Friday, 15 September 2017

Unseasonal Thoughts on Foucault's preface to Anti-Oedipus (after Wild Bore)

In 1977, Foucault wrote a preface to the American edition of Anti-Oedipus. Seeing it as an expression of the spirit of the 1960s, he identifies Deleuze and Guattari as writers on ethics, and suggests a manifesto for political action based on a resistance to the joylessness of politics, both in the establishment and its antagonists. 

This manifesto follow, with the crucial shift from political to theatrical activity made by swapping out 'political' for 'theatrical' action.

Free theatrical action from all unitary and totalizing paranoia.

Develop action, thought, and desires by proliferation, juxtaposition, and disjunction, and not by subdivision and pyramidal hierarchization.

Withdraw allegiance from the old categories of the Negative (law, limit, castration, lack, lacuna), which Western thought has so long held sacred as a form of power and an access to reality. Prefer what is positive and multiple, difference over uniformity, flows over unities, mobile arrangements over systems. Believe that what is productive is not sedentary but nomadic.

Do not think that one has to be sad in order to be militant, even though the thing one is fighting is abominable. It is the connection of desire to reality (and not its retreat into the forms of representation) that possesses revolutionary force.

Do not use thought to ground a theatrical practice in Truth; nor theatrical action to discredit, as mere speculation, a line of thought. Use theatrical practice as an intensifier of thought, and analysis as a multiplier of the forms and domains for the intervention of theatrical action.

Do not demand of theatre that it restore the “rights” of the individual, as philosophy has defined them. The individual is the product of power. What is needed is to “de-individualize” by means of multiplication and displacement, diverse combinations. The group must not be the organic bond uniting hierarchized individuals, but a constant generator of de-individualization.

Do not become enamored of power.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Three Panels and types of drama

Some unseasonable thoughts on genre

So, after all the fun of the dramaturgy database,
Blanche & Butch. Credit Birds of Paradise 
here's one of those posts in which I give my big opinion on an important issue. 

And by important issue I mean, of course, something that no-one needs to give too much attention, unless they are a critic trying to work out what their job is supposed to mean.

Genre isn't something most theatre-makers worry about too much: Diderot points out that the artist tends to find a way to express whatever they want, and leave it to theorists to explain how they did it. Academics, and critics, on the other hand, have exhausted themselves in attempts to define the genres of theatre and performance, often following their own pet ideas until they collapse under the pressure of their own contradictions.

Gary Day's The Story of Drama is a case in point. Beginning with Athenian drama, he tries to prove that both comedy and tragedy are founded in ritual sacrifice, and becomes increasingly frustrated by theatre's refusal to express the process of death and rebirth in various historical periods. He blames Christianity for introducing the notion of lineal time, capitalism for financial obsessions and science... and the nuclear bomb for encouraging the absurdists to describe a hostile landscape that no sacrifice can save. He draws on Freud, and pagan religious practice, to give performance a spiritual and social purpose, but becomes frustrated by theatre-makers' refusal to follow the script.

Back in the day - that is, when Aristotle kicked off theatre criticism with his Poetics, there were only two genres: tragedy and comedy. Despite the debates that have lasted for two millennia, the division between them is pretty easy to mark: one's sad, the other is funny. Unfortunately, there are art works that aren't playing for laughs or tears. So other genres had to be invented. Diderot came up with one during the Enlightenment, and called it (with his usual modesty) le drame. It's a bourgeois dramaturgy that can have a happy ending, but it is not full of chuckles. In fact, it is sometimes known as 'the crying theatre', because the characters are always in tears.

Anyway, I think I'll have a crack at defining some genres. Since I'm all about the comic books, I am going to distill them into three panel descriptions. Let's see how that works out for me.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Blanche and Butch Dramaturgy: Robert Softley Gale @ BOP

Award-winning theatre company Birds of Paradise team up with Tron Theatre to present dazzling new drag show, Blanche & Butch.

Birds of Paradise and Tron Theatre present brand new co-production, Blanche & Butch; a dazzling new drag show that tells the witty and poignant story of three disabled drag queens.

As a trio, they used to be part of the sensational Heelz n Wheelz. Now there's not much sensation left. The glitz, glamour and sparkles have faded and, instead, they find themselves backstage at a down at heel production of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Inspired by Noel Greig's original production Heelz n Wheelz, Blanche & Butch pulls back the curtain and tells the deeply touching story of three men and their lives, loves and losses.

Written by Robert Softley Gale, who will star alongside Garry Robson and Kinny Gardner, Blanche & Butch is an outrageous new show that challenges the boundaries of PC, through high quality camp and original storytelling.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
There was a show that Garry - my fellow AD at BOP - and I were in around twelve years ago called Heels and Wheels. It was about disabled drag queens and written by Noel Greig, who was part of Gay Sweatshop in the 1970s. 

Heels was a dark and macabre piece - Blanche & Butch takes some of the same
characters and shows them now, as they're touring a production of the iconic film/play 'Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?'. This play is more in the style of Torch Song Trilogy or Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert.

