Monday, 10 July 2017

Chekhov's Dramaturgy: Paul Davies @ Edfringe 2017

Seagulls flock to Leith in a breathtaking theatre piece by Fringe radicals Volcano Theatre

Chekov's The Seagull is stripped back and performed in 45 tonnes of water in a disused Church in Leith. 

Listings Information
The Leith Volcano (Venue 183)

8-26 August (not 14, 21) 18:00 

Tickets: £12/£6

This radical reinterpretation and award winning design comes from Welsh company Volcano Theatre. 

Jawdropping theatre on the fringe of the Fringe.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

A man called Rob came up to me in the Gym and said do you like Chekhov and over the puffing, the grunting and stretching we had a wonderful conversation about Chekhov and I thought afterwards not only should I get fit but I should read Chekhov too so I went away and did the reading.  So really the inspiration was the accidental meeting of minds and people.

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

Not always as sometimes pure entertainment can drown out any presentation of ideas – and of course ideas on their own can be rather tricky, if not, dull to perform. 

But yes performance is still a good space for the performance of ideas. We or at least I am not interested in discussing ideas – seminar rooms seem the best place to discuss ideas – or coffee shops. But performance does need to interrogate, dispute, ridicule, support and contradict ideas.

How did you go about gathering the team for it

I wanted to use, primarily, people I have never worked with before so we could explore new things in new ways. And that was great. Practically I auditioned people and went to look at designers work.

How did you become interested in making performance? 

My Dad got me a job in a steel works when I was 16 and that was tough. Eventually I found my way to University and read Politics. Occasionally I went to the theatre but I couldn’t understand what and why they were acting. 

So I then started to make quite hard, physical shows. They were probably not very good, but people seemed to like them and so I continued.

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

No every show is different. But mostly the start is about sniffing the air and travelling in the direction in which there is an odour that you can’t quite recognise.

Does the show fit with your usual productions? 

In so far as it embodies the above yes. It is surprising, unusual and pleasurable and this latter idea is important.

What do you hope that the audience will experience? 

You never can tell what another human being is experiencing, I guess that is why people find it difficult to live together – notwithstanding this I think I would like the audience to really enjoy the extravagance of the show, the pleasurable mise en scene.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience? 

It is intimate and we move them= audience  around once and the actors climb over them with very little covering their bodies so hopefully this enhance the audience’s sense that this is a live (pleasurable) experience.

The spirit of a rebellious Fringe is alive and well in South Wales as Volcano Theatre return to Edinburgh with Seagulls a deconstructive adaptation of Chekhov’s  The Seagull. Chekhov’s ‘rough stage’ by a lake has become, in this lean and imaginative reworking, a simply constructed stage and sturdy frame in the nave of a derelict church, adjacent to a flooded chancel. 

A charismatic young cast moves through and above the audience by means of ropes, physical vigour and sheer effrontery. Created especially for the company’s new home - the atmospheric and evolving Bunker Theatre, deep inside a former Iceland frozen food store in Swansea High Street, in Edinburgh the company will welcome audience members to the equally atmospheric former St James' Church in Leith, renamed the Leith Volcano for the Fringe as part of an ongoing partnership between Volcano and The Biscuit Factory. 

Seagulls is one of a number of ambitious projects to be staged at this new venue. 

Other highlights include Cryptic’s extraordinary Tesla-coil spectacular XFRMR (pronounced transformer), Impermanence Dance Theatre’s Sexbox, and Flying Atoms – a playful exploration of forces and matter from fellow Welsh company Powys Dance.

Director Paul Davies' production pares down the cast from the original story to five characters whilst still maintaining the the complex series of love triangles and focusing the action around key moments. The result puts the strength and energy of the ensemble to the fore as actress Irina, her lover esteemed writer Trigorn, her son playwright Konstantin, his crush fledgling actress Nina and family physican Dr Dorn lives and loves collide. 

Seagulls retains the dysfunctional, melancholic, frustrated, unheroic temperament of Chekhovian drama, whilst bringing to the fore its humour and absurdity and stripping the veneer of politeness from much of the conflict.

Working closely with choreographer Catherine Bennett as Movement Director the characters fly across the stage and amongst the audience as music ranging from Arvo Part to The Clash to The Durutti Column to Frank Sinatra soundtracks the action.

Seagulls is the latest in Volcano Theatre's series of 'radical classics' which have included a mashup of the early works of Ibsen, L.O.V.E the critically acclaimed staging of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, two Macbeths, a reality-TV Romeo & Juliet as well as works by Coward and Ayckbourn. 

Seagulls is appearing in the British Council Edinburgh Showcase and has been selected for the World Stage Design Festival in Taipei. It received nominations in five categories in the Wales Theatre Awards: Best Production, Best Design, Best Director, Best Female Performance in English (Mairi Phillips), Best Male Performance in English (Chris Elson).

Seagulls | A stage production by Volcano Theatre promotional video from Volcano Theatre on Vimeo.

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