Saturday, 15 July 2017

The Dramaturgy of Richard Nixon: Steve McLean @ Edfringe 2017

The Soul of Richard Nixon 
Written and Performed by Steve McLean 

‘What if you knew what was coming? What if you could predict the future?’

Autopsy, The Soul of Richard Nixon asks the question 'is it okay to do the wrong thing for the right reasons?’

Richard Nixon is probably best remembered for the Watergate scandal that engulfed 1970s America but what if Watergate was part of a grander plan to stop America lurching to the hard right?

Written and performed by Steve McLean,
Produced in conjunction with The PBH Free Fringe
Natural Food Kafe (Venue 415)
5th - 26th August
Except Tuesdays

What was the inspiration for this performance?

This show has been been brewing in me for a few years now. I get frustrated at the lack of sympathetic portrayals of Nixon. 
He was a very complex man and for him to remembered almost entirely for the Watergate affair seem unfair to me. He was a populist and centrist. Can you imagine a President in the middle of Cold War recognising communist China? He did that. He formed the EPA, a Republican President in the gas guzzling 1970s caring about green issues? Nixon was arguably the last progressive Republican President. 
A lot of my personal desire for balance has seeped into my performance during rehearsals.

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

Performance is an ideal. This subject needs to be treated with passion and it needs to be a plea. This work requires empathy and understanding.. The plea comes from the understanding.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I acted a little as a youth, in my teens I was in local band, in my twenties I was a performance poet which morphed into stand up comedy in my 30s.  It's always been there, lingering in the background.  .. 

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

I believe I can do something until I realise I can't. Without wanting to sound pretentious it's a punk rock attitude I've had throughout my life. I think that ethic is obvious in everything I've performed so far and very evident in Autopsy: The Soul or Richard Nixon. 

When I was writing the script I realised it was important to me that this as factually accurate as possible. This story has it's own drama and it doesn't need to be exaggerated.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

It doesn't fit at all. My previous Edinburgh Fringes of 2014, 2015 and 2016 include hosting two cabaret shows, two solo comedy shows (not full hours) and a late night compilation about books. 

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

If I can change people's minds about how they perceive Richard Nixon then I'll be overjoyed.  At the very least I want them to question what they think they know.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

I think my main strategy was to just tell the story. Leave in all the unpleasant bits of history.. People see more shady areas these days. 

The world we live in has led people to be more understanding of wrongdoing and misdeeds. 

Autopsy, The Soul of Richard Nixon argues the case for Nixon the centrist.

Had Nixon stayed in power could he have ended the Cold War sooner? Could he have shaped the way the world is today?  

Autopsy, The Soul of Richard Nixon challenges what you think you know about 37th President. 

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