Tuesday, 8 August 2017

You Forgot the Dramaturgy: Francesca Joy @ Edfringe 2017

IMAGINE IF presents
FROM 7 – 28 AUGUST 2017

Following a hugely successful 2016 tour to theatres and prisons in the North of England, You Forgot the Mince, presented by Imagine If and written by Francesca Joy, will run at The Pleasance Courtyard during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 7 – 28 August 2017 (excl. 21 August). This will be followed by a London run in September and an Autumn tour of prisons and theatres (details to be announced).

Inspired by real life events and set in Leeds, this gritty piece of new writing tells the story of a modern day abusive relationship: ‘Rosa lives with her grandma Lily. She’s just finished college and she can’t wait to leave Yorkshire and all the people in it … until she meets Niko. They fall head over heels in love, and the future’s looking bright. But their love for each other is tested to the limit; Rosa leaves for London, Niko ends up in prison and Lily won’t stop baking cakes. Everyone’s world is falling apart, but no-one’s talking about it. How are they going to get their lives back on course?’


What was the inspiration for this performance?
Growing up in the working-class communities of Castleford, West Yorkshire, which, like so much of our country, suffered so much from the post-Industrial Revolution decline, I was exposed to the difficulties people in my community experienced with abuse and interacting with the UK criminal and care systems.  My aim has always been to represent the voices of people traditionally overlooked in the arts - I founded my company (Imagine If) to work with offenders, ex-offenders, those with mental health issues, addicts and recovering addicts, young adults in the care system and those from disadvantaged backgrounds so that their voices may be heard, so that our audiences can know that the struggle is real but also that there are choices to be made that can improve the lives of the thousands of people in this country who feel side-lined or ignored.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 
I think it’s one of the most powerful, it allows people from all walks of life to experience a different perspective or to know that their own feelings are not unique – that there are ways to get support, that they are not alone.  It also provides a safe environment to challenge ingrained beliefs and help people to identify their own behaviour patterns which hopefully empowers the individual to make a difference in their own life and that of others.

How did you become interested in making performance?
I developed these characters whilst working at the West Yorkshire Playhouse as a way of articulating the anger I felt seeing people from less advantaged backgrounds being discriminated against and denied opportunity.  The Arts is enriched and emboldened by diversification – conflict is at the heart of drama and without facilitating a broad range of voices it will always fail to have an impact – both socially and economically.  Coming up against so many walls, I wanted to kick the door down and open up opportunities for those who might have felt that the arts was an unreachable goal or somehow didn’t represent the world they identified with.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
When I was writing the play I spoke to hundreds of people who live in the communities the characters come from as well as interviewing people involved in working with people who identify as abused or abusers.  Imagine If regularly holds drama workshops and facilitates drama-based projects in prisons across Yorkshire so the experiences of offenders and the prison staff was a huge influence.  In addition, I moved into some of the communities mentioned in the play to gain real-life experience of what the people we talk about in the play experience on a day-to-day basis.

Gradually, through working with Mark Catley (Casualty) who came on board as dramaturg, I distilled and concentrated the play into an intense snapshot of these characters lives and the destructive power of their relationships.

