Monday, 10 July 2017

Sleeping Dramaturgy: Henry C Krempels @ Edfringe 2017

THE SLEEPER: Or What Happens When You Ask Them To Leave?
In Association with Arcola LAB

An intimate moment played and replayed in the mind of a journalist who doesn’t know if he’s searching for a story.

the Space @ Jury’s Inn 
4 – 12 August @ 11:40am
14 – 19 August @ 10: 30am 
21 – 26 August @11:40am 

“Darkness can do strange things to your mind. It’s so easy to make a mistake"

Set on an overnight train somewhere through Europe, The Sleeper: Or What Happens When You Ask Them To Leave, weaves together real testimony from Syrian refugees and the personal experience of writer Henry C. Krempels who draws from his unusual story commissioned by Vice Magazine at the height of the immigration crisis. 

Karina, a British traveller, naively reports a woman sleeping in her bunk. Forever connected to each other by this simple action these two women are played and replayed in the mind of a journalist who examines the stories we tell each other and how we choose to tell them. Dark, weird and unusual, The Sleeper describes a situation familiar to the thousands of refugees who become stuck somewhere between leaving home and finding a new one. Enveloped in the tension that exists between absolute strangers, they hope the less they reveal about themselves the less obvious their differences become.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
I was commissioned by VICE Magazine in 2015 to write a piece about the train journey from Milan to Paris which was being used by refugees coming up through the south of Italy and into France, often going on to Calais. 

I took the train maybe a dozen times over the period of about a year and met loads of people with lots of stories they didn’t want to tell me. One night, I came back from the restaurant carriage, and found someone asleep in my bed. Someone else in the carriage, he was in the top bunk, shouted at her in Arabic and she bolted up, look at me for a second and pushed past me out the carriage, down the corridor and out of sight. I lay in the warm bed and thought about who she might have been and what I might have done about that. These two questions have obsessed me since then (I’ve even tried to find her) and the play is for her. 

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

The theatre, as in the building, is a good space for discussion. Performance is for something else. For provocation, maybe? I think performance, especially when it’s live, is about other people. When it comes down to it, it’s just people watching, isn’t it? And when you’re watching, I don’t know that you discussing, you’re reacting. I think those two things can be separated. I think our job is simply to remind people they are human.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I went to the theatre once. I think it must have been the first time, definitely one of the first times. I was probably 8? Maybe 10? It was a school trip. I don’t remember the play, I think it was a pantomime. I remember it was colourful. About halfway through the piece I laughed. We all laughed. The whole room laughed, and we laughed hard. 

So hard, in fact, the child next to me, my friend, I’ll call him Matthew, laughed the hardest, from somewhere deep in his stomach. The laughed flew out of Matthew in the form of shit. It was diarrhoea. There was lots of it. It must have taken him by surprise and he squirmed around in his seat trying and see exactly what just had happened. The diarrhoea made its way out both the top and bottom of his shorts, down his leg and onto the red velvet. He started crying and someone took him out the auditorium. 

For the rest of the play I sat next to an empty, shitty seat and I think, at that moment, something deep inside me made me want to do that to someone one day.

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

I arrived at the table with interviews, notes and pictures. We workshopped the ideas (and in fact have produced a workshop alongside the production), developed it, did some scratch performances, but really, it took quite a conventional route to the stage - it was written as text with scenes and dialogue. It contains other people’s words but it could never be classified as verbatim. Hmm. Actually, maybe it could. 

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

In the sense that it has a writer. I tend to write things (including prose) that has some foundation in reality. By which I mean, it comes from the place you might call Non-Fiction. I’m interested in the line between real and not. 

Journalism is particularly fertile ground for this, but also the way we tell each other about ourselves and the things we care about, and,well,  now I’m thinking about it, this play is exactly like all the others.  

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

The shit thing?
What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

Difficult to answer that question now, sorry, but I think the main thing I think about—it’s not a mantra, I promise!—is that the audience are not passive and as soon as you start thinking of them as passive, by which I mean, not in the present, here, today, with their lives as they are, in the place they are, then we may as well not do this. I think you have to know why here and why now (I know I’m not the first person to say that it’s true).

HENRY C KREMPELS – Writer / Director 
Henry has worked as an actor, writer and director in New York, Florence and Berlin. He is the artistic director of Anima Theatre Company, a group of European theatre-makers interested in experiment. His theatre credits include: Thought to Flesh (Vault Festival), Undercover (Arcola), On the Traces of Gregor von Rezzori (Teatro Odeon, Florence), Eros (Teatro Odeon), The Notoriously Hard to Please (Underground Theatre), and Night and Day (Northampton Royal Theatre). Film credits include Human Statue, Living Doll, Rubbish, Needless to Say and Quatorzieme. His writing has appeared in The Observer, VICE Magazine, The Guardian, MSN and Newsweek amongst others. 

JULES ARMANA – Associate Director 
Jules is native French and German and trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts New York and Paris Conservatory of Dramatic Arts. Jules has worked on a variety of European TV, Film and theatre projects. He recently appeared in 'Tag der Wahrheit', which was nominated for Best German Movie at the German Television Award 2015. 

Making their Edinburgh debut, Anima Theatre Company are a group of European theatre-makers focused on experimental theatre and new writing. As a company, they are interested in inclusive theatre, giving voice to those who struggle to be heard and always attempting to bring people to theatre who may never otherwise come into contact with it. Their aim is to promote collaboration, conversation and connectedness. Recently formed, a large portion of their work so far has been about process, holding weekly workshops, often working with a number of actors on a range of ideas including absurdism and alternatives to naturalism.

The newest members of the group met on projects including a personal testimony piece Undercover (The Arcola), which explored mental health, and Thought to Flesh (Vaults Festival) an account of a young woman with Motor Neuron Disease supported by The Wellcome Trust.

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