Monday, 21 August 2017

Dramaturgy Abort: Therese Ramstedt @ Edfringe 2017

By Therese Ramstedt
directed by Claire Stone


Venue:    Gilded Balloon –
Rose Theatre Studio (Venue 76)
Dates:    2nd to 28th August 2017 (not 14th)
Time:     5.45pm (6.45pm)
Box office:  0131 622 6552

Therese Ramstedt is proud to make her debut at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe with the world premiere of her latest play Mission Abort – a humorous, honest and heartbreakingly human monologue about a woman’s experience of having an abortion.
Strong opinions on the legislative side of women’s reproductive rights are voiced on a daily basis, yet rarely do we hear the perspective from the women who have had to terminate unwanted pregnancies. Mission Abort confronts our taboos by telling the story of one woman’s journey – from discovering she’s pregnant, to making the decision, following it through and getting on with life afterwards. This explosive tragicomedy brings its audience on a laugh-cry rollercoaster featuring questionable life-modelling skills, the looming voice of Donald Trump and leg-dancing to Kate Bush.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
As with many creative ventures, this play started in personal experiences. Before I myself had an abortion, I had absolutely no clue what the implications would be on me and the impact it would have on me physically and emotionally, or the effect it would have on my relationship (both with my partner at the time and with friends). I came to realise women's (and men's) personal experiences of terminating pregnancies is a part of the discussion on female reproductive rights that is missing. We talk a lot about the legislation side of things, but hardly ever about the human beings behind this decision. And when abortion as a topic is addressed in arts and the media (which is rarely!) it is still very marginal, and often portrayed as something fairly shameful that women either regret or simply - in superhuman fashion - forget about.
So I wanted to create a piece that in an upfront, honest and accessible (which for me often means humorous!) way talked about this experience that one in three women in the UK have gone through at some point in their lives. And a piece where the woman who chooses to terminate a pregnancy is neither a victim nor a robot - but a strong person who makes the right decision for herself, but still allows herself to feel and to take this big decision seriously.
For a woman, the life-changing moment comes when there are two purple lines on a pregnancy test - and contrary to what Hollywood rom-coms would have us believe, there are alternative choices that we have a right to make. And with this work, I wanted to be completely free of judgement either way but just shed some light on a relatively unheard perspective. Because I believe human beings empathise with and find understanding for other humans - so if we don't humanise the choice to have an abortion, and actually talk about the experiences, how can we expect other people to understand that choice? 
Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 
I really would like to think so! I think one thing that performance does (or can do) which is unique to other forms of communication is to create an immersive narrative where the audience really can have the opportunity to put themselves in the character's shoes and perhaps understand their path and motivations. This, at least for me, I don't think happens to the same extent in lectures or talks - we might get to understand someone intellectually, but perhaps not laugh and cry with them in the same manner. What I really appreciate about live performance in particular is that there is no escape (cruel, I know!) - once the audience is in the space with you, they can't just hit the pause button if they feel too challenged. Of course, there is always the option to walk out but that is often much more of a statement than people are willing to make...  
How did you become interested in making performance?
I actually can't even remember a time when I haven't been making up stories for performance. It was always something that I knew I wanted to do, but I suppose if we are going way way back (as in, to nursery school!) it was often a way for me to create small worlds that were closer to the kind I wanted to live in. One where little girls could wear pretty dresses AND fight with swords saving villages from evil dragons (I didn't know it at the time, but I basically just wanted to be Daenerys Targaryen). And performance-making for me since has just become a way for me to say my piece, but without lecturing or in any way judging other people - I am generally much more interested in raising questions than I am in providing answers (even if I do take a great deal of pleasure in being right when it comes to quizzes and anything grammatical...)
Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
A really important thing for me was to incorporate a lot of humour, as I think it is our responsibility when creating work on a "serious" or "difficult" topic to make it as accessible and enjoyable for an audience as possible - to make it a conversation people want to have basically! Also, without laughter there can be no tears and I find it very difficult to connect with any work that doesn't have both sides of the comedy/tragedy coin.
Another thing was to not shy away from my own personal experience, and exploring parts of myself that were at times quite difficult. While the play did very quickly become a separate entity to me and my story, even if the events have ended up being nearly exactly what went on in my own life, having my personal experience behind me made me perhaps more daring in how far I could take it and how much I could address in the piece.
And this, I think, is what has turned into what I now hope is a very overall "human" piece - the woman in the play is me, but she could really have been any woman who'd found herself in the same situation.
Does the show fit with your usual productions?
Exploring big human topics through humour and music is what I did with my Swedish theatre company, Annan Teater, so I think it does follow on quite naturally! Previous work I have made have dealt with topics like depression, suicide and sexism in the workplace - so it's probably in there. However, this is the most personal work I have made, and definitely the work that digs the deepest into one individual human's experience - it is also the first full-length work I am producing and performing in English.
What do you hope that the audience will experience?
I hope that they will perhaps understand a little bit more about something they may not have thought of before, and to feel encouraged to openly talk about the experience of terminating a pregnancy. Or at the very least, maybe empathise with and understand the woman who wants to make this choice for herself.
(Of course, I would love for audiences to also experience a connection with the piece, to laugh and be moved - so far people are responding beautifully to it and hopefully there will be more of the same!) 
What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

