Friday, 14 July 2017

Two Little Dramaturgies: Matt Abbott @ Edfringe 2017

Edinburgh Fringe 2017: Spoken Word WORLD PREMIERE

Matt Abbott Poet/Norwich Arts Centre (UK) present
Razor sharp wit, linguistic flair and storytelling in deeply personal and political show

Poet and activist Matt Abbott fuses socio-political commentary and contemporary kitchen sink realism for his second fringe show. 

Venue: Underbelly, Belly Laugh (Venue 61)
Tickets: £8 - £10 (previews 3-4 Aug £6.50)
Dates:  3-27 Aug (not 14)Venue Box Office: 03333 444 167
Time:    14.20 (60 mins) 

What was the inspiration for this performance/show?

To be completely honest, this show is more a product of circumstance, timing and experience than anything else. I first visited the Calais Jungle in April last year. My final visit was in August. Smack bang in the middle of that was the EU Referendum.

I’m from a city which voted 66% Leave, and whilst I was (and still am) passionately Remain, I can understand why so many traditionally working-class communities rebelled against the establishment and embraced Brexit. I’m fed up of them being dismissed as ignorant or racist, so I wanted to discuss that.

But at the same time, I have found the level of disdain and disregard towards refugees alarming over the last year, so I juxtaposed the Brexit content with the stories from Calais; two wildly contrasting scenes which were playing out at exactly the same time, right next to each other.

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

Absolutely. The very nature of something being written for performance means that it’ll be more acute, more considered and more emotive. People will always accuse you of preaching to the converted to an extent, but there are many ways to discuss or express ideas – whether political or not – without simply preaching from a soapbox.

Social media is incredible when it comes to sharing and learning of news, ideas, opinions, etc., but it’s also quite overwhelming, and quite sensationalist. Therefore, a performance perhaps gives the ideas more breathing space.

How did you first become interested in making performance?

During Sixth Form college, I was a regular on West Yorkshire’s thriving live music scene (indie was huge at the time). I’d always fantasised about being a frontman and been obsessed with lyrics, but with no viable avenue to pursue any kind of performance.

I became obsessed with a band called Reverend & the Makers. Their frontman, Jon McClure, would recite quickfire spoken word poems during their sets. Instantly I was captivated by it, and subsequently became enamored with John Cooper Clarke. It wasn’t long before I’d penned something myself and made my way onto stages at music gigs, political events, festivals etc.

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

In a theatrical sense, no. The bones of the show arrived to be organically, because I’d written about things as I experienced them. Once I’d arrived at a concept, I decided that I want to make my points through storytelling, and personal experiences; rather than platitudes and statistics. I’ve done very little research, because I didn’t want it to be contrived.

Structurally, there are three key strands. The strands are interwoven, partly to ensure that there’s a balance and range of tones, and partly to juxtapose one another in order to achieve the show’s overall message. For want of a better phrase, I guess it’s like a poetic symphony, and whilst the three strands contrast one another, they complement each other perfectly in terms of making Two Little Ducks what it is.

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

This is actually my first solo production of its kind. When I did the Fringe in 2015, I essentially just tied together 45 minutes of my best material at that time. There was naturally a coherence throughout because it was all my stuff, but it was definitely more a polished gig than a show.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

I want to change people’s opinions on what many perceive the average Brexiteer to be. I want to shed light on the socio/political/economic conditions which led a lot of communities to vote Brexit. And I also want to try and bring the Calais Jungle to life; it wasn’t portrayed anywhere near accurately in the mainstream media, and in fact its largely down to the mainstream media that people feel such hostility towards refugees.

It just so happens that the Leave campaign fanned the flames of xenophobia at precisely the worst moment. The entire Referendum campaign became about immigration, which – as we’re seeing now – is by no means the most significant aspect of EU membership.

So whilst on the one hand I’m expressing sympathy and empathy for the Brexit vote, I’m also utterly condemning the racist and anti-refugee sentiment which unfortunately turned the Leave vote into such an ugly and divisive campaign.

Native to a city that voted 66% leave, Wakefield-born Abbott strives to illuminate and explore the chaos behind Brexit. As his poetry strays from council estates to the Calais jungle he explores the aftermath of the Thatcher years taking in overnight pie shops and MegaBus marathons in a deeply personal, and bang up to the minute politically aware show.

Using razor sharp wit, storytelling and linguistic flair this is poetry for the underdog from one of our leading new voices, presented in an engaging, accessible style that acts as an invitation and welcome mat for those new to poetry. A visceral, warm and engaging, spoken word experience that follows the success of his 2015 Fringe début ‘Matt Abbott is Skint & Demoralised’.

Matt Abbott is one of the rising stars on the UK’s flourishing spoken word scene. He recently starred in Nationwide Building Society’s national TV ad campaign and has shared a stage with Sleaford Mods, Ken Loach, Sara Pascoe, Paul Weller and Salena Godden. He founded and runs the independent spoken word label Nymphs & Thugs.

No sloganeering ranter, Matt is also an activist and supporter of several causes. In 2016 he toured the country in support of the Labour Party and volunteered at the Calais jungle. He’s an ambassador for Trinity Homeless Projects, CRIBS International and Eureka! The National Children’s Museum and Poet-in-Residence at the National Coal Mining Museum of England. 

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