Sunday, 13 August 2017

We Need to talk About Dramaturgy (Off Eastenders): George Attwell Gerhards @ Edfringe 2017

We Need to Talk About Bobby (off EastEnders) will be performing at the Edinburgh Fringe from the 14th-28th of August at 12:40pm daily at ZOO Southside (Venue 82).

Annie's thirteen and she wets the bed. After landing a huge role in a late-night television drama, she's left alone in an adult world, struggling to make sense of the things she is told to say on camera. Soon, Annie's comfortable childhood begins to fall apart. Charting the decline of a young TV actress, this daring new play explores society's uneasy fascination with child violence.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

The show started as a response to the EastEnders advert in which Bobby Beale is about to kill his mum; there’s a threatening shot of him coming towards her with a hockey stick and the audience is meant to be hooked in by the question of whether he will kill again.

We felt this was one of numerous examples of violent children being used to titillate audiences without exploring the actual experience of that child and why he had come to be so violent.

Our play isn’t about EastEnders and you certainly don’t need to know the show to enjoy it, but it situates itself a response to a genre of plays, films, songs and shows which focus on violent or psychopathic children.

Bobby responds to, amongst many others, EastEnders, Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin, “Punk Rock” by Simon Stephens, “I Don’t Like Mondays” by The Boomtown Rats and even the most recent episode of Sherlock.

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

I believe so, yes. Quite often we talk about the first moments of performance as people telling stories around a camp fire. Those stories were told to entertain people, to foster relationships and to teach each other about different lived experiences, how to handle threats, how to love etc.

I think going to the theatre still presents a space to do that and the live nature of performance, especially at the Fringe where audiences are particularly interactive and talk to each other more easily; making it the perfect space to stage shows which open up a conversation. We hope Bobby will be entertaining and captivating but what we want at the end is for people to be excited about what the show made them think about, not how we staged it.

How did you become interested in making performance?

The core Paperback team met whilst studying at the University of Warwick. We had all been interested in theatre and acting at school but it was at university where we became interested in making work. 

We have been heavily inspired by the swathes of emerging companies coming out of Warwick. The enthusiasm for and discipline of making new work that is fostered at the university has been a huge part of leading us to making the work we do now.

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

The process was fairly simple; once we had identified the themes we wanted to talk about the writer, George Atwell Gerhards, went away and wrote up a script. We felt that the best way to examine the topics we were looking at would be to tell one girl’s story in a simple way. This way we aren’t claiming the show to be representative of every child actor or every young girl. Also, we felt this was the best way to allow the audience to find their individual responses to the show rather than being told what to think.

Once the play was written myself (the director) and the writer  I spent a lot of time with the writer (who is co-director of Paperback) talking about how to structure the play, what we needed to show the audience, what we didn’t etc. We stuck the scene titles to our living room wall and spent a lot of time staring at them, moving them around and trying to cut out the unnecessary bits… like literary butchers trying to get something lean.

He’s also been popping in and out of rehearsals to see how we’re getting on. He’s a fantastic person to work with in that he’s not precious about the show and open to suggestions from the cast, which has helped them to get a real ownership of the text and their characters.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

Paperback are based in adaptation but we try to create shows which respond to a group of texts, films or stories rather than adapting one novel. We want our work to ask questions about the stories we choose to remember and the stories we make now. We are not tied to a particular genre or style of theatre; seeking always to choose and fuse the styles which most successfully serve the stories we want to tell and the audiences those pieces are directed at.

Our last production relied much more on the devising process in order to create the content of the show. Our next show - which will look at the prevalence of the “taming narrative” in modern rom-coms in order to explore the relationship between feminism, femininity and what it means to be vulnerable - will probably have a very different format which includes much more “live theatre” elements.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

Bobby, a three-hander, explores the experience of a child actor (Annie) who is cast in an adult TV drama. In our staging, we try to help the audience see the play through Annie’s eyes - to help them experience her confusion and isolation.

What I think the play does that I haven’t seen many other shows do is to explore our societal relationship with teenagers. We’re trying to open-up a dialogue about the best ways to protect, educate and safeguard young people, to talk about the fact that half of them are watching Game of Thrones and understand what implications that has. We hope that by the end the audience will be asking questions about how they talk to teenagers.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

We thought a lot about casting, about sound, and about how the design of the show could replicate the disorientating world of a T.V. set.
It was very important to us that the play showed the audience the world through Annie’s eyes. For that reason all the other characters are played by just two actors who switch between parts - we felt this helped to stage Annie’s disorientation and how it is difficult to understand, distinguish and trust adults when you are young.

In our sound design we also make use of the sound of TV static which is played at different intensities to reflect when Annie is feeling stressed, upset or disorientated. This came from us talking about how it felt to be a teenager, especially when experiencing the hormonal maelstrom that is puberty and reflecting on the fact that quite often it felt like your brain was straining with the stress of it all.

We Need to Talk About Bobby (off EastEnders), the debut play from George Attwell Gerhards, is a response to the depictions of “crazy child killers” in We Need to Talk About Kevin, Punk Rock - even the most recent series of Sherlock.

Produced by Paperback with the generous support of the Lord Rootes Memorial Fund, and the University of Warwick Vice Chancellor’s Fund.

Paperback are a West Midlands based theatre company formed in 2016 at the University of Warwick. They use a vigorous process of devising, writing and discussion, to ask questions about the stories we choose to remember and the stories we make now.

No comments :

Post a Comment