Thursday, 20 July 2017

This Really is Dramaturgy: Gracefool @ Edfringe 2017

Venue: Underbelly, Big Belly (Venue 61) 

Dates: 3-27 Aug (not 14)
Time: 15.20 (55 mins) 

Edinburgh Fringe 2017: Theatre WORLD PREMIERE
Gracefool Collective/Underbelly Untapped (UK) present
Outlandish, bold, highly entertaining and slickly choreographed theatre from Fringe first timers

Raucous, provocative and laugh-out-loud funny, Fringe debutants Gracefool Collective deliver a genre-busting show that reveals the downright absurd realities of life as a three-dimensional, high definition, water-drinking, salad-eating, moisturising W.O.M.A.N. in modern society.

What was the inspiration for This Really Is Too Much?

Our very initial inspiration for this piece, or at
least the image which sparked the seeds for our first ideas, came from watching businessmen in suits. On one very long bus journey from Sheffield to London we started observing with interest how these men performed their identities - powerful, rational, masculine - and how their attire was assisting them to play the role. 

It got us to thinking about the metaphor of a power suit, and whether we wore our own identities in the same way. 

So it started as a piece about power suits, and then about clothes, then performance of identity, until it finally morphed into a piece about our own identities as four women, and the pressures and anger we feel about the narrow yet unattainable roles we are supposed to fit ourselves into.

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

This is a question we regularly ask ourselves, and one we feel is incredibly important to keep asking, because we want to make work which challenges and questions, so we are keen to ensure that there is also space for the audience to be involved in this. 

We have an abridged version of This really is too much which we toured earlier in the year with Red Ladder Theatre Company, and we were encouraged to see that often audiences were keen to discuss the ideas with us and each other well beyond the end of the performance, and we sometimes even maintained email dialogues with audience members that were keen to share their thoughts on the work and their personal experience of the issues. 

The experience has reaffirmed that performance can certainly be a good place for public discussion, but we feel it is also important that this is facilitated and supported by the company presenting the work, so that enough space is allowed for the audience to feel that they are being invited into the discussion rather than told what to think.

How did you first become interested in making performance?

All four of us trained as dancers, and in our final year we all focused on choreography, and became particularly interested in inter-disciplinary performance work - that is to say, playing with genre and form. 

We came together as a collective out of a shared interest in breaking away from the traditional contemporary dance mould, and making work which was not restricted to one form. This came about mainly from a frustration with the limitations we felt in dance, and a desire to make work which explored big complicated topics. 

Performance was something that made sense to us as a means to interrogate our own thoughts and feelings on subjects as well as a method of sharing our ideas, provoking discussion and perhaps most importantly giving us a way of laughing at systems of power or oppression in order to undermine the power they hold over us.

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

The most important part of our creative process is that it is collaborative. We devise and choreograph all of our work collectively, which means the process is non-hierarchical - there is no outside director leading the ideas. This means it is also a very slow process, as we are also all performing in the work, and involves a lot of talking. 

However, it is also something which we feel enriches the work and gives it layers of meaning, as we have four heads working instead of just one!

Does the show fit with the style of your other productions?

Although all of our work has taken very different forms (from an interactive auction in a warehouse to a surreal cabaret about Europe) the uniting factor is humour. We like to make work about serious topics that doesn’t take itself too seriously. 

As much as we love making political dance/theatre/physical comedy, we are also aware of its limitations so we like to keep the process lighthearted. There is certainly a Gracefool style emerging - absurd, bold, humorous - but as we are a new company this style is still shifting and moulding, and we like the idea that each piece we make might be very different from the last!

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

We hope that the audience might feel some recognition of the situations or experiences presented on stage, as our aim is not to point fingers but to shine light on some of the ridiculous scenarios we observe in real life and to challenge how easily we accept these. We sometimes find that putting something onstage out of context is enough to expose its ridiculousness. 

But above all we hope the audience will experience a fun hour of entertainment - whatever that might mean to them!

Slickly choreographed and dripping with feminist charm and anarchic wit, This Really Is Too Much combines dance, dark comedy and theatre. They delve deeply into a world of farcical stereotypes and preposterous power struggles, wrestling with gender, identity and social convention along the way.

After (almost) 100 years of women’s suffrage in Britain how far have we really come since then?

This Really Is Too Much is an outlandish, thought-provoking and wildly entertaining medley of absurd political speeches, talent contests, job interviews and box ticking. Kate Cox, Sofia Edstrand, Rachel Fullegar and Rebecca Holmberg fight themselves, each other and society’s expectations to be individual, political, beautiful, popular and in control.

Gracefool Collective is a four woman strong company of theatre makers formed in 2013. They make post-intellectual-pseudo-spiritual-feminist-comedy-dance-theatre for the modern day. They make it collaboratively, perform it collaboratively and write, design, devise, direct, manage, market, fundraise, budget, tweet, tour book, teach, schmooze, promote and play collaboratively.

This Really Is Too Much has been selected to be part of the second Underbelly Untapped season which supports fantastic new writing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

See a short promotional video here
Listings information
Venue: Underbelly, Big Belly (Venue 61)
Dates:  3-27 Aug (not 14)
Time:    15.20 (55 mins)
Tickets: £9 - £11 (previews 3-4 Aug £6.50)
Venue Box Office: 03333 444 167

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