Friday, 14 July 2017

12 Dramaturgy: 3Bugs @ Edfringe 2017

14th-26th August 2017, 21.10
Lower Theatre, The Space @ Niddry Street

50 minutes

12 is a new version of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night produced by Birmingham University’s 3BUGS Fringe Theatre and LGBTQ.
12 brings a brand-new angle to a classic with a cabaret twist showcasing the emerging and popular genre of drag queens and kings, whilst exploring themes of sexuality and gender.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

It was actually a very dull performance of a classic text that inspired this performance. I was sat there about half an hour into the running time, shuffling and fidgeting in my chair and attempting to engage in some way with what I was watching. There was not even anything particularly wrong about it, the cast were magnificent and clearly lots of character work had been done. 

Despite this, I found that both the plot and characters didn’t captivate me as they didn’t resonate with my understanding of current society. I truly think that the classics can directly engage with current social issues and through this
captivate the audience. Therefore, spent the duration of the play discovering my concept and how I could make my favourite classic text, Twelfth Night, a fun yet thought-provoking piece of theatre for audiences today.

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

In my opinion, it very much is. It brings together people from different walks of life (though, a lot of work needs to be done on bringing more diversity into the arts). The performance can act as the first speaker in a debate, setting out the topic and ground work, bringing the spark or base information which is presented in the same way to an audience at the same time. The discussion remains public through audience reactions or, depending on the performance, participation. 

However, in a lot of cases, discussions of ideas may turn private and just between audience members. I think there is room for more feedback sessions or even just a more casual set up for open discussion regarding the performance and the ideas it brought up.

How did you become interested in making performance?

My first inclination of this interest came from my school days where I craved creative control over what we did as actors, but I just thought I was being controlling at that stage. I then started directing small school plays. My first visit to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival when I was 17 opened my eyes to the countless possibilities that theatre and performance can take someone, whether they are creator or spectator.

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

I like to stay away from the text for as long as possible in the rehearsal process. We look at stage pictures, gestures and physical characterisation to do the story telling initially, so that everyone can explore share their understandings of the themes, plot or characters to each other beyond the words in the text. 

It is very collaborative and I often got the cast to make their own performances to share back so we can have open discussions about what works and what is clearest for the story we are trying to tell.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

I often work with comedy texts and use music, so in that way, yes. I also always look at gender bending wherever I can because of the feeble amount of non-CIS male roles in play texts. However, this project is different as it certainly pushing the boundaries in terms of gender and sexuality in ways that I was afraid to before. Over the last few years I have gained a lot more confidence in myself and what I have to say about these themes, so this production is very close to me due to that.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

Overall, I hope they are entertained and engaged. While drag queen culture is becoming mainstream thanks to the TV show Ru Paul’s Drag Race, drag king culture is most of the time unheard of when I have discussed it with my peers. 

By enjoying a shared space with drag kings, the audience will hopefully become more familiar with the culture. I hope that if they feel a bit apprehensive when the first drag king is introduced that by the bows they will appreciate and enjoy this aspect of drag culture, wanting to go for a drink with us after and even have a go dragging up themselves sometime.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

Firstly, the use of a classic text and well-known play was essential in my concept. I love new writing where specific issues within gender and sexuality could have been addressed further. However, by having a familiar story, the focus can be on familiarizing the audience with the mostly unfamiliar drag king culture as well as enjoying the performances of the queer characters and actors on stage. The second strategy was integrating the genre of cabaret into the performance, allowing for a homage to the way drag culture is performed with singing and music in a relaxed and interactive setting.

The collaboration between 3BUGS and LGBTQ has allowed students to produce a theatre show exploring themes that they are affected by. The cast desire to share their explorations, thoughts and feelings on themes of sexuality and gender with their audiences, and encourage them to open discussions in a safe environment where they are free to explore these still often taboo subjects.

The 50 minute show combines live music with outrageous costumes and drag to explore the confusion of hidden identity, love and Shakespeare. Directed by Annie Kershaw and Katie Walsh using a new abridged version of the script developed by the company, the original language mixed with a contemporary focus will encourage audiences of all kinds.

• This is a student show through 3BUGS Fringe Theatre and LGBTQ Association at the University of Birmingham
• 3BUGS has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe for the past 14 years and has produced many sell out shows, including ‘Ophelia Drowning’ in 2009. They also produce alternative student theatre at the University of Birmingham
• UoB LGBTQ Association was founded in and has won ‘Best Association’ 2 times at the Guild Awards

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