Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Vile Dramaturgy: Matthew Greenhough @ Edfringe 2017

Wound Up Theatre
The creative team behind the critically acclaimed ‘Bismillah! An ISIS Tragicomedy’ presents

The Untimely Demise of a Manufactured Pop Star
By Matthew Greenhough

Chronicling the social media-induced breakdown of a D-list celebrity, this one-man show explores the dark realities of fame, ambition, existential angst, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and masturbating in an accessible toilet at the Pride of Britain Awards. 
A pitch-black, satirical comedy for a cynical, digital age making its debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2017.

VenuetheSpace @Jury’s Inn (V260)
Tickets: £6.50 (£6.00 concessions)
Dates: 14th - 26st August 2017 (excluding 20th)
Time: 18:05 (1hr)

What was the inspiration for this performance?

We wanted to try and make a statement on the nature of the self in the contemporary world, for lack of a phrase that doesn't sound nauseatingly pretentious. And we aimed to do this by presenting a protagonist who- to the external world- is a ubiquitous, banal, mediocre pop star, but who internally is a sociopathic narcissist with the moral code of an Irvine Welsh character. 

The brief I set myself was 'Alan Partridge meets Taxi Driver'. 

Being a story of contemporary celebrity and fame, the narrative to a large degree is shaped by the character's relationship with social media. We are aware there has been a lot of work made around social media, and it's impact, but the reason we still chose to address it is that, well none of the work has been particularly funny, and that is what we aim for, but more importantly, none of the work we've seen gets to the heart of the issue. 

We've seen it explored in relation to the way it has changed society, the way we interact and the way we consume media, but for me, what's really interesting has been the impact on the individual. 

What interested us, the isolating effect of a 'social' platform, and its correlation to a steep rise in mental illness. 

Our last show (Bismillah! An ISIS Tragicomedy) took potentially inflammatory and challenging subject matter and made it accessible to an audience through our unique brand of comedic theatre. 

This time we wanted todo the opposite, by taking something everyday, bland and ubiquitous- such as facebook and mediocre celebrity- and creating a show which is inflammatory and challenging for an audience.

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

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? At the heart of our company is the idea that performance is the best space for public discussion of ideas. 

Performance makes accessible something which otherwise might be seen as an impenetrable and intimidating. 

We feel particularly that this is the case with comedic approaches to performance as we feel that if handled intelligently then humour can be the perfect way of bringing difficult subjects into open discussion for people, in doing so open up discourse on a subjects which may otherwise not take place.

How did you become interested in making performance?

We formed as a company in order to facilitate a platform for the kind of comedic theatre that I did not see being performed by other companies. As the founder of the company I have long been passionate about comedy, particularly socially aware comedy which is influenced by and comments on, social or political circumstances. 

Initially I intended to explore these issue through stand up, but after training as an actor, I became passionate about theatre making- to a degree that I hadn't been before. I decided that it would be best to combine my two passions; exploring personal ideas in more depth than stand up would allow, while at the same time bringing comedic sensibilities to a wider theatrical approach.

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

While we adapt for each show, depending on the specificity of the production, all the shows we produce begin with the seed of an idea- which in this case was then then written as a ten minute monologue, which we previewed at a scratch night. 

Despite the vile language and content, it enjoyed tremendous feedback, so I extended the preview into a full length script with the help of my immensely talented producer Abee McCallum, who provided dramaturgical and script support. 

We then committed to performances, in order to instil the fear in us, making sure the project came to fruition. Following the success of our last production we were thrilled to receive such interest in our follow up, After committing to the run in Edinburgh and previews, we brought our amazing director, an associate artist to the company and friend, Dom Riley on board. Dom has directed a number of stunning one person shows in the past. 

Collectively we then have developed the show, while at the same time bringing in a number of other fantastic creatives to help. We're currently previewing and are very excited to be premiering the show at Edinburgh in August.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

As a company, Wound Up seek to create new and unexpected pieces of comedic writing and live performance, that use comedy to explore current social and political issues,  we never wish to preach, but to simply be a part of a wider dialogue - and this show is no different. 

We want to make audiences laugh while also provoking discussion in a way we feel is not being provided by other mediums and theatre companies. We hope this show achieves these aims. 

The difference with this show is in the nature of the production, as this is the company's first one-man show. In exploring the nature of self it seemed like the most appropriate mode with which to present the work. 

It is a theatrical approach we have not explored before, but we are excited to be experimenting with under the guidance of our director. It is a direct and challenging way to confront an audience with the play, and one we are looking forward to fully exploring at the fringe.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

First and foremost we want to entertain, perhaps elicit a level of polite laughter, and have them leave saying what a great show they just saw. 

These are the basics. Beyond that, I hope we will achieve what we have in the past through creating shows, which promote debate, and tackle familiar subjects for people in unexpected ways. One unintended motif which has arisen in our work is that we have made  people feel sympathetic towards characters, who to all the world do not appear to deserve sympathy. 

This I think, is a staple of comedy, certainly on televisions, but is something which is less  of an element of theatrical characterisation.

We have pushed this with our newest shows protagonist, however, upon consideration, I hope that despite the unpleasantness of our central character, we are able to bring the audience with him. We want to try and make the audience laugh both at and with him, and to ultimately at the same time empathise with his plight. 

If our work has done anything consistently across the three full length productions the company has staged, we have looked at how society and circumstance impact and help shape an individual. 

I hope that after an hour with a vile pop star, who does and says horrific things, online and in real life, you are at least able to understand how and why he came to be.

Indoctrinated into the cult of celebrity from birth. Still reeling from his first heartbreak. Our protagonist achieved in his late teens what our culture values most highly: a low level of national recognition following exposure on a reality television programme.

Now a manufactured pop star, famed for his social media presence, his ‘British Kardashian' pop starlet girlfriend and his brief spells presenting magazine pieces on breakfast television, he is the epitome of contemporary minor mainstream success. 

Only, he doesn’t feel that way, he feels vile, and he hardly even recognises the man who looks back at him from his profile pictures.
#VILE is the story of a famous-ish man, who returns to his northern home town just as his forced persona of banality begins to slip away, with hilarious, offensive and potentially deadly consequences.

#VILE: The Untimely Demise of a Manufactured Pop Star has been developed with Theatre N16 in London (, as part of its ‘N16: Presents’ showcase of exciting young writers based in the capital.  

The Company has also enjoyed support on this production from theSoho Theatre through the Soho Theatre Young Company.

About Wound Up Theatre:
This is Wound Up Theatre's third outing to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival following their sold-out 2013 debut show 'Delusions of Adequacy', and their critically acclaimed 2015 production Bismillah! An ISIS Tragicomedy in 2015.

Bismillah! Was also listed for the 2015 Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award, was supported by Nihal Arthanayake on the BBC Asian Network, As well as being the subject in a feature in The National, The Middle East's biggest English language newspaper. A professional production of the play is currently in development with London's Theatre Royal Stratford East.

Wound Up's members are Matthew Greenhough (Creative Director and writer/performer of #VILE and Bismillah!  and award winning theatre-maker) Dom Riley (Director of #VILE, Artistic Director of Quirk Theatre) and Abee McCallum (Producer, Production Coordinator-British Film Commission, RADA MA graduate). 

All members are Soho Theatre Young Company Alumni.

No comments :

Post a Comment