Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Descent Dramaturgy: Linda Duncan McLaughlin @ Edfringe 2017

A Moment White Productions
Written by Linda Duncan McLaughlin
Based on original direction by Allie Butler

Award-nominated play Descent by Linda Duncan McLaughlin to make Edinburgh Fringe debut at Gilded Balloon this August.

A play about love. And dementia. But mostly love.

Acclaimed by critics and audiences alike and fresh from its Scottish tour, Descent, nominated for Best New Play at the 2016 Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland, is set to play the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year at the Gilded Balloon’s brand new venue, the Rose Theatre.

Venue: Basement (Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre)
Time: 19:30 (20:30)
Dates: Aug 5-20th, Preview 4th
No performances: 18th
Tickets: Weekdays £10 (£9), Weekends £12 (£11), Previews £6

What was the inspiration for this performance? 

The original inspiration came from watching my aunt and uncle struggling to cope with his diagnosis of early onset dementia and their subsequent experience of the disease.  This started me thinking about two big questions: What makes you 'you'? and What makes you love someone?  The play doesn't attempt to answer either of these questions: all I've done is put them out there.  

And we've found that audience members invariably stay behind to discuss, in various forms, exactly that, in their response to the play and their sharing of their own experiences.  It's paradoxically hopeful: it's a play about love.  And dementia.  But mostly about love.

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

Absolutely!  I truly believe, with Hamlet, that drama should hold a mirror up to nature.  By attempting to reflect a truthful reality back to the audience, performance (hopefully) provides a forum and a catalyst for discussion of what it is to be human in all its messy, sometimes painful, sometimes painfully funny glory.  

Drama and performance lets us air what might otherwise not be said, provokes us to confront the same thing in ourselves, and reassures us that we are not alone in our thoughts, feelings and generally fucking-things-up-ness.

How did you become interested in making performance? 

I'm an actor as well as a writer, and I love nothing better than telling stories.  I got to the stage where I needed to make my own work in order to tell the stories I wanted to tell.

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

It's based as much as possible on people's actual experience, garnered through extensive research on early onset dementia and its effects, personal experience, direct work with carers and people living with dementia, and exploration of the ideas through various readings and workshops.  

Does the show fit with your usual productions?  

This is my first full-length play, so it's hard to compare, especially as some of my other writing is prose fiction.  The play's not without humour, but it's pretty dark - which on reflection, yeah, does fit pretty well with the rest of my writing...

What do you hope that the audience will experience?  

A story that is involving, moving and enlightening and that contributes to an increased understanding of and empathy for people in this situation.  An understanding of how it might feel to lose yourself, or to lose the person you most love in the world, or to be shut out from helping, and how it's possible to survive that - not only with dignity, but with hope for the future.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience? 

I started with direct-delivery monologues, because I wanted to allow the audience really to get inside the characters' heads; from there I and the director layered specially-composed soundscapes and visual images to try to convey an experience that, beyond a certain point in the dementia journey, is basically inexpressible in words.

The piece follows the story of 50-somethings Rob and Cathy as they look forward to reclaiming their own lives now that their daughter Nicola is grown up and settled; but looming over all three of them is a threat that could rip their future apart. 

Descent explores what happens as
they try to hold onto each other - and themselves - in the face of one of our society’s most devastating diseases: early-onset dementia. It doesn't flinch from the heartbreak they face, but it also celebrates the courage, the hope, the love - and even the humour - they bring to the fight.

This production of Descent will be performed by Paul Cunningham, Fiona MacNeil and Wendy Seager, and is based on a design by Alice Gooden and lighting design by Laura Hawkins.

“Captivating… a brilliant cast and lyrical script and a defiant swerve away from sentimentality, issue-based drama clichés or easy resolution. Brims with insight and profound emotional depth”
★★★★ The List


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