Monday, 10 July 2017

Droll Dramaturgy:Brice Stratford @ Edfringe 2017

the Owle Schreame Presents
August 4th – 26th (not 6th, 13th, 20th)
Aug 4-12 – 22:00, theSpace North Bridge (Ven 36) Aug 14-19 – 10:00am, Surgeon's Hall (Ven 53) Aug 21-26 – 22:00, theSpace on the Mile (Ven 39)
£10 / £8.50 / £13 - (60 mins)
The award-winning Owle Schreame theatre company present an unpredictable and semi-improvised selection of rough, wild, raucous and bawdy short (illegal) plays from the 16th and 17th centuries for the first time in almost 400 years.

In 1642 the Puritans took control of the country. Amongst various other atrocities, they banned Christmas and made all theatre illegal. But theatre didn’t die. Without a stage, without costumes, without props, one man made it his mission to keep performing, and to keep British theatre alive.

An obscure child actor raised in the aftermath of Shakespeare, Robert Cox took his theatre company on the road, performing illegally in back alleys, private homes, pubs and country fairs. He created an array of strange, ridiculous, over-the-top, chaotic short plays which became known as Drolls. Anti- establishment, anti-elitist, anti-intellectual; we celebrate Robert Cox in performance for the first time in literally hundreds of years.

Drolls are rough, thrusting examples of historical sketch comedy. Designed for a drunken, bawdy crowd of peasants, prostitutes and thieves, these fragmentary pieces came from a number of sources; some were original writing, some were remnants of medieval folk theatre, others were popular scenes ripped and edited from the successful plays of the renaissance. All were short, all were loud, and all were offensive. Through the dual mediums of drinking and shouting, the Owle Schreame present a selection of the surviving Drolls for the first time in almost 400 years, and attempt to tell something of the story of the man who made them possible with a suitable absence of props, preparation, costume or stage.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
The Drolls are an entire genre of British theatre that have been forgotten; a subversive, illegal form of comedy that has been almost entirely written out of history; I've always foun d that to be maddening. Though I've been aware of their existence for some time, it was only during our 2015 production of Ralph Roister Doister (the earliest surviving full English language comedy) that I first started developing the concept that would result in DROLL - the inspiration comes as much from Monty Python or the Goon Show as it does from the RSC or the Globe.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas?
A room full of strangers looking to empathise with and understand characters and narratives alien to their own. Ideal, I'd say - so long as the audience is more than just a cultural extension of the cast.

How did you become interested in making performance?
The notion of reading words written by someone who died centuries before you were born, of sharing the thoughts and ideas and images that came from their long-gone brain, has always felt to me like the closest we can come to transcending death; connecting with people from a time and a place that it's impossible to really conceive of, let alone understand - and then using that to connect with a modern-day audience! Historical theatre has always felt so fascinating and dense and unexplored for me; there's an infinity of work to be done beyond "the Complete Works" and that has always seemed so desperately exciting and adventurous.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
We try to create our DROLL performances using as close to original practice as possible - this means we don't really engage in traditional rehearsal periods, and instead put our focus into developing working relationships and performative instincts within the company, and learning how to read the performative cues in the texts. We learn our lines from cue scripts which retain the original spelling and the original punctuation; the first full run of any script happens in front of the first paying audience.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?
Yes, but moreso. We're using the concepts and approaches which we've been developing for the past 9 years and pushing them even further - distilling and heightening the experimentation and seeing where that takes us. Our work is always about raising the dead, but with DROLL we're reviving an entire genre of theatre alongside the voices, thoughts, and gags of a bygone age.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
We want to try and create for a modern-day audience some of the same rough magic, the same drunken bawdy, the same raucous power of experiencing an illegal production of comic theatre in the 17th century. A surreal, pell-mell explosion of energy and sweat and noise from a stinking troupe of wandering vagabond players, performing for drinking money. We want the audience to learn that this ridiculous, fun form of theatre is just as historically valid and just as justified as the most elitist, exclusive, expensive Shakespearean productions.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
The placement of the crowd (inspired by a historical style thrust), the removal of any division between audience and performer, the necessity of even lighting, and of looking individuals amongst the audience directly in the eye and talking to them specifically - of honesty over artifice. There are no walls between "us" and "them" whatsoever in DROLL, let alone a fourth. Our performers are not only experienced in classical texts, but also extensively in immersive theatre, and we've been informed a great deal from that form, as well as by stand up comedy and pub ceilidhs.

Founded by Brice Stratford in 2008, the Owle Schreame explore and evolve historical techniques and approaches to recreate for modern audiences the rough, visceral, interactive experience of historical storytelling and theatrical performance.

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