Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Dramaturgy Now: Chris Davis @ Edfringe 2017

One-Man Apocalypse Now is a hilarious and dark adaptation of the iconic war film Apocalypse Now.  Chris re-imagines some of cinemas' greatest characters like Marlon Brando as Colonel Kurtz and Dennis Hopper, but also delves into his own personal journey as an artist.  While a faithful adaptation, One-Man Apocalypse Now explores the multiple comedic and dramatic layers that exist in the film, and in the re-creation of it.   
 One-Man Apocalypse Now 
Sweet Venues - Grassmarket 3 - Venue 18      

 Aug 3 - 27  

What was the inspiration for this performance?

Many years ago I bought the Apocalypse Now soundtrack on vinyl.  I was surprised to discover that most of the soundtrack was dialogue from the actual movie.  I jokingly suggested to the director Mary Tuomanen, a close friend of mine, that I could re-enact the entire movie but let the soundtrack speak for me.  

She said I should do that but only mouth the words that Martin Sheen said.  We laughed.  The idea was mostly a joke and we both forgot about it.  But in my mind I kept coming back to it time and time again, what if I tried to adapt the movie?

Last year I finally decided why not try to do the whole movie in under 60 min and title it One-Man Apocalypse Now.  I figured it'd be funny and strange.  We abandoned the idea of only using the soundtrack, and I wrote the adaptation late at night in two days during last year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival,

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

Definitely.  The live event allows people to
transform and change.  If anything it may be the last place you can really change a person's mind.  You can get two people of totally disparate views, have them watch a show / participate, and they can become fast friends.  Nothing like the online world.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I am an only child raised by a single mother.  I say this because I spent a lot of time alone as a child.  Honestly I was bored and I needed to entertain myself, and T.V. could only do so much.  I started acting in front of mirrors around 5 or 6 just to pass time.  Later in life I went to a small college that did not have enough men for a production of Curse of the Starving Class.  They cast me.  And after making my first entrance on stage, and blanking on all my lines, I was hooked.  I thought, maybe I can do this.

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

I have done a lot of adaptations in the last few years, and I follow a few rules that some friends made when we first started.  

1. Do not use any dialogue from the source material, and if you do it must be a very salient moment (I break this rule about 4 times in OMAN).  

2.  Modernize the work so it fits to contemporary times.  

3.  Make it under 60 min.  I used these three rules for One-Man Apocalypse Now.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

Yes.  This is the fifth solo show I have brought to Edinburgh.  (4 others in 3 years.)  Not only did I write it in Edinburgh, but also after 3 years of watching great solo-work in Edinburgh and seeing what audiences are driven to, this is the first show that I feel finally uses all the tricks and aesthetics I've learned from performing in this fringe.  At least I hope it does.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

The idea of performing a movie like Apocalypse Now with one person is silly.  That's a given.  That being said, the play works on many levels.  At times it is a faithful adaptation, but then veers off into my own personal history, while maintaining and living in the world of Apocalypse Now.  

Robert Duvall can have a personal moment about his childhood, which is my childhood, but never break character, he is Robert Duvall, after all...

Because the adaptation is under 60 min events happen very quickly and there is something automatically comedic when plot advances rapidly.  Audiences have laughed a lot during this show, however underneath the laughter is a sadness that deals with my own life as an artist and my relationship with my father.  

Fortunately both of these themes are also found in the actual movie Apocalypse Now, specifically between Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando.  I think the audience leaves with the knowledge that our lives ultimately are most successful when we confront ourselves and our relationships, and that all of us are on a journey up some river, where it goes, nobody may ever know...

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

I used all the solo-tricks I saw great shows do here in Edinburgh.  There is a lot of 'meta-theater', there is self-referential post-modern whatever you call it, there are little techniques I stole from solo-performers on character introduction, there is minimalism in the set, the story has an arc that follows the movie and also follows a personal arc, I found that Edinburgh audiences and critics gravitated towards work that was both funny and carried an underlying depth that is very important. 

I have tried to capture and explore that depth in this work, while keeping a highly comedic pace and having fun.

Pick of the Philadelphia Fringe 
For the last three years Chris has been a mainstay of the free festival with solo theater shows Drunk Lion (★★★★★ - TV Bomb), Violence of the Lambs (★★★★★ - The Student Newspaper), Bortle 8(★★★★ "...a tour-de-force." - Three Weeks), and Chris Davis: Chinchilla Coats (★★★★ - Outlier Scotland).  In addition to One-Man Apocalypse Now, Chris brings his fringe show The Last Emperor of Mexico to the Free Fringe Festival.  

Chris is a writer and performer residing in Philadelphia, PA.  Other projects Alias Ellis Mackenzie (Thaddeus Phillips), The Post-Show (Berserker Residents, Edinburgh Fringe).


Best Actor in Pittsburgh Fringe

Best Plays by a Professional Theater - DC Metro        

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