Following that stage, we developed the play in two separate research and development stages in 2014/2015 before embarking on a national tour in 2016 where we engaged with audiences who provided valuable insight into the power of the play on their own lives.  Now in 2017, we present the evolution of the whole process – the play is constantly developing and morphing as we understand more about the conditions and experiences of people in similar real-life situations and the collaboration with the actors has increased the density of the fabric of the play which allows it to speak to everyone.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?
Our mission is to create theatre that is inspiring, entertaining and unashamedly honest for our audiences. Authenticity is ingrained in our work – You Forgot The Mince is an excellent example of the theatre we create.  It is based on the world around us comprising real stories from real people and has a social conscience at its heart.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
We saw in 2016 that it is a play that causes great reflection in the audience – of their own lives and how their relationships are formed, maintained and cared for.  The line between an abusive relationship and one we would consider to be perfectly normal is so fine – when does our need for love or control of our own lives develop into something which is harmful to our loved ones?  The media tend to portray quite a binary version of domestic abuse – man hits woman (or vice versa) – but the play sets out to challenge that assumption and identify other behaviours which constitute abuse and illustrate that there are far more factors at play in a relationship that has become abusive.  We seek not to excuse the behaviour of our characters, but to explore it and help the audience understand that they can chose to take a different path.  One of the charities I spoke to during my research, Behind Closed Doors, identifies emotional, financial and sexual abuses, among many others, in the people they help – we hope that the play will offer the audience an insight into how they can avoid entering the cycle of abuse in the first place or identify the need to change their actions if they are already in one.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
Authenticity is the key to all our productions, but especially for You Forgot The Mince.  In reflecting real people’s lives and treating their stories with sympathy and care we can allow the audience to fall in love with the characters before opening up the drama of their lives in order to hold a mirror up to the audience.  Reality is key, despite its gritty subject matter the play is actually hugely funny and tender and it is a fully theatrical experience, White & Givan (Milk, Traverse Theatre) have provided the Movement Direction and there is a fully composed score by Ed Clarke (Frankenstein, NT) which brings out emotions, themes and thoughts that text alone would not be able to deal with.  It was important to me as a writer and a Producer to have a multi-disciplinary production in order to speak to as many people as possible.

Francesca Joy conceived, researched and wrote You Forgot The Mince supported by dramaturg Mark Catley (BBC). Francesca, who is also Founding Artistic Director of Imagine If, grew up in care from the age of 15, and she has experienced various forms of abuse throughout her life. As a trained actor, writer and producer, Francesca uses her first-hand experience to inform the art which Imagine If creates and she is passionate about working with those underrepresented in the arts. She says: You Forgot the Mince is a story about what we do to protect those around us and how we fuck them up in the process. It is about real people and the journeys they choose to go on in life. How we love and how we hurt. The characters came to me long before the story did. I was inspired by my own relationships with those close to me, those around me, and the people I passed on the street. I am inspired by people and the ability they have to change their own behaviour. I hope You Forgot the Mince inspires others to change too.”

You Forgot The Mince is performed by Francesca Joy, Ursula Mohan and Prince Plockey. It is directed by Stephen Whitson (UK Associate Director on the West End transfer of the Broadway hit show Hamilton and currently Associate Director of 42nd Street at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane). Movement is by award-winning choreographers Errol White and Davina Givan, of White & Givan, and sound by Ed Clarke.

The production features an amalgamation of verbatim text, original text and physical theatre accompanied by an original score. The interactions between the characters poignantly highlight the stark reality of control and coercion, interlaced with humour and normality. 

Imagine If is a Leeds-based theatre company and charity, founded in 2014, which tours new writing to theatres and prisons across the UK. Its productions are based on the world around us comprising real stories from real people, placing those without a voice at the forefront of each Imagine If production. As well as theatre productions, Imagine If runs a range of drama-based workshops across the UK with offenders, ex-offenders, those with mental health issues, recovering addicts, young adults in the care system and those from disadvantaged backgrounds. You Forgot the Mince had an extensive research phase including drama workshops in HMP Leeds and with ex-offenders within the community.

You Forgot the Mince runs from 7 – 28 August (exc. 21 August) at the Pleasance Courtyard.  Tickets, priced £6.50 - £10 (‘2 for 1’ tickets on 7 and 8 August), are available from the Pleasance Box Office: https://www.pleasance.co.uk/event/you-forgot-mince and Telephone Booking: 0131 556 6550. Imagine If are supporting young adults in care with four free tickets available for every show

Show: You Forgot the Mince
Theatre company: Imagine If
Dates: 7 – 28 August (no performance 21 August)
Times: 1.00pm
Venue: Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33), 60 Pleasance, Edinburgh EH8 9TJ
Duration: 60 minutes (no interval)
Suitability: ages 12+.  Performance contains brief depictions of violence
Prices (standard/concession): £7.50/£6.50: Mon 14, Tues 15, Tues 22, Mon 28;  £9.00/£8.00: Weds 9, Thu 10, Weds 16, Thu 17, Weds 23, Thu 24; £10.00/£9.00: Mon 7, Tues 8, Fri 11, Sat 12, Sun 13, Fri 18, Sat 19, Sun 20, Fri 25, Sat 26, Sun 27
(Concessions available - valid for anyone under 18 years old, registered students, registered unemployed, registered disabled, or over 60 years old. ID required).
7 and 8 August: 2 for 1’ ticket offer available
Imagine If are supporting young adults in care with four free tickets available for every show

