Wednesday, 7 June 2017

The Prophetic Dramaturgy of Bethany Lewis: Daniel Pool @ Edfringe 2017

Puppet prophet voyages to the Edinburgh Fringe

The Prophetic Visions of Bethany Lewis
3rd - 27th August (not 14), 22:50 
Underbelly Cowgate

From the creators of the 2015 5* hit The Ascension of Mrs Leech

Did you know your neighbour’s mum’s got chlamydia? Bethany Lewis, stay-at-home mother of two, said so. The spirits told her. Beth’s started receiving mysterious visions, and it’s making her famous. Ssspssshhwhh... Oh, hear that? Your dad's an escort. An adult comedy with a cast of 11 puppets.

 What was the inspiration for this performance?

I wanted to write something about celebrity culture. It feels like everybody - particularly if they’re young - is determined to be famous some day. And yet people who actually achieve fame so frequently suffer for it, and talk about depression, and wish they could go back. It’s a strange, unhealthy aspiration. I don’t mean to be preachy, though - I’d quite like to be famous too.

On a more surface level, the main character gets her psychic powers after a can falls out of a kitchen cupboard and smacks her on the head. A can of kidney beans fell out of my own kitchen cupboard and reduced my laptop to smithereens. So that’s what inspired that.

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

Absolutely - maybe more than ever. I think people are far more open to having their views challenged by a play than they are by a film. Theatre gets a special pass to experiment more, push people a little further.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I’ve always enjoyed writing, and also performing a bit of stand-up comedy. Several years ago, a close friend stormed through my door and told me she had a deadline to pitch a play in 3 days, but she needed a script. I wrote day and night and by the end of the week we had funding for my first play. It was all a bit of a fluke but I’ve been hooked ever since.

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

Writing-wise, I’m definitely not very methodical about it. I write down scraps and funny one-liners in my phone, and eventually come up with a plan for something. And I write the scenes in order of which will be easiest. I’m a pudding first sort of person.

The actual putting-together of the show is down to my producer, Laura Elmes, and our director Jolley Gosnold. They’re both very brilliant. No one could have a nicer bedside manner when telling you you need to trim your script by about 8,000 words.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

It does, to be honest, yes. I tend towards comedies, I love mixing a supernatural element with very normal characters and dialogue, and I like to knead a bit of a message into that. This show has all my favourite things in it.

That said, I’ve never worked with puppets before - that’s been a steep learning curve. You’ve got to write a bit differently for puppets, in terms of pace and tone. That’s been a lot of fun - and it’s great to play with a new style of performance.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

God I hope they’ll laugh. That’s the most important bit. If they’re laughing, they’re engaging with the script and the actors, and that’s all you can hope for with a comedy.

There is some stuff in there, as I said, about the toxicity of fame and the relationship between class and celebrity. But if they’re laughing, and engaging with the show, then hopefully (if I’ve done my job right), that will naturally lead to a bit of after-show discussion about the more academic stuff.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

Puppetry was probably the biggest tactical move. It nudges the whole show into a different perspective, and lets you work with caricatures, which is a big help when dealing with the themes of this show.

The goal is to play with expectation a bit. They’re furry and sweet - but it’s definitely an adult comedy.

The Prophetic Visions of Bethany Lewis follows Beth’s journey to stardom with a critical eye on celebrity culture and the idealisation of fame. She loses herself piece by piece – changing her clothes, her voice, and her working class background for the sake of intrusive cameras and glossy-faced peers. But as her popularity increases, Beth becomes disillusioned with the unstoppable crank of the PR mill, and begins to pine for the friends and family she left behind.

The Prophetic Visions of Bethany Lewis is written by Daniel Pool (The Ascension of Mrs Leech, Chortle Student Comedian of the Year finalist 2015) and directed by Jolley Gosnold (MA Directing, Drama Centre London) with puppetry direction from Mike Hutcherson (Glitch: the Improvised Puppet Show). It is produced by the award-winning Laura Elmes Productions (Buzz: A New Musical, Tom and Bunny Save the World, The Ascension of Mrs Leech).

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