Saturday, 8 July 2017

beauty dramaturgy: Claire Wood @ Edfringe 2017

By Claire Wood
Performances August 7th - 12th inclusive, The Royal Scots Club (241) 9pm
Tickets £10 Advance 

Internationally renowned photographer and one time enfant terrible of the London art scene, Ty now resides in the quiet Perthshire countryside with his girlfriend, French model and actress, Heloise. His next exhibition is scheduled but he currently has nothing to show. Trying to capture the perfect image of beauty he begins photographing teenagers. Heloise senses trouble. His agent, Callum doesn’t care as long as he delivers the exhibition on time. With Operation Yewtree looming large on the horizon, down on her luck journalist Justine sets out to score a scoop.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

We’ve always loved a witch hunt. And in this fame obsessed world, what better than a celebrity witch hunt? Inspired by Operation Yewtree, beauty explores our morbid fascination with labels, whether or not they’re true. Dirt sticks and sometimes, it suits people to play along. What role does art play in a world that’s lost interest in truth?

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 
In an always on society, we’ve stopped taking time to think about the way the world is changing. We watch the news or we clock another grim headline on our phone – but a moment later, we’re onto the next thing. Theatre is unique in the permission it gives the audience to respond. Good theatre forces you to confront your beliefs – would that happen? Would I be complicit? Or would I take a stand? A busy bar after the show is (almost) always a good sign – lots of food for thought.

How did you become interested in making performance?
I love the immediacy of theatre. Something about having real people standing in front of you, demanding your attention, makes it one of the most compelling forms of storytelling we have. And I firmly believe that stories can win hearts and change minds.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
We’ve done a lot of background research into celebrity, into the obsession with the paedophile, into accusations that stick and did or didn’t turn out to be true and the ruins that these labels leave behind them. We don’t want to be trite in a society that throws around ‘paedo’ as an insult in the playground. But whether or not they’re true, labels can do untold damage.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?
As a writer and director, I’m interested in the lies people tell – or the stories they invent – to protect their world view. I directed Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden in the Fringe in 2015 and this script wrestles with many of the same issues. If a character believes something very passionately, does that make it real?

The year before, I directed David Eldridge’s wonderful play, Festen, which explores the impact on a family that chooses to ignore the abuse of its children. On the whole, I’m drawn to topics that challenge the way you think about the world. But having said that, last Fringe, I directed a 1920s themed Midsummer Night’s Dream featuring covers of pop classics. I’m not relentlessly miserable.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
I hope the audience will question the extent to which we’re spoon fed. The proliferation of fake news is tribute to our credulity. Who decides who is beautiful? Who identifies the modern day villain? Much of the media deals in assumptions, exacerbated by a click bait culture.

I hope the audience will spill out of the theatre debating how Ty’s story will end. But perhaps go home reflecting on the fact that they might think twice before believing everything they read.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

You mustn’t patronise an audience. I think you need to present both sides of an argument and let the audience decide. By showing the audience some of the sessions in which photographer Ty takes pictures of the kids, but by also documenting the media hubbub, I hope the audience will make up their own mind about whether or not he’s done anything wrong.

This is a brand new piece of theatre for the Edinburgh Fringe by Claire Wood that takes a magnifying glass to the phenomena of celebrity in our 24-hour news cycle world. Wood describes her work as
“A modern day witch hunt. I’m interested in the rise of fake news, the pressure journalists are put under to create a story out of nothing and the resulting endless fascination with celebrity. The halo effect of fame and the entourage that ensues; and what really constitutes beauty in a postmodern world where everyone fights for their 15 minutes of fame.”

Claire Wood’s previous works include Likes, 2016 SCDA One Act Festival, a short film for National Theatre Scotland’s 24 hour theatre outing during the Scottish Referendum and La Cirque de Muerta, a piece written for the album launch of Edinburgh band The Stantons. Wood enjoys mixing mediums in her work and for last year’s Edinburgh Fringe directed a sell out production of a Midsummer’s Night Dream which incorporated jazz covers of popular music. 

Art, celebrity and censorship collide with disturbing consequences in this fast-paced new work. What price freedom? What price fame? And what price must we ultimately pay for love?

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