Monday, 17 July 2017

Dramaturgy in Human Skin: Nicole Henriksen @ Edfringe 2017

A Robot in Human Skin 

Presented and Written by Nicole Henriksen Award-nominated performer, writer, and producer Nicole Henriksen follows up her critically acclaimed theatre debut with a brand new piece. 

Known for tackling difficult topics with grace, wit, and tact, Henriksen's new work is no exception. 

A Robot In Human Skin is a fresh, truthful, and heartfelt look at mental health and the ways we treat and understand it. Come take a look into the Robot's mind. 

2 to 28 Aug, no show 15th Aug Time: 20:30 (60 mins running time) 
Venue: Daisy, Underbelly Med Quad, Teviot Place, EH8 9AG

What was the inspiration for this performance?
When I was touring my debut theatre show last year (Makin' It Rain, discussing my job as a stripper), I noted audiences really responded to a short moment in which I spoke about my mental health. And so, it felt that a show exploring mental health more deeply, but with the same balance from my debut theatre show, that of raw truth telling, and a whimsical cheeky voice in some moments, would create an important and beautiful show in A Robot In Human Skin.

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

I think performance will never cease to be the perfect space for public discussion of ideas. For me, the fact that a performance allows me time to plan out how I'd like to phrase a point, and form a connection with strangers in a room for an hour, affords me so much freedom and safety to be open and honest in a manner that might feel too daunting if it were an actual discussion, even with close friends. 

People can't talk back in a performance, they can leave never seeing me again, they can dismiss it because they see it as fiction. I have a freedom and a safety in performance, so I can discuss ideas in a manner I may never be able to in person, and so I can't see how it isn't the ideal place for that discussion.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I was about forty coffees and a mental breakdown away from being a novelist when I started watching The Mighty Boosh TV programme. It lit up my mind, entertained me, and made me feel I could make something like that. 

An exploration of melding art forms together to create something unique. And since comedy requires no formal training to get up on stage, I started performing stand up and writing alternative comedy shows. Then after five years, I created a theatre show about stripping and the frequently asked questions I receive as a sex worker. And from that reaction, I knew I had to keep creating theatre. 

I approach solo theatre with a different perspective than most because of those five years playing characters, creating music and multimedia, and learning the rules of timing, as a comedy performer. So that perspective creates something refreshing for audiences. And if that refreshing approach allows for more truthful discussion of topics such a mental health, I couldn't feel more proud to keep exploring theatre.

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

I think my process would give other theatre creators several stress-induced heart attacks. I never script a show completely. I allow a show to rattle around in my head for a few months or even a year, then I sit down and it pours out over a few writing sessions. 

During those sessions, I write notes and connect each section with dot points, but never lock down the content word for word, all while performing it in the process to ensure it flows correctly. I don't script because my shows need to feel open, vulnerable, and real, because they are. 

They're about my life and perspective, so I like to perform them fresh each time, knowing where I'm going, but allowing the wording to change as the moment requires it.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

No. This is another departure from my comedy background, and not related to my previous theatre work, Makin' It Rain. A Robot In Human Skin stands alone as a piece on one person's experience of mental illness, though anyone who has seen Makin' It Rain, or even my previous comedy works, could see their influence in terms of structure and composition.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

The audience is actually my first thought. I work backwards once I work out how I'd like people to feel leaving the theatre, or picking up a flyer, or seeing a poster for the show. I'd hope the audience will leave feeling as though they've been held while being told a bedtime story that hit a slightly tender spot, but a very engaging storyline that kept them captivated, with a moral that left them asking questions of themselves and those close to them.

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