Monday, 24 July 2017

Mouth Dramaturgy: Quote Unquote @ Edfringe 2017

Quote Unquote Collective in association with Why Not Theatre presented by CanadaHub with Aurora Nova presents

CanadaHub@ King’s Hall 

3:30pm daily, August 4-27, with the following days off: August 8, 15, 18, 22, 25; 
Preview: August 3, 3:30pm

Following a run in L.A hosted by two-time Academy Award winner Jodie Foster, Mouthpiece brings its vital, relevant and provocative storytelling to the Fringe. 

Playing theatrically with the universal themes of women’s voices, thoughts, opinions and place, Mouthpiece is an electrifying and important piece of theatre for all. 

What was the inspiration for this performance?

The two of us did not set out to make this play. Initially we were attempting to create a totally different show, one that explored the particularly special nature of female relationships; that specific bond women experience which is at once intimate and violent, beautiful and ugly.

When we kept hitting a wall in rehearsals we decided that to research the issue of women in relationship to each other, we should look at what it is to be an individual woman. And the easiest way to do that was to use ourselves, our own personal experiences. 

Once we started looking inward, digging deep to uncover our truths, we had a major feminist awakening. It was a total slap in the face oh shiiiiit moment that had been building inside us for a long time. We were slapped with our own hypocrisy, with the layers of masks we were wearing, the piles of bullshit we had swallowed and internalized and the clear-as-day fact that we were still very much under the thumb of the patriarchy. 

And we realized that we had to make a show about that. So the journey that Cassandra takes in Mouthpiece is very much a reflection of our true experience in trying to create this show.

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

Absolutely. I say that because of our direct experience with this play. We have had so many rich, deep, complicated discussions in the wake of performing Mouthpiece. 

When we first premiered in 2015, we were surprised and thrilled to find that a play so distinctly about a personal experience could have such a profound impact on men as well as women, both intellectually and emotionally. We heard stories of husbands going home to their wives to open up conversations that had never been cracked open before. 

We heard of women from diverse backgrounds sitting in parks and sharing their personal histories with one another for the first time in their lives as a result of the play. We have heard of women leaving abusive partners after the play because of what it stirred up in them. 

We have been changed by the discussions we have had with audience members, and they too have expressed that they have been changed. And I honestly believe that this kind of impassioned, visceral, life altering response can only be achieved with live performance. If you want to get people riled up about something, there is no better way then face-to-face.

How did you become interested in making performance?

The two of us were both drawn to study physical theatre originally because it is a discipline where the performer is often also the author. The actor is not simply tasked with a performance but is also driving the ship: developing ideas, writing text, conceiving of design elements, choreographing movement, and has her hands on every aspect of the creation. 

We believe that art and performance are simply tools to provoke political and social change. So we are interested in authoring and performing work that is saying something, that is pushing for change. If we weren’t making work with an active message, we would probably be doing something completely different with our lives. 

The message is the thing, theater is just what we have studied and know, the tool we use to crack open dialogue and conversation around topics that we feel are absolutely necessary.

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

We work through a method of devising, which includes a lot of on-our-feet improvisation, bashing-our-heads-against-walls and collective creation. This is complimented by a writing process where we give each other assignments, set time limits, and then edit each other’s work. 

When we first started writing the play, the main goal was to write from as honest a place as possible – admitting all of the darkest secrets and most shameful thoughts that we would never want anyone to know. The reaction to these confessions was usually “I think there’s still a more honest layer underneath of that. You’re still hiding something, try again.” We were trying to expose ourselves and be as vulnerable as possible in every aspect of the creation.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

Mouthpiece is Quote Unquote Collective’s first production as a company. We have individually worked with many other companies over the last ten years (Amy in the UK with Theatre Ad Infinitum, and Norah in the United States) but this is our first collaboration as co-creators. 

That being said, it is in line with our past creations, but is an evolution of the experimentation we have done with vocal work. We have taken the tenets of physical theatre and translated them into the voice. Working with harmony and dissonance, tone, rhythm and dynamics, we have married our physical work with a vaster range of vocalization than either of us has ever worked with before. Our next show Now You See Her will be expanding on this idea - plugging us in for the first time to create a six-woman rock-play. Stay tuned for that.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

I hope that in watching Mouthpiece, people experience what it feels like to be inside of our female brains. The chaos, the cognitive dissonance, the confusion, the non-linear nature, the mess, the beauty and hideousness, the sexuality, the fear, the moments of clarity and the anger, all at once. 

I hope that they will come away feeling as if they were stewed in our brains for 60 minutes and have understood something more about themselves and how the patriarchy has fucked us all up. That as a society we can do better.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

This play is constructed to reflect how a woman thinks. Structurally, we looked at building Mouthpiece like a crystal. There is a core truth, and light is refracted through it in many disparate directions all at the same time. There is no linear timeline to a crystal, the light comes out of it all at once in different ways, and depending how you move it, that changes. 

Although time moves forward through twenty-four hours in the play, we wanted to create the feeling that you could look at it from any direction at any time and see something different. It is layered. It is dense. It is a shock to the system in the dynamic shifts it makes. It is very loud and very quiet, very exuberant and very soft. There is a departure from the traditional storytelling methods on purpose, because that tradition was built by a patriarchal system. Our play attempts to restructure based on the feminine.

Created and performed by Norah Sadava and Amy Nostbakken.

Jodie Foster commented, "When we first saw Norah and Amy’s breath-taking performance in Toronto we were speechless. Mouthpiece touches on every part of the female experience from birth to death using dance, music, wicked humor with just a bathtub for scenery. The result is a new kind of feminist language which ignites pure, intravenous emotion. It’s impossible to describe and truly unforgettable.”

From the producer who brought 2016’s political theatre piece Counting Sheep to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe comesCanadaHub– a season of new and established theatre makers bring work from Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Halifax and Calgary to King’s Hall as part of the award-winning Summerhall and Aurora Nova programmes. 

CanadaHub comes to the Edinburgh Fringe in partnership with the Canada Council for the Arts, and with support from the Canada High Commission in the United Kingdom and British Council Canada.

3:30pm daily, August 4-27, with the following days off: August 8, 15, 18, 22, 25; Preview: August 3, 3:30pm
Regular run: £10 full, £8 concession, £7 family. Preview: £8 full, £7 family   
Age info: 14 and above

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