Friday, 4 August 2017

The Dramaturgy in Annie's Head: No Door @ Edfringe 2017

Get covered in anxiety-fuelled glittery mess at this year’s Fringe!
No Door Theatre

What was the inspiration for this performance?

It all started when Sarah developed a manic obsession with Graham Norton and started narrating her life through his voice, a habit which irritated her friends who encouraged her to channel this into a play. 

Not quite. 

In reality, Sarah tapped into something that affects all of us; we all have some element of these ‘voices’.  An Evening with the Voices in Annie’s Head is not about psychosis or schizophrenia, it’s about our own voice telling us we’re not good company, that we’re too fat or too skinny, or not funny enough. Some lucky people can turn this voice off quite easily, for others these thoughts can be constant and get in the way of everyday life sometimes leading to mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression. What Sarah Teale has done with her wonderful script is taken this painful reality and transformed it into a glitzy, hilarious TV show in Annie’s mind run by Ken and Kendra Kenderson (so unoriginal Annie) who comment on her every decision. The play is punctuated with Annie’s genuine social interactions  where we meet Bethany (basically a much more beautiful, funny and clever Annie) and Peter (sex god, way too good for you Annie) and we watch as she tries to act ‘normal’. It’s brutally honest and leaves you unsure whether to laugh or cry.

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

Definitely. There is a huge freedom in the theatre space to try out ideas. Just look at the fringe! There are basically no rules so you’re free to experiment and every year you can pretty much track what has happened politically through what shows are about that year at Fringe (there’s definitely a solid dissertation in that somewhere-right?)  
In fact, that was the main reason we chose to take An Evening with the Voices in Annie’s Head up to Edinburgh. When it was debuted at the Manchester Inner Fringe Theatre Awards (MIFTA) in 2015 we were delighted that the show sparked a lot of discussion among students. Many people came up to us to tell us about their own ‘voices’ experiences. Annie is not necessarily a happy story, but just knowing that there are other people who feel the same way I believe had a powerful effect on our audience.  

How did you become interested in making performance?

Sarah and I were both keen performers from a young age. Sarah [insert hilarious and cute childhood theatre experience] and Georgia first appeared in the memorably emotional role of Plankton 2. Both of us soon discovered that our obsessive need to control everything was not satisfied by acting and delved into writing, directing and production. Clearly set for greatness, we both found their way from opposite ends of the country to the University of Manchester to study Music and Drama and discovered that we were both born on the 16th July (fate!) and were mutually passionate about writing plays that are comic, have diverse and realistic roles for women and allow us to drink a lot of gin and tonic in the process. 

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
A lot of snacks- no joke. With Sarah at the helm of this glittery-anxious fuelled ship, this has been a team effort with the cast fully involved with promoting and fundraising for the show. Having performed this production before we knew what we wanted to keep and what to change. This year’s cast is a mix of old and new which organically helps us to inject some exciting glittery novelty into the production. Mainly its just important to us that everyone has a lot of
fun putting it together so that they like us and want to act with us again (please like us and never leave us guys!) 

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

Completely. AEWTVIAH has in fact set the bar for our other productions. It contains the three main things we care about: women, mental health, and it makes us laugh. As a general rule, we aim to only produce plays that have more roles for women than men, in an aim to level the playing field after personally experiencing a multitude of male dominated plays at university despite the opposite ratio of about 100 females: 1 male on the drama course. Although not all our plays focus on mental health, we are keen to explore further the grey areas where you may not have a diagnosed condition but issues surrounding mental health affects you directly or indirectly through friends or family members. 

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
We hope that An Evening with the Voices in Annie’s Head will leave audience’s enlightened, with a new sense of self worth and determination to use their skills to tackle world peace, global warming and encouraging Kate Nash to come and be friends with us. But at the very least, we hope it will get people to talk to each other, and really just be nice to each other! I was amazed by the people who told me they related to Annie, people who I massively envied for their brains, beauty and talent. It is sad to know how hard everyone is on themselves. 

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
To slightly misquote Mary Poppins ‘Just a shit-ton of glitter makes the
medicine go down’. We don’t want to be a massive downer, we don’t want our audience to leave emotionally scarred, we want them to be glittery. Free glitter will be available at every performance to cover our audience’s faces with so that they spend the rest of the day feeling more fun. The show is also Pay What You Feel because as poor graduates, we don’t want to make anyone feel they can’t come to the show. At the end of the show there will also be leaflets available from mental health charities, 42nd Street and Anxiety UK for anyone who is affected by issues within the play and would like to seek advice. 

The play is centred around this 'Annie’, her desperate attempts to make any kind of vaguely functioning slight connection with a single person she meets in the whole world, and the two television presenters in her mind who want to stop her. The play looks at the social anxiety that (we hope) plagues all of us a tad (right?!) and it tries to do it in a fun and funny and sparkly way. 

 In its debut at the 2016 MIFTAs, the play won Best Newcomer (Stella Ryley) and Best Costume/Make-up, but we were most moved by the stories students’ personally shared with us when they saw themselves in Annie. We knew that this was a show that needed to be seen by more people. 

Venue: Paradise in Augustines (studio)
Dates: 14th-27th August (no show on the 20th)
Time: 13.35
Tickets: PWYF (£5 reserve)

Box office: 0131 226 0000

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