I did debate a bit back and forth about how to best get the audience on the character's side, and one important aspect of this is the audience interaction I have in the piece - throughout it, I (try to) give them the opportunity to support the character and be directly involved in her choices and experiences (cheering for her when she finds out she is pregnant, hold her hand through the procedure etc)

But another important element was to not be too "in-yer-face" and to let the audience make up their own mind - this piece doesn't preach or judge, it is simply showing a woman at her most vulnerable but also at her strongest and most empowered.

I also want the audience to come out of the show with a positive, empowered feeling in them - so choosing to also share the positive elements of both pregnancy and being able to make the choice to terminate was always really important for me. 

Having previously touched upon the subject of abortion in one of her earliest plays with Swedish theatre company Annan Teater (which she co-founded and ran between 2012-2015), when Therese had to make the decision herself, she discovered that there is a side of the story that nearly always seems to be missing. What is having an abortion actually like for the woman who goes through one? Obviously deeply personal experience that is individual to all women, but with one common factor: not something that we talk about.
Mission Abort crushes the taboo around abortion and explores the ups as well as the downs, offering a truthful and direct account of a topic that is acutely current – and what better year to do it than the 50th anniversary of the UK’s legalisation of abortion?
Therese is a versatile writer, singer and performer who has worked across a myriad of art forms including film, theatre and music - as a performer, producer and PR - with venues including Barbican Centre, Royal Albert Hall and also at the Edinburgh Fringe and in her native Sweden. Humour and song are at the heart of her performance-making, and alongside her own creative work Therese performs extensively as a singer with ensemble London Contemporary Voices. With LCV, Therese has collaborated with artists including Laura Mvula, Nitin Sawhney and Imogen Heap, and features on the soundtrack to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Mission Abort is developed with the support of Soho Theatre, where Therese has been a Young Artist on the Comedy- and Writers’ Lab schemes since 2015, and is directed by Claire Stone from feminist duo Feral Foxy Ladies (I Got Dressed in Front of my Nephew Today and Balancing Acts). 

Why So Sad Mr Criticulous?

re: An Emergent théâtre féminine

The One Time Theatre Made Me A Better Person

We are Dramaturgy: In Bed with My Brother @ Edfringe 2017

It’s 1989. Manchester. A frenzy of drugs, beats and bucket hats. Illegal raves and acid parties. Jumping up and down in a field and throwing two fingers to Thatcher… Remember it? 

Cus we don’t. 

We weren’t even born. But Ian was. Ian remembers. Ian reckons we’ve got fuck all now. So let’s go back to the 80s, neck a brown biscuit and bounce around like idiots. Ian’s gonna show us how… 

The award-winning cult hit of 2016 is back
What was the inspiration for this performance?
Ian. Ian’s Dora’s step-dad. He asked us to make a show about his life. He wanted a massive 6-part Drama but we had different ideas. After a few beer-fuelled conversations in the pub, we became really interested in his experiences of the Acid House movement. He was our age back then. 

And also our experiences as young people now, living in a similar political climate. The show’s pretty hyper and funny like Ian. We wanted to make a show that expressed Ian as a person as well as talk about his experiences past. And we wanted to make something that he’d like. He says that he does like it, and that makes us proud.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas
Yes. It’s a great space to present other people’s stories and lives and make other people listen; allowing people to empathise with other’s perspectives. Typically the Theatre isn’t a place where Ian’s voice would be heard, and we thought it was important to have his voice as the only one heard in the show. 

We also draw attention to the politics of 1989 and now and how the decisions of Tory governments have affected young people. We don’t think lecturing audiences is ever a good idea. We believe performance should be above all entertaining – we like to catch the audience off guard a little bit with the politics of our piece.

How did you become interested in making performance
All three of us are massive show-offs. We’re performing all the time. We all studied Drama together at University which is where we started showing-off together. We knew if we wanted to carry on being massive idiots and making shows, we’d do it together. 

We also first started to become interested in the same kinds of performance at University; physical clowny stuff and live art – and that stays with us now.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show
We genuinely can’t remember how we made this show. It’s all a big haze of us all shouting and laughing and crying in a sweaty room together. We don’t really have a ‘process’ I guess that comes from us all being mates. 

We’ve been making and changing WE ARE IAN for about 2 years now, it’s constantly developing. We perform things that we think are fun. If it’s not fun for us, then it’s probably not fun for an audience.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?
This is sort-of our first show. We made a sort-of installation, short cabaret style performance before this one – which was a grotesque, syrupy bouffon thing which stemmed from Kat finding video tapes from a Theatre school she used to go to as a kid. I guess we make work that’s sort of weird and visceral rather than narrative based. 

