Friday, 4 August 2017

The Dramaturgy Cat: LaPelle’s Factory @ Edfringe 2017

LaPelle's Factory in association with LittleMighty and In Good Company present:
The Black Cat
Twisted and dark Poe classic pulled to pieces in this provocative and playful adaptation 

Written by Mufaro Makubika 

Based on the short story by Edgar Allen Poe

Underbelly, Cowgate, 3 – 20 Aug 2017 (not 13) 19.20 (20.20)

Nottingham-based company LaPelle’s Factory present a modern, deconstructed and misbehaving retelling of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Black Cat at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this August.
Photography by Julian Hughes

Balanced between the hilarious and the horrific, two performers dismember the process of adapting a classic with violent glee, just as the narrator of this Poe short story turns violently on his beloved pet cat. 

What was the inspiration for this performance?

We were initially inspired by the desire to collaborate with a writer for the first time and see whether our hands-on, collaborative, devised approach to making performance could merge with that of a more 'traditional' playwright.

We became interested in adaptation as a vehicle for this because it's a form that (often) begins on the page and then goes through a process of 'daisy-chaining' ideas and forms – so in our case we began with Edgar Allan
Photography by Julian Hughes
Poe's short story written in the first-person, to Mufaro Makubika's modernised two-hander play that updates the themes and makes changes to the plot, to us (Olwen and Ollie of LaPelle's Factory) where we pull both texts apart and comment on them whilst simultaneously 'acting' them.  

We also allow aspects of our real personalities to seep into the characters to the division between performer and character becomes much more difficult to distinguish.

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

Regardless of how much technology advances, there is no substitute for being in the same room as a performer or group of performers.  Watching artists perform live, making eye contact, joining in on occasion, cannot be replicated; the immediacy of human connection is still very necessary for discussion and discourse.  It's the same with watching a band: there's a reason we pay to see them play familiar music in our presence rather than just putting the album on at home again.

How did you become interested in making performance?

We both did fairly experimental degrees
Photography by Julian Hughes
(Olwen at De Montfort University in Leicester; Ollie at Bretton Hall, then part of the University of Leeds) which exposed us to a whole body of theatre and performance beyond traditional plays.  Separately we became excited about the liveness of the event and the connection possible with an audience that contemporary practice champions.  

We became less focussed on work which pretends the audience is not there.  And now we make work which we hope is different and progressive without needing an arts degree to be understood.  We try very hard to make sure our ideas are presented clearly enough that the work can be accessed by anyone, not just those familiar with the form.

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

We make devised theatre, so we did lots of background research and had a lot of discussion in advance of developing the piece.  We watched other adaptations of the same text (mainly on film) – and having Mufaro's blessing to do what we wanted with his text was very important.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

This piece started on the page which is unusual for us.  Normally a script or performance score will develop through improvisation and subsequent editing within rehearsal so there is no one 'author'.  

We wanted to challenge ourselves to working with a different (arguably more traditional) restriction and see if we could devise ways to break the rules.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

A fun, funny and slightly dangerous piece that examines the slipperiness of words and what it means to recycle ideas, turning the familiar into something new.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience? 

We knew some audience members would be familiar with Poe and some wouldn't, so we had to devise a strategy that meant this didn't matter.  Both groups will have a different experience but neither is better. It's the same as watching a film: you'll have a different understanding if you read the book first, but it isn't incomprehensible if you didn't.

We also wanted to find a strategy to bring the story alive without going too far down the 'actorly' route.  This has involved using element of ourselves: our personalities and histories.  This, we hope, adds to the 'realness' of what we present; and hopefully the sense of threat and danger too.

Photography by Julian Hughes
We also aren't afraid of being silly.  Often contemporary theatre gets a reputation of being overly serious and intellectual.  We've found ways of countering these presumptions with the dark humour we've woven into the performance.

Poe’s story is closely related to his famous A Tell-tale Heart, concerning the growing insanity of a guilty mind, and touching on alcoholism, mental health and emotional violence. Led by performer-devisers Olwen Davies and Ollie Smith, LaPelle’s Factory’s disrupted retelling revels in the darkness that hides just under the surface of the tale.

