Saturday, 29 July 2017

Red Dramaturgy: Juan Echenique @ Edfringe 2017

RED BUTTON: A sci-fi comedy about love and the end of the world!

An original piece of new writing, taking a unique perspective on contemporary social and political issues. Set in a futuristic world where cities fly, radio dramas are played in every home, a young innocent couple are given the Red Button that destroys the world. Bored with their comfortable lives, the question arises: should they press the button and end it all? Greg and Beth have it all - a nice home, good jobs, yet they feel there is something missing from their lives. They decide to volunteer as charity workers, hoping to take care of cute puppies and kittens. Instead, they are given the onerous responsibility of the Red Button that if pressed will wipe out the entire world!
Venue: theSpace on North Bridge, Perth Theatre (V36)
Address: The Carlton Hilton Hotel, North Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1TH
Tickets: £10.00 (£8.00 concs)
Dates: 14th - 19th Aug 2017
Time: 7:40pm (1h)

What was the inspiration for this performance?

The main inspiration, as cheesy as it sounds, is love.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas?
The stage, any form of stage, has always been one of the best possible spaces for the discussion of ideas. The true object of any theatrical event, at the end of the day, is to discuss ideas that can't be discussed elsewhere. 

Plays, and stories, allow us to reflect, think, and to challenge our preconceptions. Theatre that doesn't promote the discussion of ideas, and that doesn't challenge the audience in an intellectual, moral, and social way, is just hollow entertainment. Fortunately, it's very rare to find that sort of theatre, as the audience is generally much smarter than one would initially expect.

How did you become interested in making performance?
In my case it started during childhood. First it was music; the choirs, the cello, the bands... At some point, being on stage, and working for the stage, became like a second nature, something you do by default. 

With maturity came the time of questioning that inclination, and that process led to a creative awakening. I moved from writing and doing things that people around me would enjoy, to writing and doing things that I considered meaningful and somehow necessary. The stage is an endless space. The possibilities are infinite, and that perspective is hugely exciting.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
Red Button has been a very layered process. It was born as a small three hander, containing only the central plot and the main characters. From there, it evolved, adding layers around it. The reason for this comes with the genre: it's a science fiction play, and science fiction works at its best when the story is contained within a consistent and believable universe. The best way of creating such a universe is by showing it with smaller stories. Thus, subplots and side plots appeared bit by bit, until the show reached the point where it is right now. The lightbulb moment came the day I realised the whole story could be contained within a live radio show in a futuristic society. That's what gives the show its unique edge..

Does the show fit with your usual productions?
In general terms, yes. We tend to do a form of comedy that is very "out there", pacy, extreme, direct, and somehow innocent. Red Button checks all of those boxes. But this show takes our point of view one step further. The complexity underlying the story, all the hidden messages, the way in which there is a clear and consistent universe of which the audience only sees the tip of the iceberg... It's all we've been trying to do for years, and more.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

Ideally, we would love the audience to have a great time, while putting themselves in the central characters' shoes. The question is big: if you had a red button that destroys the world at reach, would you press it? All the elements around that add on to that question, and should make audiences think about all the ways in which this beautiful world around us can become something we would hate; how short is the distance from our Western ideals of democracy and freedom to places where megalomaniac dictators rule with an iron fist. 

Nowadays, that sort of question feels more necessary than ever, considering all the surprising events taking place in Western politics during the last year. If we manage to get our audiences to think about that from a new perspective, while laughing like kids on a sugar high, we'll feel our work has been done.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

It all boils down to balancing the social commentary with the comedy, the character in depth exploration with the high paced dialogues. Too much of one element would bore the audience, while too much of the opposite would overwhelm them. The strategy is to balance out the elements, and provide a pure 60 minute theatre adrenaline high. It’s the closest to traveling to a different universe you can get by just sitting. It’s a slap on the face, a flick on the ear and a shout to your moral...but funny so you don't notice it actually hurts a bit

In the background the ever present radio illustrates how the world changes with their new immense power. Melodramatic soaps, propaganda pieces, and strange music play constantly. It sinks deeper into their psyche, underlining the story, and providing a unique insight into this crazy futuristic world.
Red Button stands as a political and social satire. It uses the language of science fiction to take a look at issues that are present in contemporary society. The play tackles subjects such as gender dynamics, immigration, and politics. Focusing on these issues in a futuristic society, helps the audience understand how they appear in the world around us. Blending live music and physical comedy, that perspective emerges under a more attractive and interesting light.

Horatio Theatre's unique context aims at finding a middle point between science fiction and magic realism, taking outlandish elements -such as the existence of the Red Button- and accepting them as indisputable facts.
About Horatio Theatre:
Founders Juan Echenique and Fumi Gomez maintain an international diverse team of actors and crew, with sci-fi as a frame to talk about meaningful and relevant issues such as equality, politics, sociology and technology. Our work is focused on new writing and original storytelling, seeking new expressive ways and languages. We work with artists from all around the world such as Spiros Maus, or BAME actors Yasmine Holness-Dove, Mia Foo and Benjamin Cawley enriching and giving a more global perspective to our ideas. We are heavily invested in a theatre that speaks from a female, diverse perspective, in a way that is clear, political and most importantly, entertaining.

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