And we don’t do scripts and dialogue and stuff. Rather than words, considering the charge of mediums such as music or video – we often try to piece together found-footage to create a feeling or understanding of a person or time.

What do you hope that the audience will experience
Loads. We want the audience to experience loads and loads. We want them to experience a real rollercoaster or emotions (awkward cliché alert) reflecting both the highs and lows of the Acid House movement. But yeah, WE ARE IAN is kind of visceral… just us dancing and sweating and really giving it some. We hope it rubs off a bit on the audience.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

We want to show the audience rather than outline or state what we’re trying to say. We want the audience to feel. WE ARE IAN is completely scored by big, loud, soulful House classics and we use the music to convey the hyper happy times, but also there are also loads of bassy, sinister tracks that we use to show what it felt like when everything went to shit. The music takes us and the audience through the acid house movement and in this we’ve found that the lyrics, beats and rhythm often reflected the political angst felt by the young people back then. 

The house movement, essentially formed around people getting up – dancing and defiantly having fun despite the grey political and social landscape thrust upon them. We wanted to give our audience the opportunity to do that now – in our own political landscape (arguably also pretty grey). Which is why audience interaction and involvement is at the heart of WE ARE IAN. They join us in every step, discovering the drugs, the music and the dance moves – and when we arrive back in 2017, it is their decision whether or not raving is a communally political act.

A Room in the Dramaturgy: Matt Rudkin @ Edfringe 2017

The Room in the Elephant by Slash theatre.
On Aug 8th - 12th, 2.15pm, The Hive.

Seemingly set in a garden shed, this provocative, mind-boggling comedy begins with two young men struggling to come up with ideas for a show they are due to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe the following week.  

They excitedly decide the piece will be an exact re-enactment of their creative process and begin to video themselves. 

A third, older performer arrives and tells them this sounds like some “awful, self-referential bullshit”, to which they reply, “And you’ll say that in the actual show!” which indeed he does.  

Following the logic of this premise leads to conversations about art, ambition and evolution, and continually shifting realisations about where and when the show is actually set, and who these men really are.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
The other two performers, Merry and Joe, did a short piece at a cabaret event I ran in Brighton.  In the piece they came on to the stage saying things like "And we'll just walk onto the stage like this" "yeah, I'll go first and you'll come on 2nd, and then we'll stand on the stage" "Yeah... and maybe do a little dance..." "Yeah, and we'll say this as we do it".   I thought it was funny but doubted they could sustain it for their 8 minute slot.  But it actually just got funnier and I became fascinated with how far the idea could be taken, so I invited them to make an hour long show based on this premise.   It was actually quite an easy process as we kept finding ideas within ideas and layers upon layers, and making each other laugh a lot. 

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 
I think it can be a good place to provoke debate, but theatre makers should have a clear sense of what their real motivation is and where their talents lie.  Too often people seem obliged to 'deliver content' when they don't actually have a deeply considered, informed or passionately held opinion on a subject, just a desire to be on stage and admired (...for a having a deeply considered, informed and passionately held opinion. Ouch!)  Really, we're a bunch of attention seeking shows-offs - the audience know that and they're fine with it... as long we get on with entertaining them with our skills and stories and avoid presenting ourselves as being morally or intellectually superior.   And even when we do really have 'something to say', some arguments may be best made in essays.  I remember Keith Johnstone writing in 'Impro' that when he was script reader for the Royal Court, if he could tell what the playwright was trying to say in the first few pages he got bored - not the conclusion he wanted to come to but one he had to admit to.  I prefer performance in the form of a 'thought experiment', exploring the possibilities, intricacies and contradictions of a theme.  Its much more interesting overhearing a person's dramatised struggles with their uncertainty than being assailed by their convictions, as this seems to be a more authentic representation of actual experience... or maybe that's just me. At the same time, I have seen some verbatim theatre pieces with a clear political point which were inspiring, and I think there are some stand-up comedians working today who are great at getting to the nub of things.  I'm not sure how much I'm speaking from the point of view of my character in the show.... our show kind of explores this theme; 'what motivates artistic creation?'

How did you become interested in making performance?
I wanted to make the world a better place!  Actually, my Mother signed me up to a children's theatre group when I was 4 and I really enjoyed the whole process of rehearsals and playing lets-pretend with other people watching.  Then I went to big school and it suddenly wasn't cool to be the theatre boy, so I did more art and writing. I started actually creating shows during my degree in Creative Arts where we were introduced to all kinds of devised theatre and live art practices.  I was a very introspective young man and would write at length in my diary about the difficulties of life and then try to turn these into shows.... which I suspect were really quite pretentious (all of the criticisms above describe what I've done myself and probably have not fully trained myself out of. Its a fine line and one small side step can transform a contrived, clunky, cheese-fest into an elegant, insightful... trifle).   

