Friday, 14 July 2017

Hear all about Dramaturgy: Helen Morley @ Edfringe 2017

Hear all about it’ at the Edinburgh Fringe, a theatrical experiment created by Warwick student company ‘Reactivists’, directed by Helen Morley. 

The premise of the show is simple - each week Reactivists create a newly devised, original show, based on and interrogating the news of the week before. 

What was the inspiration for this performance?
The shows are created on a weekly basis, inspired by and interrogating the news of that week. The specific inspiration for the shows is therefore impossible to predict, as it depends entirely on that news week. In rehearsals inspiration has been taken from the general election, Grenfell, the housing crisis and North Korean nuclear tests.

The inspiration for this format was my frustration with finding few plays that spoke with political urgency and directly challenged and engaged with recent current affairs and politics. This led me to question whether it was possible for theatre – with its traditionally lengthy development process – to still be an effective tool for reaction, response and discussion in a contemporary world of 24-hour news, Twitter and Netflix. This process is essentially attempting to answer that question.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 
This is what we want to find out, I believe it is, and I hope that belief is validated by this process.

How did you become interested in making performance?
Personally my interest in theatre began as an extra-curricular activity that brightened up an otherwise very quiet village. 

As I grew older and was given more control over the stories that I and my peers told, I became more aware of theatre’s political capacity and its importance in facilitating communal discussion of issues, particularly issues that may be marginalised or monopolised or over simplified by the mass media. I think that realisation was what made me want to make theatre.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
We spend a significant amount of time discussing and researching as a collective, looking at a wide range of news sources, pulling out what interests and engages us, and brainstorming ideas. 

The writing is developed alongside rehearsals, until we reach a more traditional rehearsal period at the end of the week which is dedicated purely to staging and running the show. The show is constantly liable to be changed and adapted as news breaks, one member of the company is on ‘News watch’ at all times so that if a big story does break we have the maximum amount of time to react to it.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?
This is our first outing as a company, but the emphasis on new writing, response and political engagement will continue throughout our future work.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
We hope that they will engage with the ideas we present and leave questioning not only the issues that we interrogate, but also the function and capabilities of theatre in contemporary society. Ultimately, we want to engage them in a discussion about theatre and the world at large.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
Again, this will depend on the nature of the play that is created each week, which is very exciting! One of our general focuses has been on exploring how we democratise knowledge, so that the whole audience have equal access to the news stories that we are referencing and interrogating.

Hear All About It seeks to ask, can theatre still be an effective tool for reaction, response and discussion in a world of 24hr News, Twitter and Netflix?   

How do we talk about Grenfell, Manchester, austerity or the Labour surge? Two companies work in REP to create a conversation about theatre, the world at large and (probably) Donald Trump.

Hear all about it’ runs:

Jury’s Inn, Jeffrey Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1DH.
Monday 14th – 19th August 2017.
11:45am -12:45pm

Space Triplex Studio, 19 Hill Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9DP.
Monday 21st – Saturday 26th August 2017.
11:30am -12:30pm.

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