With metatheatrical play, The Black Cat is a surprisingly humorous tale which was developed with scratch performances at Derby Theatre, SPRINT (Camden People's Theatre), and First Bite (China Plate/MAC Birmingham).

Olwen said, “We can’t wait for our company to make its first visit to the Fringe. The Black Cat is also our first adaptation, but being us we don’t play it very straight. It’s dark, weird and wonderful, and has a very cheeky glint in its eye. It’s perfect for the murderous backstreets of Edinburgh."

LaPelle's Factory is the creative partnership of Olwen Davies and Ollie Smith. They make playful and provocative contemporary performance that questions expectations, relationships and modern ideals. 

The company is an Associate Artist with Attenborough Arts Centre (Leicester) and In Good Company, based at Derby Theatre. Their first show, CLOUDCUCKOOLANDERS (2015), explored mad couples, personality cults and the changing face of cinema. This was followed Desperado (2016/17), which riffed on rock gigs, dance marathons, school sports days and rodeos to push its performers to physical and existential limits.

Olwen Davies premiered her first solo performance, Fridge Logic, in 2011, at the Circuit Festival and the Hatch:Fresh festival. Olwen has also collaborated with Zoo Indigo in the devising of their performance Blueprint, a cross-generational celebration of motherhood. 

Ollie Smith is a regular devisor and performer with Michael Pinchbeck. Their work together includes Bolero, which toured internationally; and The Trilogy, a body of works exploring contemporary tales on Shakespearian stage. His solo show 27 was an obsessive and drawn-out suicide note from the world's least rock n roll star.

Mufaro Makubika is playwright living in St Ann’s, Nottingham. He is a graduate of the Royal Court Young Writers’ programme, including the super group, and a BBC Writersroom 10 winner. 

Credits include How to Breathe (Nottingham Playhouse) and Hood-The Legend Continues (Theatre Royal Nottingham/New Perspective Theatre). Mufaro is currently under commission to Nottingham Playhouse.

LittleMighty is an independent producer based in Leeds that works nationally with remarkable artists to make brilliant theatre happen.

Their other shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year include Eamonn Fleming’s Confabulation! (Pleasance Courtyard) and Silent Uproar’s A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad). Previous successes include Unfolding Theatre’s Lands of Glass and Putting the Band Back Together (Journal Culture Awards: Best Performance); and Testament’s Blake Remixed (co-production with West Yorkshire Playhouse).

In Good Company develop artists, provide opportunities and support exciting new performance in the East Midlands. 

In Good Company was born out a consultation with our community of artists in 2014 and is now a multi-venue partnership made up of: Derby Theatre, Attenborough Arts Centre, Burton Brewhouse, Lincolnshire One Venues and Mansfield Old Library. 

All five partners are dedicated to sharing their resources and providing opportunities for local artists to develop their work, including mentoring, scratch nights, workshops, performance platforms and networking. The programme is supported by Arts Council England. 
@LapellesFactory | /LaPellesFactory |
Running Time: 60 minutes | Suitable for ages 12+
Company Information
Based on the short story by Edgar Allen Poe Written by Mufaro Makubika
Devised and performed by Olwen Davies and Ollie Smith
Outside eye cast by Kate Chapman Produced by Dick Bonham and Daniel Nicholas
Listings information
Underbelly, 66 Cowgate, Edinburgh, EH1 1JX (Venue 61)
3 – 20 Aug (not 13), 19.20 – 20.20, Previews: 3 – 4 Aug
Previews 3 – 4 Aug: £6.50 
5 – 6, 9 – 10, 14 – 17 Aug: £10 (£9 concs)
7 – 8, 11 – 12, 18 – 20 Aug: £11 (£10 concs) | 0333 344 4167

Wheelchair Accessible performance:
Underbelly Med Quad, Teviot Place, EH8 9AG (Venue 302)
13 Aug, 13.15 – 14:15: £10 (£9 concs)

5 Oct Nottingham Playhouse
16 Nov
Attenborough Arts Centre, Leicester

Further touring dates to be announced 

1 comment :

  1. please can you credit my photographs please.
    Photography by Julian Hughes