Since a young age I have habitually tried to make people laugh.  Not that my efforts have always been appreciated, but I have grown into quite a funny person.  I enjoy laughing and making people laugh, and perhaps I shouldn't admit this but perhaps more than anything else I really enjoy making myself laugh.   

Since I'm also quite introspective I figured that if I could give people the pleasure of laughter whilst sharing my thoughts, then it was a good deal, a win-win situation.  I get to say what's on my mind, they get to have a laugh.  I think humour can really be an incisive instrument for revealing assumptions.  And then there's just being funny for the sheer delight of foolishness.  I was in a Street Theatre show called ''Then Incredible Bull Circus' for several years, and we were just stupid idiots and people really enjoyed that. Some people say there is too much comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe,  but I think that's mainly because comedy gives people an experience they value. It's too easy to say its lowest-common-denominator / escapist, and people who complain should just try and be funnier.... 

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
This show is a complete and utter collaboration between myself my two significantly younger co-performers, Meredith Colchester and Joe Mulcrone.  I had written and directed our previous show 'Buddhism: Is it Just for Losers?' but for this one we recorded a lot improvisations and transcribed these to form the basis of the script. This gave the dialogue a more natural feel since we each say things we'd actually come up spontaneously.   None of the shows ever feel really finished in that we have a tendency to tinker between performances, but this one feels pretty done and consistent. 

Does the show fit with your usual productions?
Its quite similar to previous shows in the sense that its funny, with an odd storyline of sorts that is quite unpredictable and sort of 'conceptual'.   The difference is that its a pretty much a fourth-wall 'play' with characters who pretend the audience aren't there. These characters do, however, have the same names as the performers and there is quite a bit of confusion about which parts are 'real'.  

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
I hope the audience are taken on a journey in which they become thoroughly absorbed.  I hope the complex twists and shifts and layers of the show really keep them fascinated and by the end they feel like their minds have had a proper workout.  .  I hope they don't completely mistake the characters for the actual performers (which happened once), because then they would think we are quite forlorn and misguided individuals... which is probably true to some degree.. .but not this much.  Part of the show features three men in a shed sharing the kind of stories from their lives they wouldn't want to share in public.  I hope it provides some food for thought. 

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
The show begins with a fairly a simple premise and explores its weird logic through a multitude of strange possibilities, weaving several strands together as its travels towards its bonkers conclusion.  We test the shows in front of guest audiences and ask a lot of questions and then make adjustments.   We also video all performances and listen back to the audience's laughter because this is tells us how much they're 'getting' the new ideas as they emerge.  During the process if we come up with something that makes us all laugh our heads off, we always try to find a way to put that in the show. 
This is the 4th show by Inconvenient Spoof, a Brighton-based company whose work has appeared at such venues as the Soho Theatre (London), Tobacco Factory (Bristol), The Old Market (Brighton), Co-founder, Matt Rudkin, created and compered Edinburgh’s original Bongo Club Cabaret, and has toured internationally with Street theatre classic The Incredible Bull Circus. He has also worked as a senior lecturer in Theatre Arts at the University of Brighton for the last 15 years.

The Coolidge Dramaturgy: Wonder Fools @ The Traverse

Wonder Fools' latest production, The Coolidge Effect, at the Traverse, 21st September, 8pm or at the Tron, 27th September, 8pm.

In 2017, pornography is all around us and the amount we watch it is growing at an exponential rate: in the UK alone, 10 million porn videos are watched every day. 

As society’s access to pornography increases, so too does our unwillingness to talk about it. The Coolidge Effect seeks to break this taboo.

Using an interactive blend of storytelling, poetry and science, The Coolidge Effect examines how pornography affects our mental health, relationships and sexual experiences.

 It was recently awarded a Special Commendation as part of The Suitcase Prize, PULSE Festival 2017 at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, as well as completely successful performances at Camden People's Theatre, London.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

As young adults, Robbie and I have grown up with the advent of the internet and at the beginnings of the mass consumption of pornography that this new media has allowed. In the UK alone, 10 million porn videos are consumed every day and the average age a young boy starts to watch porn now is 12 years old.

After watching a TED talk on youtube – Gary Wilson’s ‘The Great Porn Experiment’ – where we learned about the theory of the Coolidge Effect, we knew we had to combine our own experiences with this science and bring attention to this important topic on stage. Pornography and sex in general are massive taboos in this country, and with this performance we really wanted to challenge that in a fun and, hopefully, enlightening way. 

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

Wonder Fools aims to create performance that has a social impact and leaves a lasting imprint our audiences. If we didn’t think the work we create could in some way create a space for discussion, or critical thought, I don’t think we would make the type of work we do. What theatre and performance is perfect for is to provide a platform for a shared experience and to present ideas, theories and provocations on stage that might not work as well through other art forms.

