Tuesday, 25 July 2017

The Inevitable Dramaturgy of the Crash: Katie Hale @ Edfringe 2017

The Inevitable Quiet of the Crash runs from 2 – 28 August, at 6pm, at C Royale on George St, Edinburgh. Tickets can be obtained from the Edinburgh Fringe website. 

New musical highlights problems of fast-paced London life

This is a question a lot of us find ourselves asking: when tragedy strikes, how do we process what has happened in order to move forward with the rest of our lives? 

The Inevitable Quiet of the Crash
Q&A with lyricist Katie Hale

What was the inspiration for this performance?

The Inevitable Quiet of the Crash is an intimate new musical set in and around central London, and I think the city was a big part of the inspiration for writing the show. When we started writing the musical, I’d just moved back to the countryside. 

From that critical distance, living in London seemed like trying to exist in a pressure cooker: a place that exacerbates everyday hurdles and anxieties. Maybe it’s the lack of wild space, or the constant presence of other people, or the anonymity. Maybe it’s a combination of all three. 

This trapped feeling certainly exists at the core of the musical, heightened by the sudden death of the main man in their lives, which is the catalyst for the rest of the show. 

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

In a world of post-truth and trolling and fake news, I think we’re in ever-increasing need of forums to debate ideas. There’s only so much discussion that can be had on Twitter, where debate is limited to 140 characters, or via detached media such as Facebook and comment threads. 

When you watch a live performance, there’s something organic that takes place. It’s about being in a room and engaging as a cast explore a set of ideas before you. It’s also about engaging with those ideas alongside other audience members, whether you know them or not. Live performance connects us on an elemental level, in ways which social media fails to do, and it’s only through connections that real deep and meaningful discussion can occur. 

How did you become interested in making performance?

Although I also write for the page (poetry and fiction), making work for performance has always felt natural to me, because it’s about communication and the sharing of ideas. Composer Stephen Hyde and I first met at the local youth theatre group in Cumbria, around fifteen years ago. After a few years of performing in the annual shows together, we started writing our own plays. I think that was when the bug well and truly bit. 

For me, it was the power of putting my own ideas on the stage, the ability to hold them up to the light and examine them through the eyes of an audience. It was that uniquely privileged position of being able to direct and channel an audience’s emotions, simply through creating a story. 

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

One of the standout features of The Inevitable Quiet of the Crash is the use of drums throughout the show to drive the tempo. The drums mimic the constant beat of the city in which the characters find themselves trapped. 

It’s also a way of giving voice to their buried fears and anxieties, through rhythm. As a poet, this has allowed me to play with the rhythms of the spoken word, as well as that in the actual songs. The idea is that the characters work in synergy with the drum score, so that the rising and falling of the rhythms allows us a more visceral experience of the noise inside their heads. 

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

One of the best things about working with production company Leoe&Hyde is that there is no ‘usual’. This year, they’re taking three other productions to the Fringe, on top of The Inevitable Quiet of the Crash: the award-winning Marriage of Kim K (a mash-up between Mozart’s opera and Kim Kardashian’s 72-day marriage); a genre-bending open mic called GenreFluid; and Echo Chamber, a string quartet updating the chamber music tradition. 

The common ground exists in production value, and the approach to each individual production on its own terms. What I love about this as a lyricist is that the show isn’t required to fit into any prescribed boxes; instead, I’m allowed total freedom to explore and experiment with the lyrical beauty of language. 

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

I hope that the production leaves the audience with questions. The Inevitable Quiet of the Crash is a very intimate musical, and as such we get to see right inside the minds and hearts of the three characters as they are forced to become a little more self-aware. 

I hope that the experience enables audiences to question their own internal dialogue, and how they related to each of the character stories unfolding on stage. Where do their sympathies lie? Of course, I also hope they experience a moving and beautiful show!

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

Part of this internalisation of the show comes from the drumming, taking us right into the characters’ internal rhythms. 

The decision to stage the play in thrust (with the audience on three sides) was also an important one. It creates a fishbowl experience, turning the character into a kind of exhibit and the audience member into voyeur, while simultaneously removing some of the separation between audience and characters, so that we inhabit the space with them. 

We want to create the impression that these women could be any of us: many of their problems are our own, and we all face anxieties about the directions our lives are taking. 

In Katie Hale and Stephen Hyde’s intimate new musical, The Inevitable Quiet of the Crash, it is the question that all three characters must answer. 

This three-woman show, playing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, tells the story of three women trapped in the suffocating bell jar of contemporary London, after the main man in their lives is killed in a train crash. An early-career marketing administrator, a wanna-be model, and a retired cabaret performer living beyond her means: they are each forced to address the latent anxieties awoken by their grief.

‘I think it’s also a show about wellbeing,’ says lyricist Katie Hale, ‘I think that London is a very easy place to feel lost and alone. It’s like this big pressure cooker, where anxieties just build under the surface – something which our fast-paced lifestyles do little to assuage.’

The show also uses a contemporary jazz drumming score, which composer Stephen Hyde describes as ‘mimicking the monotonous beat of the city in which these characters find themselves trapped. It’s also a way of giving voice to their buried fears and anxieties, through rhythm.’

‘We’re hoping the show strikes a chord with festival audiences,’ says Katie Hale, ‘We all have moments where we feel as if our lives are spinning out of control, and we all know people who’ve had to deal with grief.’

The Inevitable Quiet of the Crash is a collaboration between professional production company Leoe&Hyde (also producing The Marriage of Kim K at this year’s Fringe), and Oxford University-based student company, FoxTale Productions. Director Issy Fidderman, a student at Oxford University, said, ‘It’s joy to be working with a professional company, and to be able to work with such beautiful lyrical and musical material.’ 

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