Monday, 7 August 2017

Last Dramaturgy @ Edfringe 2017

Last Resort - 2Magpies Theatre
Summerhall, The Machine Shop, 2 – 27 Aug 2017 (not 7, 14, 21), 12.00 (13.00)
Guantanamo Bay has been turned into a private resort, but the lingering sense of what came before makes audiences examine their feelings towards the threat of terror and the use of torture.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

This a combination of an opportunity that arose at The Lowry, Salford for a site-responsive commission (for their scene dock) and an idea from a very long time ago about the detention of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay (whilst studying for an MA in International Security and Terrorism at the University of Nottingham). The concept for the show became about inviting the audience into a space they do not normally have access to – physically the scene dock, but also behind the public façade of Guantanamo Bay. We wanted to use this opportunity to invite audiences to assess their own views about counterterrorism policy

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

I think so – I think it can often be didactic and preach to the converted, but when ideas and different viewpoints are discussed, performance provokes brilliant debate. Confirmation by Chris Thorpe is probably a really good example of debate being provoked, and different viewpoints being expressed as a result.

How did you become interested in making performance?

Weirdly, when I was studying for the MA in International Security and Terrorism at the University of Nottingham. I had an idea relating to Alexander Litvinenko and his poisoning through a cup of green tea, and this weird juxtaposition of nuclear poison and green tea. This became a performance in tearooms and cafes, backed up by academic research

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

Quite a rigorous academic process. We worked with 3 different academics from slightly different fields within international relations and counterterrorism, combined with artists of different disciplines to assess primary and secondary sources material from Guantanamo Bay: music, images, testimonies etc. We then consulted NGO’s that work directly in this field like Reprieve and Amnesty International. This has taken a long time to develop, and fostering these relationships over a long time mind!

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

To some extent – it’s a story that is so unbelievable that is we made it up people would say its ridiculous, just like The Litvinenko Project and Ventoux before it. It is visual storytelling that looks at a significant global event in a different way. It’s perhaps less directly accessible than the idea of doping in the Tour de France (Ventoux) but the storytelling is a similar style. We feel it is still an accessible gateway into contemporary performance for people who have not seen productions like this before, hung on real life events.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

We have translated the multi-sensory nature of enhanced interrogation techniques (a US euphemism for torture) into a multi-sensory performance space. The audience will sit in a deckchair, get a cocktail on arrival, a hot towel, and put their feet in the sand. We were very aware that an audience coming to see a show about Guantanamo Bay (and knowing that they are) might come in with a set of expectations which we were hoping to dispel in the first 5 minutes with this sensory experience. This then gives us the opportunity to play with this later, as we explore various elements of enhanced interrogation techniques.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

We did a lot of second guessing audience reactions, and we were always wrong! The fringe is now a chance for us to try things, new things every day and gauge different audience reactions. It’s much more interesting this way, and certainly keeps us on our toes!

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