Monday, 3 July 2017

Love plus Dramaturgy: Claire O'Reilly @Edfringe 2017


part of a a double-bill by MALAPROP Theatre

Two Dublin Fringe hits will have their international debuts at The Red Lecture Theatre, Summerhall alternating at 7.10pm Aug 2nd-24th.

LOVE+ is a one-woman two-hander about the inevitability of human/robot relationships. It asks: What happens to romance when there's a machine who cooks for you, cleans for you, never forgets your birthday or how you like your tea, tells you you're beautiful, holds you when you're crying, and still makes you cum? 

LOVE+ is about loving, being loved, being human, and whether those things are intertwined. It’s not about whether or not you can love machines, because we all already do – it’s about what it’ll be like when they love us back.

1)What was the inspiration for this performance
A Time article I read told me the Turing Test had finally been passed, i.e. a computer tricked lots of humans into thinking it was one of them. Further research explained that is an often disputed claim in the world of robotics, though when I eventually discovered that it was too late.

This robot was a simulated 13-year-old Ukrainian boy called Eugene Goostman, who had (conveniently) broken English and a bizarre sense of humour. The author of the Time article included a brief conversation he’d had with Eugene, during which the subject of Eugene’s pet guinea pig was raised. When asked what the guinea pig’s name was, Eugene said “Name of my guinea pig’s name is Bill. But I suspect he doesn’t go by it. Perhaps he is deaf and I should call him Beethoven”. I knew I wanted to explore this world further, though I’m unsure as to who was more inspiring initially, Eugene or Bill the guinea pig.

2)Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 
"Still" is a funny one. I certainly don't think it has lessened in prominence as a space for such. There are lots of reasons why we discuss ideas in/from/after performance, but I think one of the best ones comes down to collective interpretation. Sure, you can interpret a campaign speech, or a label, or a book, or whatever - but in performance, at least good performance, the myriad of versions of what this duologue conveyed, or that head-turn, or his follow-spot, or her LED shoes, or their movement sequence in the pond etc. all build to form a sort of collage for every individual. 

Multiply that by how many people see it, and then again by the tweets, reviews, 2am pub rants and all the general blah blah blahing - there are people out there who find Cleansed innately hopeful, who think straight Shakespeare is always intoxicating - the ideas of one performance have transformed into millions of feelings, aspirations, criticisms, and of course, other ideas. What a world!

3)How did you become interested in making performance?
I saw the Irish physical comedy play Alone it Stands when I was about 7, which inspired me to combat my crippling middle child syndrome with weekend drama classes.

I eventually joined a Youth Theatre, then studied drama in college, etc. until finally I was so entrenched I couldn't imagine not making performance. I think the appeal at first lay in the fun of it, and now lies, very much, in the fun of it.

4)Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
This show was a product of my research initially, then became a collaborative effort with the actors in the room, then when through a script refining process with our script editor, then came the designers etc. 

It's a tricky one as our development process began in July 2014, meaning we've given the world an extra 3 whole years for its AI development process, a landscape that just can't catch a break. This meant we always had an influx of ideas, inventions, pop culture, literature, characters & fashion to learn from. 
here I felt we had a voice worth hearing, lay in the portrayal of human conditioning necessary to love the flawed robot. It was important to me that we didn’t create the Droid with a human capacity for emotion, like Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) in
Her, instead we wanted to present a machine that couldn’t respond effectively to emotions in order to question whether or not that would matter to its human consumer.

Proof of this can be found in inceptive LOVE+ process notes when our Bot was going to be played by a hoover (however conceptually strong it would have been, the best thing we did was ditch that logistical NIGHTMARE
​) but I guess that was our initially approach. A hoover.

5)Does the show fit with your usual productions?
Yes and no. We've had a tendency to date to operate in a vaguely surreal-futurey place (we say we make lo-fi sci-fi, but that probably sounds nicer than it is true) so thematically this would certainly fall into that ballpark. 

Another thing we say we aim to do is "speak to the world we live in (even when we're imagining different ones)" which is a box this show certainly ticks. No matter how off the wall our metaphors, star-crossed lovers, or bits for flinging around the stage are, at the core of the show is a story from our world or a world not far away.

6)What do you hope that the audience will experience?
​I hope the audience laugh at least as much as my dad did & that they get one of the songs stuck in their head. I above all hope they experience the harder-to-come-by-than-is-acceptable feeling of theatre satisfaction, that at least 3 boxes were ticked on their top 7 list of things they broadly enjoy about plays.

7)What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?​
​We tried to make a show that pandered to the audience experience that takes​
​ precedence for us; one that's fun, neat, stylish and makes you think, among other things, which we boiled down to 3 words; Cool, Gas, and Spooky. 

Those were the aims, so the main strategy we employed when we were generating content or exploring new aspects of the piece was to ask ourselves whether they fell into any of those three categories. It was probably more a guiding principle than a strategy, and probably not very professional, but it was definitely a fun - if not crucial - litmus test to abide by. 

 LOVE+ Production Credits
Directed by Claire O’Reilly
Performed by Breffni Holahan & Catherine Russell
Set & Costume Design by Molly O’Cathain
Lighting Design by John Gunning
Devised with Dylan Coburn Gray & Maeve O’Mahony

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