin" hopes to answer.

To premiere at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017, The Girl Who Loved Stalin pulls apart the modern perceptions of romance in an albeit roundabout way. The original script, written by Jake Mace, is blended with audience interaction and occasional improvisation alongside a biting satirical wit and many wild characters – all played by a cast of five. Under the swift co-direction of Tapuwa Pswarayi and Mike Dorey, the show thrives with a lively atmosphere and aims to leave the audience writhing in laughter and somewhat existential self-doubt.

Inventively staged to be performed on a 4x2 metre stage, Technical Director Aden Craig evokes images of propaganda, the digital world and a cramped tech startup office through a blend of creative lighting, set and costumes ranging from old Red Army military jackets to a flaunty floral nightgown. The cast bring to life a myriad of interesting characters. Aditi Mohan debuts as Valeria, Boris' first match and a raunchy Stalin-obsessed socialite heiress. Livvie Newman bounds from her recent research project on sketch comedy in modern media to create Elena, a haughty Crimean housewife almost always on the brink of an erotic euphemism. Tapuwa Pswarayi glitters as the metrosexual Corporal and Father while Jake Mace puts together an eclectic and witty creation in sidekick Grigori. Mike Dorey (Hamlet, 2016, Discarded Nut Theatre, Theatre Royal Winchester) stars as the unfortunate Boris, a flailing, hopeless romantic whose schadenfreude-inducing performance incites laughter, mockery and an array of other reactions ranging from genuine enjoyment to palpable disdain at Boris' incompetence.

All performed against the backdrop of a glittery curtain from Argos, this summer at TheSpace @ Jury's Inn.

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