We end the performance with a moment where we say ‘if you want to talk, we’ll be in the bar – come chat’, and this felt important because what The Coolidge Effect aims to do is start a conversation about pornography, not be a closed book where what we present on stage can’t be discussed or challenged, even. Whether it’s in the bar afterwards, online a month later or even randomly in a coffee shop somewhere, it’s vital the conversations continue to happen.

How did you become interested in making performance?

We formed Wonder Fools whilst we were still two students at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland on the Contemporary Performance Practice course. We realised quite quickly on CPP that we were interested in combining the training we were receiving in performance and live art with a more theatrical final form and this is the reason Robbie and I started making work together.

We had similar thoughts about the work we wanted to create and how we were going to make it. Specifically, Wonder Fools was born out of a desire to use true stories as a foundation for the work we create and to take theatre to both traditional and non-traditional audiences. A cornerstone of our work as Wonder Fools is using the real stories of real people as a foundation of all the work we make and this fundamentally informs what theatre we create, how we make it and, most importantly to us, why.

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

The show was originally our final degree show at RCS. This was incredibly useful as it gave us the space and time to develop the performance over a period of three months. As part of our research process, we conducted interviews with porn advocates, addicts, mental health experts and scientists and, with the help of Skype, these conversations spanned the globe: Quebec, California, Sweden, New York, Indonesia, Pittsburgh, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester and London. We spoke to our friends about pornography and porn addiction, and we even had an advert on Reddit where we invited people to email us with their experiences of porn, both good and bad. From all these different sources, we collected a wide range of experiences and view points, and it is these stories that form the basis of the show.

Then it was just about what Robbie and I wanted to say with the piece, but we were very careful to maintain a sense of the breadth and depth from the pool of people we had spoken to and to include this in the final show.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

To date we have staged three full productions: ‘McNeill of Tranent: Fastest Man in the World’, a one-man show performed by retired Scottish athlete George McNeill, who in 1972 was the fastest man in the world despite never being allowed to compete in the Olympic or Commonwealth Games; ‘549: Scots of the Spanish Civil War’, a verbatim account of the journeys of four miners from East Lothian who travelled among 549 Scots to fight against fascism in Spain; and ‘The Coolidge Effect’. Thematically, these shows are all very different, but what links them is the fact they are all based on real life stories and experiences.

This emphasis on using true stories as a basis for our work is evident as much in our creative process as the final performances. For example, for ‘549: Scots of the Spanish Civil War’ the company embarked on an 18-month research process visiting family members, archivists and historians throughout Scotland to gather the personal accounts of the four miners who are at the heart of our story. 

This process culminated in January 2017 with a rehearsed reading of the play in Prestonpans Labour Club, East Lothian in front of an audience of 100 people which included relatives of the 549, local councillors and politicians, and people from the local community with an interest in the story. This was a special moment for us as a company – it was exactly what we wanted to achieve when we started out. In 2018 we are taking ‘549’ to a wider audience, and we are currently planning a site-specific performance in Prestonpans Town Hall before transferring to the Citizens Theatre to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the conflict in February 2018.

Our next show will be the most markedly different – the Citizens Theatre are staging the Scottish premiere of Anders Lustgarten’s Lampedusa in association with Wonder Fools. This will be the first time as a company we will work with an existing text and we are incredibly excited. The play is broadly about the refugee crisis but centres around two very personal, very human stories and for that reason it really fits into our previous work. We can’t wait. 

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

I hope that the audience will come away with a greater understanding about pornography and addiction than they had before they entered. We talk within the show about mental health and if the show shines a light on that issue and raises awareness then that is only a good thing. There are a lot of different theatrical forms within the show but at its core is a conventional, very human narrative that I hope the audience can really hook on to as a way of engaging with the topic. 

We also love a good soundtrack and there’s a broad range of stuff – everything from Caribou to Foreigner, Jon Hopkins to Radiohead! At the end of the day we are very clear that this performance should spark a conversation and if the audience leaves thinking ‘that was fun, let’s grab a beer and chat about this’ with their friends then we have done our job.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

We are really aware that we are dealing with a complex subject matter and we’ve tried to be as rigorous as we can when thinking about how we stage this show. We’ve had a bit of a laugh about the fact we say it’s an ‘interactive’ show about pornography! But we thought that the danger with this topic is that it firstly becomes presentational or didactic and secondly that it can become too dark or boring. Yes, we don’t shy away from the darker sides to what we are dealing with but we have tried hard to create a show that is fun and engaging too. Importantly, because of the complexities of the topic, we have also done our utmost to create a safe environment as well. Hopefully, there’s something for everyone.

Wonder Fools are an emerging Glasgow-based theatre company, creating contemporary new work based on a diverse range of current and historical real-life stories, and is one of six Graduate Emerging Companies selected from across Britain on attachment with the New Diorama Theatre London for 2017-18.

