Thursday, 3 August 2017

Daughters of Dramaturgy: Joyce Nga Yu Lee @ Edfringe 2017

Mia: Daughters of Fortune

Bradford based Mind the Gap, England’s largest learning disability theatre company (the only learning disability theatre company performing at the Edinburgh Fringe 2017), are bringing their latest production, Mia: Daughters of Fortune, to Summerhall - Tuesday 8 to Sunday 27 August 2017, except Mondays (14.45 to 15.45) - as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.  

Mia is a fast moving, raw and eye-opening production that explores the truths and myths about learning disability and parenthood in today’s society, a piece of theatre dealing with humanity that will resonate with everybody with or without a disability. 

Mia’s hard-hitting central message is that parents with learning disabilities face an uphill struggle against a well intentioned but sometimes inflexible system to win the right to have and, most importantly, keep their children.

Questions answered by Mind the Gap’s Resident Director Joyce Nga Yu Lee who created and directed Mia: Daughters of Fortune.

What was the inspiration for this performance?  
As a woman working in the arts at childbearing age, I think about “the clock ticking” but struggled to make the decision to be a mum. 

Then one day Alison, now one of the cast members in Mia, told me her pregnant sister who is on the autistic spectrum was going through an “assessment”. After digging deeper I realised that apart from the usual considerations of parenthood, learning-disabled expectant parents are often assessed by social services to see if they are capable of becoming one. I was baffled. I also found out more hidden stories that were waiting to be told. 

No one else seems to be talking about this, that’s why I made Mia, to tell these stories. 

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 
Yes. There are types of performances that facilitate direct discussion and action like forum theatre and legislative theatre. The kind of performances I make with Mind the Gap often challenge preconceptions or provoke less thought out issues. Mia is a good example: through stories of learning disabled parents, we want to ask audiences what kind of world we want to live in.

Having professional learning-disabled performers on stage is (still, unfortunately) a political statement in itself. Our performers will challenge low expectations, and expand your idea of what “high quality theatre” includes.

How did you go about gathering the team for it? 
I work with Mind the Gap ensemble very closely. The research and development process involved everybody in the ensemble and other freelance artists. Throughout the process, ensemble members gravitated towards the element that attracted them the most, for instance creative engagement workshops, story research, music composition and touring. Through the R&D process, the team organically evolved, leading to roles in which the artists can perform brilliantly. 

How did you become interested in making performance? 
Since I was 15 when my bff was in a drama club and needed someone to help in the costume and make up department. 

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
 Everything in Mia is grounded in real life stories. In partnership with Royal Holloway and the support the Wellcome Trust, the team collected real stories from parents with a learning disability. These stories formed the base material on which we devised the piece.

The subject matter is impossibly complex; the performance is composed to reflect this complexity. The performance is structured with a series of non-linear episodes strung together with a progressive narrative arc. The episodes vary in form and pace, from high energy pop dance to intimate acting, low-tech object manipulation to live feed camera and loop pedal.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?
Mind the Gap always aim to produce excellent and engaging performances that have something to say. Mia is definitely one of those. This is what Helen Jones, reviewer from Reviews Hub, said, 
“Mind The Gap always produce excellent and absorbing theatre, Daughters Of Fortune: Mia is one more to add to their list of shows that should be compulsory viewing.”

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
Some feedback I heard from our initial tour was that it was like an “emotional roller coaster”, and “laugh one minute and cry the next”. Mia is full of jump cuts between light and shade, sometimes the absurdity of reality even renders us not knowing whether to laugh or cry. When you leave the theatre, I hope you feel entertained, but also feeling a bit more human and energised for action. 

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience? 
The subject matter is so sophisticated and hard hitting, I use a lot of theatrical devices to make sure it is accessible while not simplistic, absorbing and entertaining while not dismissive of the weight of the issue. Come and see it for yourself, I’d like to have a chat and hear what you think too.

Performance information, ticket prices and box office details
Show Name: MIA: Daughters of Fortune
Venue: Old Lab, Summerhall (Venue 26), Summerhall Place, Edinburgh EH9 1PL
Dates: Tuesday 8 to Sunday 27 August 2017 - Not Mondays
Performance Time: 14.45 - 15.45 (Running time: 1 hour)
Ticket Prices: Tuesday 8 - all tickets £6.00 / Wednesday 9 - Sunday 27 August (not Mondays) - £5.00 / £8.00 / £10.00
Box Office:
Age Suitability: 14+

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