Is performance still a good space for

the public discussion of ideas?
I really hope so - otherwise I'm in the wrong field! Theatre allows us to put ideas out in to the world without necessarily giving answers or conclusions, which makes it unlike a lot of other forms. I still hold on to the idea that theatre allows us to present a version of the world that we want to live in.

How did you become interested in making performance?
In my childhood and teens I'd been involved in amateur theatre, but only ever backstage - designing lights or directing. The idea of a physically disabled person in stage in that context would've been very strange. 

When I was at university - business management - I was approached by a company in Edinburgh that had a troupe of resident disabled actors. I thought my chances of getting the job were very slim but I did - and now 15 years on I'm still going!

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
The main job so far has been pulling together the best possible team - director/designer Kenny Miller is renowned in the UK for his 'camp aesthetic', dramaturg Philip Osment was a friend of Noel's and brings a wealth of knowledge. 

We've got the best possible performers for the show (but I would say that as I'm in it!) and every other member of the team are the perfect people to be making the show that I've been imagining for many years.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?
It probably does, in that we're again pushing at boundaries while making a show that will be very entertaining. This is the first play with music that I've helped create for BOP, so in that we're going in new directions. But we're still embedding access - audio description, BSL and captions - in interesting ways and telling new and engaging stories.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
They're going to laugh - a lot. We're pushing things with Blanche & Butch in terms of what we're allowed to say on stage so I imagine some people will be pretty shocked by the way these characters talk to one another but the audience are also going to be touched by the glimpse they get in to their lives.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
We're using some familiar forms in this show - it's a backstage show with three actors bitching to one another and telling their stories. Some of the songs will be very familiar. So it making a show that'll really challenge the audience we also want to give them an experience that feels friendly and welcoming.

Directed and designed by Kenny Miller, Blanche & Butch will include original songs by Akintayo Akinbode, with live music played by Amelia Cavallo.

Talking about Blanche & ButchWriter Robert Softley Gale said:
'As a disabled, queer man I look to different camps to work out where I fit in to the world. Drag queens have always intrigued me.

Blanche & Butch is a personal and political production that surrounds three disabled drag queens. It has taken over a decade to write and looks to explore gender, identity, equality and disability through cabaret, camp songs and frocks.'

Commenting on the co-production Andy Arnold, Artistic Director of Tron Theatre, said:
We’re delighted to be co-producing Blanche & Butch with Birds of Paradise this autumn and to be associated with a team whose track record in producing original, challenging and hilarious new work is second to none’.

Blanche & Butch Company

Written by:        Robert Softley Gale
Directed & Designed by:  Kenny Miller
Dramaturgy by:        Philip Osmond
Lighting Design by:   Grant Anderson
Live Music by:        Amelia Cavallo
Music Directed by:    Akintayo Akinbode
Starring:        Robert Softley Gale, Garry Robson and Kinny Gardner

Writer Robert Softley Gale is an

established figure in the Scottish arts scenes with over sixteen years of experience as a writer, director, actor, performer and advocate. 

He is Artistic Director of Birds of Paradise Theatre Company and alongside writing, has directed smash-hit sex comedy ‘Wendy Hoose’ and ‘Purposeless Movements’, for which he was nominated for Best Director at the CATS awards. 

Director and Designer Kenny Miller
 works as a freelance director and designer, after undertaking the roles of Associate Director and Head of Design at the Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow. 

He has worked in Theatre and Opera both nationally and internationally, in designing and directing, and has won three Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland (CATS) for his work.

Blanche & Butch Tour Dates
14 – 16 Sept, 7.45pm: Tron Theatre, Glasgow    
19 Sept, 7.30pm: Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock 
21 Sept, 7.30pm: Lochgelly Centre, Lochgelly  
23 Sept, 7.30pm: Macrobert, Stirling 
27 Sept, 7.30pm: The Byre, St Andrews     
28 Sept, 7.30pm: Woodend Barn, Banchory 

2 Oct, 7.30pm:  Eden Court, Inverness
4 Oct, 7.30pm:  Dundee Rep, Dundee
5 Oct, 7.00pm:  Platform, Glasgow
7 Oct, 7.30pm:  Eastwood Park Theatre
10 Oct, 8.00pm: The Gaiety, Ayr 
11 Oct, 7.30pm: Cat Strand, Castle Douglas
13 – 14 Oct: Summerhall, Edinburgh
Closing as part of Luminate with International Cabaret to end tour.

About Birds of Paradise Theatre Company

Birds of Paradise Theatre is a Scottish-based touring theatre company. It employs disabled and non-disabled actors and theatre professionals, commissions new work, and works in partnership with other organisations to create positive images of inclusion, and encourage participation in the arts.

The Tron Theatre Company is currently under the artistic leadership of Andy Arnold, who took up the position of Artistic Director and Chief Executive in 2008. The Tron Theatre presents the people of Glasgow and the West of Scotland with outstanding professional productions of the finest new writing, with an emphasis on world, UK and Scottish premieres. 

Further Information
Birds of Paradise Theatre Company is a Regularly Funded Organisation (RFO), is awarded Projects and Programmes funding from Creative Scotland, and is supported by Glasgow City Council.