All The Dramaturgy I've Lied About: Kate Bonna @ Tron 2017

All the Things I Lied About (22 & 23 Sept, 7.45pm) is Katie Bonna's fearlessly honest show that unpicks how everyday lies can lead to a world of Trump and Brexit.

Fringe First winner Katie Bonna is giving a TED talk on the science of lying. Well, that’s not quite true. TED haven’t actually asked her to do one – yet. 
In a comic exploration of her past mistakes and inevitable future disasters, Katie unpicks how everyday lies can lead to a world of Trump and Brexit. A fearlessly honest show for the post-truth era.

What was the inspiration for this performance?I wanted to write about my relationship with my estranged father - I ended up writing about Donald Trump and Alan Partridge. I'm pretty sure I've joined the dishonesty dots joining the two.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas?Absolutely. I'd be naive to pretend that it isn't limited by who chooses to come to the theatre, but as long as artists are mindful of who they're in conversation with, it will always be a rich space for discussion.

How did you become interested in making performance?I trained as an actor because I loved the craft of it. I started making work because I wasn't getting enough opportunities to practice the craft. Then I discovered a whole new craft - and now I'm in love with it.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?I am very strict about changing my process for every show I make. I have just spent a week in Newcastle doing research and development on a new show with no script and no script writing time - just discussion, which I've never done before. The most important part of my process is to keep challenging my process.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?All The Things I Lied About is very different

to my last show, Dirty Great Love Story. It's different in tone and style. Dirty Great Love Story was a romcom in verse and All The Things I Lied About is a personal, political TED talk/confession - pretty different! I think that you have to respond to what the story you are telling needs, rather than trying to recreate anything you've made before.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?I hope that they'll reflect on their own experiences and actions. I hope they'll laugh and have fun (there are water pistols). I hope they won't fall asleep (it's happened twice so far but also, hey, theatres are sometimes very warm....).

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?Most of the rehearsal work on this show was built around audience experience. The whole show is a reflection of my process in making the show - the bits where I got sad, frustrated, angry and where we had loads of fun dancing to inappropriate 90s tunes. This show relies on the audience, so my aim every time I step on stage is to give them the best night I can.

Dirty Great Love Story, co-written and performed with Richard Marsh, won a Fringe First in 2012, and Katie was also nominated for Best Actress by The Stage.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

King Dramaturgy: Ludens Ensemble @ Edfringe 2017

Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry
A multimedia comedy theatre
Ubu Roi is a co-production between Ludens Ensemble and Paphos 2017, European Capital of Culture. It was co -funded by Creative Scotland and supported by the French Institute.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

Philippos: Ubu Roi was my research at the University of Edinburgh when I was doing my Masters. The absurdist comedy, the anarchy in the play, the rapid flow of the plot was the first thing that attracted my interest. I discovered the Avant - Garde Scene in Europe that influenced a lot of significant artists. I always loved the puppets, cartoons and animations. I saw these capabilities of the play, to include different elements in one performance and create a chaos along with new media, such as mapping projections as an opportunity for experimentation.

Vangelis: Philippos approached me with the idea of staging Ubu Roi with the use of new media.  My prime interest was the absurdity of the whole play as a radical critique on individualism which is still pertinent today. Jarry, although very young when he wrote the play, was conscious of the conformisms of his time. What started as a parody of his Physics teacher evolved into a mocking of different kinds of social norms. This element was carried over to the level of form since Jarry wanted to do away with the theater conventions of his time. Although I am far from claiming that one can radicalize theater through what is now considered a classic, Ubu Roi provides for me the perfect ground to experiment and be playful with theater conventions. The nature of the play also gives a lot of space for improvisation. I think this last bit is particularly attractive to our performers who are able to experiment with the text but also with their bodies and their voices on stage.  

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

Philippos: Absolutely yes! Even though there a lot of commercial performances that are there merely to entertain, there are still performances that give rise to questions. Theatre will always have an effect on the everyday life of each individual but only if you treat the audience not as passive but as an active member of the performance.

Vangelis: From its ancient manifestations theater was a public affair. It was the locus where the polis (the city state), was staging itself and testing its values and limitations. Although we are in radically different societies, societies where the public seem to have moved to the realm of the virtual and social media, theater remains a locus where ideas can circulate and be contemplated. Every performance brings together an audience and creates a community. A performance can also be carried outside the confines of a classic theater auditorium, at other public spaces. Demonstrations in the streets for example can be performative or may carry elements (consciously or unconsciously) that stem directly from the traditions of theater.

How did you become interested in making performance?

Philippos: That happened when I was 10 years old when a crazy teacher gave a character to perform. It was the an ancient Greek drama named Philoctetes by Sophocles. When I was studying theatre in Athens I realised that I love directing. I wanted to put on stage my own ideas. My first initiation at the theatre directing was when I won a playwriting competition at the National Theatre of Greece in 2004. Then I decided to direct a play. From that moment on I am directing and I really enjoy it!  