Alison Duguid, Press & Comms Consultant: Alison@AduguidPR.com  / 07934 375492. 
To book review tickets for this show please email the Pleasance Press Office press@pleasance.co.uk and cc: Alison@AduguidPR.com  


·      FRANCESCA JOY began writing and touring her own stand-up comedy sets in 2012, which led to a real passion for all styles of writing and she began script writing the following year in 2013, after securing a place on the West Yorkshire Playhouse's writing course. Theatre writing credits include: You Forgot the Mince (UK Tour), Displaced (Carriageworks Theatre), Mairzy Doats (Headingley Literary Festival), Doing Time (West Yorkshire Playhouse). Film writing credits include: Bunny Girls (Black Hat Pictures), Noughts and Crosses (Chocolate Bear UK). Francesca has been professionally acting for television and stage since she graduated from her theatre training in 2012.  Theatre credits include: The Musicians (National Theatre), In or Out (Seven Arts), Rastaroots (Contact Theatre) Dick Whittington (UK Tour), My Mother Said I Never Should (Carriageworks). Screen credits include: Falling (Mojofilm), Emmerdale (ITV), Trapped Magic (Cloud Castle Entertainment), Bunny Girls (Black Hat Pictures), Ex-Men: The Care Home Wars (Alec Birkbeck Films), Lovebite (West End Films).
·      STEPHEN WHITSON trained at The Arts Educational Schools, London. Theatre Directing credits include: The Last Five Years and Putting It Together (The Lyric, Belfast), Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens (Criterion, London), Little Women (Old Rep, Birmingham), Return To The Forbidden Planet (SWG3, Glasgow), Dubailand (Finborough), If Only… (Bread & Roses, London), Circuit Breaker (Timewave Festival), and The Wizard of Oz (St. Ives Theatre). Upcoming work: Benighted (Old Red Lion), 42nd Street (Associate Director - Theatre Royal, Drury Lane) and Hamilton (UK Associate Director - Victoria Palace Theatre).
·      URSULA MOHAN began her acting career at Wimbledon Theatre before winning a scholarship to train at The Webber Douglas. She has just played Flo in a one-woman show called Florence Smith - Now & Then which will tour in 2018 and last year she played Lear as a Queen in a revival of the 2014 critically acclaimed production of Shakespeare’s King Lear (Tristan Bates and Union Theatre.) Other recent work includes: Hecuba in The Women of Troy and Mother in Blood Wedding, (Scoop); Sarah in Horniman’s Choice and Mrs Midget in Outward Bound (Finborough); Mrs Goulding in The Veil (National) Mrs Tottendale in The Drowsy Chaperone (Gatehouse); Mrs Fox in Dads Army (UK Tour); and Fairy Godmother in Cinderella (Hertford). She has appeared in Doctors (BBC).
·      PRINCE PLOCKEY trained at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. His theatre credits include the European tour of The Life and Death of Martin Luther King for TNT Theatre directed by Paul Stebbings (MBE). For Lazarus Theatre Company he played Giovanni in Tis Pity She’s A Whore, Tamburlaine in Tamburlaine the Great, Coriolanus in Coriolanus, Agamemnon in Troilus & Cressida, directed by Ricky Dukes and Gloucester/King Richard in Richard III directed by Gavin Harrington-Odedra.


·      Pleasance Edinburgh opened as part of the 1985 Festival Fringe with two theatres facing onto a deserted courtyard-come-car-park at an unfashionable eastern end of Edinburgh’s Old Town. Thirtythree seasons later the Pleasance has become the largest and most highly respected venues at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, with an international profile and a network of alumni that reads like a Who’s Who of contemporary comedy, drama and entertainment.   @ThePleasance #ThePleasance Facebook.com/ThePleasance

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