Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Wondr Dramaturgy: Poppy Burton-Morgan @ Edfringe 2017

Metta Theatre

Assembly Roxy 
Aug 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28

This August, as we look back on 70 years of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Metta Theatre is looking to the future with two new plays exploring digital identity and our often problematic relationship to screen technology. World premieres Pixel Dust and Wondr both star esteemed TV and stage actor Simone James at Assembly Roxy. 

What was the inspiration for this performance? 

As a mum who spends a bit too much time online (instead of with my children) I wanted to explore that through theatre - and unpick how we can play with constructed identities in the digital realm. 

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

It's the best space for it! Through (great) performance we're given permission to feel and what can seem, on paper, like dry philosophy becomes living breathing complex, multifaceted ideas - the stuff we grapple with in our daily lives. It's a great way in to those big ideas, the big questions. 

How did you become interested in making performance? 

Like many theatre artists I came to it as performer first, as a teenager, then moved into directing throughout my twenties, and then around the age of 30 (or more specifically when I had my first child) I suddenly felt the urge to write. The drive has always been to tell stories as a theatre maker - but suddenly I felt there were specific stories that weren't being told, which I was well placed to tell. And here we are - this is my debut play as a playwright!

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

The whole thing is written as one long epic poem - a 60 minute spoken word odyssey. But truthfully I didn't consciously choose that form - the words chose me and it wrote itself. The voice came fully formed. Later I pulled it apart and remade it to honour the structural and dramaturgical requirements of a classic one Act Drama. But at that point the process became almost more like sculpture. 

Does the show fit with your usual productions? 

Ha! I have four productions running simultaneously right now - a narrative street-dance Jungle Book, a production of Comedy of Errors set in a Victorian Circus and another solo show Pixel Dust which I'm directing to play in daily rep with Wondr. I'm a theatrical chameleon- always! 

Even though three of those are through my own company Metta Theatre each is very different - the drive is to tell stories but I'm constantly pushing the boundaries of how to tell a story through a fusion of art forms. 

What do you hope that the audience will experience? 

Something extraordinary. Poetry that becomes thriller that breaks and re makes your heart. Ending in hope. 

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience? 

The play is full of revelations and plot twists so the structural placement of those is crucial - you're always searching for the perfect balance of seeding the idea of things without overtly prefiguring what's to come and spoiling the reveal. In advance I also shared the script with a lot of friends - both industry and fellow mums - to discover how it resonates differently for people who share the lived experiences of the character, and for people who don't! Hopefully there's something in it for everyone... that's always the dream!

The plays are part of Assembly's ‘FuturePlay’ a curated season within the Festival exploring all things digital.

Of Wondr Poppy Burton-Morgan says: ‘Don’t we all spend too much time on our phones creating and curating a digital life that feels far more interesting, and sometimes more real, than our actual life? But what happens when the line between digital life and reality blurs…’

No stranger to the stage, the versatile Simone James is thrilled to be tackling two such challenging roles - in Wondr she inhabits the character of Faith, a 29 year old single mum and social media sensation @WondrWomanUK whose world is about to be turned upside down. ‘I feel blessed to have the honour of bringing these thought provoking and culturally relevant plays to life. It’s such a welcome challenge to simultaneously tackle two such different and complex characters.’

Metta Theatre have developed both plays in collaboration with Oxford University’s Dr Andrew Przybylski award-winning Science Writer and Guardian Correspondent Professor Pete Etchells - both Psychologists whose work explores the impact of screen time and gaming. The project is supported by a Small Arts Award from the Wellcome Trust. 

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health. They provide more than £700 million a year to support bright minds in science, the humanities and the social sciences, as well as education, public engagement and the application of research to medicine. www.wellcome.ac.uk

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