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

Philippos: Chaos! I wanted to use puppets and animations along with projections. Then I met Vangelis we started working together and we decided to go for it. The old technologies in relation to what our times is offering was our approach to the play. Four performers are interpreting all the characters on stage. Each performer transforms each time to a different character. This transformation is magical and gives a different twist to the play. The interpretations are not naturalistic.

Vangelis: We work as a team together with the performers. One idea that is brought in by us can be radically transformed by the actors or the other way around. For example, I wanted to use live cameras to film close ups of the actors’ hands as they manipulate objects. Philippos wanted Ubu to pretend taking a snapshot of the royal family as if he were a tourist in a scene where the performers are staged in a tableau vivant. What the performers did was to blend in these two ideas and transform them. Instead of using the cameras exclusively for the manipulation of objects they started filming each other and their performances on stage like in the above described scene where the make-believe snapshot is replaced by a live camera.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

Philippos: We started working on Macbeth in 2014. We worked with projections, facial expression and body gestures in order to tell the story. The absence of spoken words made the performance more accessible and Macbeth traveled to China, Germany and Cyprus. We are working with new media blending them with traditional theatre. The same thing happened with Ubu Roi and our new performance called Love which is inspired by Shakespeare’s Sonnets. We are also working on a new performance based on true testimonies from the two communities, the Turkish and Greek, in Cyprus. However, this performance will be based more on the traditions of Narrative theater and storytelling. This is a new play that we are writing right now and it is called Forbidden Stories.

Vangelis: Although we are using new media, all of our performances carry a DIY aesthetic along with a strong sense of buffoon theater. All three performances are based on the actors’ expressionist use of their bodies on stage even when there is strong text like in Ubu. We use mapping projections, object manipulation and a characteristic use of soundscapes which provides strong atmospheres. 

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

We are hoping the audience to laugh a lot and to have great fun. We want the audience to witness these four amazing performers as they give their soul on stage. We are also expecting the audience to sense the powers of minimalist theater. One actor can stand in for an entire army. A plastic chicken for a champion in running.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

The performers are addressing to the audience directly. The actors welcome the audience into the theater. Dylan Read who acts as Ubu has worked himself as a sort of a ring man who leads the audience from one scene to the next as if in a circus or a cabaret show. Everything is open to the audience. All the character transformations are made on stage and they are visible. Also, the use of sound and image, at times in contra distinction, we hope will trigger the audience to use their imagination creatively.

Ubus run at the Edinburgh Fringe is co-produced by Ludens Ensemble and Adjust Productions and organised by the High Commission of Cyprus in London.

Ubu Roi premiered at the Hidden Door Festival 2016 and has already travelled to Berlin as part of the ‘Theater Der Dinge Festival’ in October 2016 and Pafos, Cyprus in November as part of the events organized by Pafos 2017.

Plot: King Ubu, usurper to the throne of Baloney, carries a mop instead of a scepter and dreams of his pâté de dog. Meanwhile, he liquidates enemies and friends. Under his reign citizens face unbearable taxation and crippling whimsy, until someone calls for revolution...Ubu Roi is an absurd comedy which caused riots and launched the European avant-garde. Ludens Ensembletransform Ubu into a big old bash. Featuring interactive videos, on stage DJ set, puppetry, shadow play, object manipulation and four actors who move about and say things. The fringe run is organized by the Cyprus High Commission Cultural Section.

Ludens Ensemble is an Edinburgh based theatre group run by local and international artists thatcreates original performances with the aid of video art, animation, masks, puppets and music. Their performances have toured internationally (Shanghai, Hangzhou, Berlin, Pafos, Limassol) and around Scotland.

Adjust Productions is an Edinburgh based company which produces cultural and artistic events in collaboration with local, as well as international artists. Their projects range from festivals and music concerts to dance and theatre performances, and audiovisual installations.

Director, Artistic Director: Philippos Philippou, Dramaturg, Second Director, Music Curator:Vangelis Makriyannakis. Translator: Kenneth McLeish 

Performers: Adam Tompa , Dylan Read, Jenny Lynn, Persefoni Gerangelou 
TRAILER UBU ROI LUDENS ENSEMBLE from Ludens Ensemble on Vimeo.

Producers : Philippos Philippou, Vangelis Makriyannakis

Video Artist: Moyra Campbell 

Stage and Costume Designer: Panagiotis Baras 

Lighting Designer: Brian Holt 

Puppeteer: Gavin Glover 

AV & Sound Engineer: Petros Tsaftaridis

Assistant Director: Isidora Bouziouri

Venue number 26: Summerhall - Demonstration Room
August 2 (preview) £7/£5
August 4 – 27 (except 8, 14, 21)
Time: 21.25
Tickets:  £11.00 / £9.00

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Locus Dramaturgy: Atresbandes @ Edfringe 2017

ATRESBANDES theatre company

Locus Amoenus

Three strangers meet on a train. In one hour, the train will crash and they will all die.

