Thursday, 20 July 2017

Knock Dramaturgy: Nive Petel @ Edfringe 2017

Niv Petel Knock Knock

Venue C primo, venue 41,
Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Dates 2-28 Aug (not 14)
Time 19:30

How would you raise your child, if you knew that one day their turn will come to hold a rifle?
How is it to grow up in a place where children are destined to be soldiers from the day they are born? The parents– all former soldiers themselves – know that one day, a liaison officer might knock on their door too.

credit: Chris Gardner
What was the inspiration for this performance?
Knock Knock started out as my MA project as an acting student at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London, two years ago. I challenged myself with the following research topic:  “How to create your own solo performance?” 

And so I set off to explore this powerful theatrical medium – the Monodrama. 

The heroine of Knock Knock started as a private joke between me and my best friend, Maia Levy, who later became the artistic advisor for the show. This character, a typical “Jewish Mother”, popped up into our conversations, humorously commenting, complaining, lecturing or just sharing her point of view of the world, which always revolved around raising her beloved only son. 

Those little “monologues” slowly accumulated into a colorful life story, until one day, one of them revealed what I like to call “an open wound” at its core. At that moment, I knew that this story has earned its right to be told on stage.
The reality of living in Israel is extremely polar, at least as I experience it. In a nut shell, you need to be a highly skilled “emotional acrobat”, and safely “hop” between birthdays and funerals. Metaphorically, of course. 

But also not. The dichotomy of this reality, in which life and death are inextricably intertwined in everyday life, has been at the heart of my motivation when creating Knock Knock. The army is part of your life in so many ways that you don’t even realize it until you step out of it for a while. 

My show celebrates life, joy, love and sacrifice, and salutes mothers, wherever they are in the world.     

Is performance still a good space for
credit: Chris Gardner
the public discussion of ideas? 
Yes, I certainly believe so. Recently, I went to see a show in London that dealt with terror and its implications on our society and laws system. People couldn’t stop talking about the themes and expressing their opinions during the interval and after the show. A good performance, in my opinion, doesn’t “tell you what to think”, but raises questions, open discussions and makes you reassess your views and opinions. That’s how a change can be made. In my view, provocative performances are more likely to create revulsion and fortification in one’s original opinions, rather than a change.
How did you become interested in making performance?
One of the courses in the first year of acting at The Performing Arts Studio Yoram Leowinstein, Tel-Aviv, where I trained, was all about creating your own piece, with the view of developing yourself as an artist, and generating work for yourself. 

This is where I first started to write and create short theatre pieces. I didn’t get to do enough of it after I graduated, maybe because I was lucky to almost constantly be working as an actor. But the writing “bug” was probably “incubating” in me, because when I moved to the UK and did my MA in Performance at Mountview, I realized how powerful expressing your own inner voice can be. 

You learn so much about yourself – you develop your skills, you get to meet your profession from different angles, you broaden your network, and, of course, you create job opportunities for yourself. 

My Alexander Technique tutor in Mountview, Louisa Gnafkis, asked me during one of our sessions: “How do you want a new breath to come in, if you don’t allow the previous one to fully go out first? And that applies to a lot of other things in life.” And indeed, delivering your inner voice into the world, allows new voices to emerge within you, so I am sure I will continue to write alongside acting.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
Yes. As part of my research about solo-performances and monodramas, I came across many tools and approaches to the one-man-show. 

While creating Knock Knock, I put focus on three major elements: (1) minimalism – you can see that in the set, the costume, the reuse of the same props for different purposes and the lack of sound effects. (2) One character on stage – I do not portray the other characters of the play, but I evoke their existence to a level the audience can sense their presence. (3) Integrating physical theatre – between the scenes there are abstract movement sequences that provoke thoughts and feelings around the play’s themes, and provides answers and more questions. 
credit: Chris Gardner

Does the show fit with your usual productions?
I usually integrate physical movement aspects into my works. Even when I am playing in what we call a “straight” play.
What do you hope that the audience will experience?
I hope that the audience will see in their minds all the characters in my play. I hope
they will complete the picture using their own life experiences and find their connection with the story and its messages. I hope they will laugh and be intrigued, maybe enlightened. I hope they will be moved. Maybe even cry. But mainly, think and question and debate and then talk about it with others.
What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
Through the writing and the directing, I “plant” many hints and clues for the audience to envisage the characters of the play. How they look like, how do they sound, what do they do. I left a lot of questions unanswered, but at the same time provided a lot of information. 

I strictly didn’t take any political side, and focused on the human aspect and the social effects, to allow the audience to debate and develop their views about the themes.
As a liaison officer for the army, Ilana, a single mother, supports families who’ve lost their sons and daughters to the wars. But when the time comes for her own only son to wear the army uniform, she faces a life-changing dilemma.

Niv Petel weaves a vivid and detailed familial relationship in Knock Knock, an immersive physical mono-drama about the effects of National Service on everyday life.
credit: Chris Gardner
Inspired by real life situations, and with a lot of humour, Knock Knock cuts through the thick curtain of politics to tell a story about parenthood, friendship, love and sacrifice.

After a successful run at the Etcetera Theatre London in 2016, and a special performance at the 30th Anniversary JFest Jewish International Season in Leeds, Knock Knock comes to Edinburgh.

Niv Petel originally trained in Israel, working in theatre, TV and voiceovers, and winning the award for Best Actor in Theatre for Youth and Children, 2014, for his role in the one-man show Snowball. UK credits include: NotMoses (Arts Theatre); Red Riding Hood (Hoxton Hall); and he is currently in La Strada (UK tour and West End season).

Artistic advisor, Maia Levy, is an Israeli actor and dramaturg, currently touring with two one-woman shows The Longest Week In Moran’s Life and Fish In The Net.

Set and costume design is by Rhiannon White who has previously designed for Walk the Plank and Liverpool Open Culture. Lighting design is by Association of Lighting Designers award-winner Oliver Bush who has worked around the country lighting aerial circus, musicals, dance and theatre.

Most recently he designed Giant! The Liverbird Song and John & Jen. Future projects include, Life On Wheels by Bella Kinetica, and The Ruby Slippers.

Ticket prices £8.50-£10.50 / concessions £6.50-£8.50 C venues box office 0845 260 1234 / Fringe box office 0131 226 0000 /

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