Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Petting Dramaturgy

Live performances of brand new immersive historical theatre production, commissioned by national pet charity Blue Cross, portraying five seminal historical figures from a unique, unseen perspective: as pet lovers, who had their paths shaped, genius inspired, private pain comforted, and ultimately, lives changed by pets.

Audience participation
  • Local residents and passers-by - reaction and involvement
  • Unique perspective on famous greats and the role of pets in shaping the course of human history
We have Blue Cross spokespeople and case study opportunities available should that be of interest.

- Immersive public theatre production: How Pets Changed The World: Five Plays draws on history to celebrate great people from a unique new perspective -

What was the inspiration for this performance?

Blue Cross will be kicking off a new campaign this summer in a bid to raise awareness and inspire people to lend their support. It centres on an essential truth about Blue Cross, and is encapsulated with the phrase Pets Change Lives. We Change Theirs.

Pets have the ability to transform people’s lives – provide companionship, inspiration and comfort: they are the motivators that get you out of the house and meeting new people, the sidekicks; the friends and confidantes who will never spill your secrets. The work that Blue Cross does in rehabilitating, rescuing and rehoming thousands of pets every year, means thousands of human lives are enriched by pets every year.

We wanted to bring that notion to life in a way that would capture the audiences imagination; and neatly demonstrate the reciprocal relationship between pet and human, and the impact of a pet in somebody’s life.

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

100%. Performance will always be a fantastic platform to open up discussion. A member of the public may see Freddy Mercury sitting on a bench one day and go over to engage in a conversation. This small moment sticks in their head. Then they may tell their partner about it over dinner, or WhatsApp a photo to their family prompting memories of their old childhood cat or subconsciously decide to listen to Delilah on their next commute to work. What started as a simple performance idea can seep into so many other avenues of life. 

How did you become interested in making this performance?

We are very passionate as a company about animal charities. So it was a dream come true to work with the Blue Cross. When a subject strikes a chord with you it makes developing the work so much easier. Everyone at our company believes that #petschangelives, so it was a great project to work on. 

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

It was really important for the actors to fully research their characters. The audience may ask them any questions at all and it's important to create a full back story to develop a realistic character. So they had to delve deep with research. As with all interactive shows you never know how the audience will react, it was important to cast actors who were trained in this style of theatre so they are prepared for anything! 

Does the show fit with your usual productions? 

Theatre productions is not something the Blue Cross are experienced in so working with Civilised Mess was a great treat! They provide 'theatre for hire' for any type of event and have done everything from traditional theatre shows to beatbox operas, corporate fine dining experiences to running their own firey Mayan temple or toxic UV mutated rubbish dump. They cast some great actors who really embodied the famous people they were playing. Florence Nightingale was so convincing, that she was invited to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to see her name on a miniature version of the building.

What do you hope that the audience will experience? 

We hope the audience will experience a one on one theatrical experience, and a nice little surprise and delight to brighten up their day. We are firm believers that although we change animals lives’, they have the ability to change ours too and educating the audience to help them understand the benefits of rehoming a pet by using the lives of people throughout history. 

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

Again, a lot of character research teamed with finding the right way to talk to and engage with the audience. For this type of show we needed to gently ease the audience in by simply asking "would you like to sit and have a chat with me?"

Pets change lives. Sometimes in little ways: a friendly ear, loyal companionship, an excuse to get out of the house. Sometimes in life-altering ways. And sometimes even in ways that shape the course of human history - few ask what might have happened if Florence Nightingale or Albert Einstein hadn’t been “pet people”… but the answer to that question could be astonishing. So this summer, that question is being asked and answered in an immersive public theatre production commissioned by national pet charity Blue Cross; where audiences are given a unique window into a rarely explored element of five iconic figures from the past.
How Pets Changed The World: Five Plays will run daily from Wednesday 28th June until Sunday 2nd July – performances are free and open for anyone to join at any point, from midday until 4pm. The stage: a distinctive blue bench in Russell Square, in the heart of London’s historic Bloomsbury. The plot: scientific inspiration, rousing leadership, heart-warming companionship, artistic vision, selfless stoicism… and five lives, changed by pets.
The players: Winston Churchill, Florence Nightingale, Andy Warhol, Albert Einstein and Freddie Mercury – all freshly imagined and portrayed.
Any audience member who believes they know what to expect from these historic personas will have to think again, as each character will show a side to themselves rarely seen by the public. They’ll witness Winston’s fortitude and cutting wit soften in describing the reciprocal nature of his bond with his pets during his period in government (even crediting them with helping him guide the country through its darkest days); hear how a shy Warhol deflected to his Dachshund, Archie in tricky social situations; and savour juicy details of the private phone conversations between Freddie Mercury and his beloved Blue Cross cat Delilah while the Queen frontman was on tour (and even led guitarist Brian May to create a distinctive “meowing” effect which was used in the band’s music).
Each day, a new character will occupy the Blue Cross bench, ready to strike up a conversation with passers by who sit beside them. The schedule for How Pets Changed The World: Five Plays is as follows:
·       Wednesday 28th June: Albert Einstein: Pet Theories
·       Thursday 29th June: Florence Nightingale: How My Path Was Lit
·       Friday 30th June: Freddie Mercury: Delilah - My Queen
·       Saturday 1st July: Winston Churchill: The PM And The Poodles
·       Sunday 2nd July: Andy Warhol: Pups Of Pop Art
Blue Cross spokesperson explained, “At Blue Cross we believe every single pet rescued, rehabilitated or rehomed becomes a potential life-changer. They are our motivators, confidantes, companions, playmates, teachers, and even healers. Maybe there is a promising future scientist or creative genius out there whose inspiration will be fired up by watching their kitten play – or maybe just a shy child who finds the friendship of a faithful furry friend gives them a new confidence. Pets are always there when we need them. So, for all that they give to us: it’s time to give back to pets in need.”
“Blue Cross provides veterinary care, specialist behaviour training and find loving, happy homes for pets in need, as well as providing education for current and future owners and pet bereavement support for those struggling to cope with the loss of a much-loved pet.”
The five historical personas being portrayed are among ten great people in human history being celebrated by Blue Cross. Spanning the arts, science, politics and medicine, allof their lives were shaped by their pets:
·       Abraham Lincoln
·       Albert Einstein
·       Anna Sewell
·       Andy Warhol
·       Anne Frank
·       Edward Elgar
·       Elizabeth Taylor
·       Florence Nightingale
·       Freddie Mercury

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