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.

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