Award winning Spanish company ATRESBANDES bring their critically acclaimed piece Locus Amoenus to Summerhall for Edinburgh Fringe 2017, exploring the idea of paradise through the meeting of three strangers on a train that’s about to crash.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

The first inspiration was the place where we started to create the show and the title "Locus Amoenus" meaning pleasant place comes from there). It was in a beautiful arts centre in Birmingham, based in the middle of a gorgeous park, with a lake and trees. There was snow everywhere. So, that touched us and inspired us. It was a real artistic “locus amoenus” for us (we had all our time and space to do something) and for sure, that suggested us to think about the idea of "Paradise".
Also, there's a book called "Tunel" by F. Durrenmat that give us the idea of the theatrical game we propose in the show. And also, the film "Europa" by Lars Von Trier.

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

It has to be, for sure. After a very good show, not only beauty or enjoyment or even anger appears, also a waterfall of thoughts and emotions.
I think that's because a good performance is the point that is below a question mark symbol, but a question mark at the end on stage. That's what we try to do in our shows. After that, after see a "final" question mark, we hope or we would to like to open others questions in the audience.

How did you become interested in making performance?

In our case, was an organic and natural thing. We met each other at theatre school in Barcelona and we started working to try to make the theatre that we would like to see on stage.
As I said before, theatre helps us, not to answer the daily life, but at least, to do something with all these questions that we have.

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

No. Maybe the particular approach is that we don't have one, and in each of our different performances we start in a different way. We're very a chaotic and not methodical company, we don't know what we can do until do it, so we need lot of time to create.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

We work as a devising theatre Company, without a previous text. We start only with an idea. So, each show we made is relative to our "personal and artistic moment". When we premiered this show, we thought it was something very different to the previous one "Solfatara" but now, after a while, I realise that is an organic and very logical step, and even if the form is different, yes, I think it fits. 

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

That's difficult because I think you can't control that. For "Locus Amoenus" maybe we would like to investigate or taste the concept of time. What happens if the audience has more information than the performers on stage, and how that changes the perception of the action and of time.
And also, in this show, we wanted to "relax" the theatrical conventions. For example, there's no black out, we start on stage as performers waiting for the start and looking to the audience without hiding our nervousness and the excitement we have. We perform with all the technical things like very exposed, without hiding microphones or the cables. The lighting is always the same.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
I think, I answer that before!

LOCUS AMOENUS video promo from ATRESBANDES on Vimeo.

Locus Amoenus takes its title from a Latin term meaning “pleasant place”, characterised in literature and visual arts throughout history as a sunlit glade or meadow. Through a series of conversations and situations, efforts to understand and be understood, the show asks what paradise means to each person and, as the train speeds towards to its fatal conclusion, asks whether we pay enough attention on life’s journey.

Locus Amoenus is performed mostly in English with additional projected text that acts as a narrator and guide to the inner thoughts of the characters. Not knowing that they are about to die, the characters go about their lives, connecting to each other and isolating themselves, understanding and misunderstanding, getting hung up on trivialities and not saying what they most want to say. What new meaning does the hour have if it’s to be their last?

Company member Albert Pérez Hidalgo said, “The inspiration for our work comes from a number of sources, including everyday life and situations, sitting on a fine line between biography and fiction. In Locus Amoenus, the three characters partly represent ourselves and through the course of their final hour, we see their dreams, fears and hidden desires. We drew on a variety of source material including Freidrich Dürrenmatt's novel The Tunnel and films such as Lars von Trier's Europe. Some of the imagery was inspired by our travels around the UK on tour as well as the beautiful parkland at mac in Birmingham where we first began work on the piece.”

15th – 27th August, 2.50pm, Summerhall, Venue 26 

Tickets: 0131 560 1581 | 0131 226 0000

@ATRESBANDES | #locusamoenus | |

Running Time: 60 minutes | Suitable for ages 14+

ATRESBANDES are a company from Barcelona who have rapidly established a reputation as creators of sharp, perceptive work for international audiences. They have won numerous awards including First Prize and Audience Prize at BE Festival 2012 in Birmingham for Solfatara and Best Direction at Skena Up 2014 in Kosovo for Locus Amoenus. The company was formed in 2008 with the aim of creating devised work through a truly collaborative process.

Company and creatives:
Devised and performed by: Mònica Almirall Batet, Miquel Segovia Garrell, Albert Pérez Hidalgo
Voice recordings: Iara Solano Arana, Sammy Metcalfe
Lighting design: Alberto Rodríguez
Sound design: Joan Solé
Producers: Sarah-Jane Watkinson (UK), Nùria Segovia Garrell (Spain)