Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Old Dramaturgy: Jess Thorpe @ Platform

Do you remember when we used to go camping? And when you helped me make an ATM out of cardboard for my school project? Do you remember when you bought a big plane from town and showed me how to build it? Do you realise what a big impact you have had on who I am?

OLD BOY is a brand new show about the unique bond between grandfathers and grandsons.
It features the real relationships of men and boys of various ages from Glasgow in an attempt to explore the love that is shared between men in families and the legacy passed down through generations in Scotland.

Platform, The Bridge, 1000 Westerhouse Road, Glasgow, G34 9JW

What was the inspiration for this performance?

OLD BOY is piece of theatre exploring male relationships across generations and ideas of legacy and connection in Scottish men.
It’s an idea we’ve had for ages. Right back since after we first made Hand Me Down in 2010 and worked with a family of women from Port Glasgow around similar themes. This show allowed us a deep process of engagement with women about the love they had for each other and the things they felt were passed down through their family ties. 

It was all about the things they felt they they learned from their mothers, their grandmothers and the hopes they had for their daughters. It was about the things that they meant to each other.

For the time we worked on Hand Me Down (and still today) we were moved and inspired by these women and what working with them made us think and questions about love and connection in families.

And so we wanted to make another piece. This time about men. About the bonds that are shared and the complexity of love and legacy in male family relationships. We wanted to share this and see this and celebrate this and understand this.

I have a 3 year old son and the process of watching him and my dad build a relationship has been fascinating for me. It has led me to question the things that need to be taken forward and the things that are better left behind. Of the nature of what it means to be a man. To be in in a family. To love other people. To keep making sense of complicated things.

So now we are finally making OLD BOY. It’s piece we first scratched with Luminate and Platform in Easterhouse in 2015 and are now working on the full production of which will be presented as part of the Luminate Festival in October 2017.

The piece is made up of a sequence of three duets performed by:
A 2 year old boy and his grandfather
A 11 year old boy and his grandfather
A 21 year old man and his grandfather

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

For me as a maker and as someone who goes to see theatre I believe Performance is still a crucial platform with which we reflect on the world in which we live. It's a form which asks us to be in a room which each other and actively think and feel about the thoughts and ideas of others. 

I think it is more than just a public discussion of ideas but a way of sharing something of what it means to be human. To make a connection that helps to remind us that in lots of ways - we are in it together. 

How did you become interested in making performance?

I have been interested in  making performance for as long as I can remember. Since I was 6 and I started first casting my 4 year old brother in plays I had written for my Mum and her friends to watch. I like to think I have gotten a little better at some parts of the creative process since then but my reason for making is still the same. I love people and telling stories. I love sharing these stories with others and having conversations as a result. That's it really.

In 2000 I went to the RCS (then RSAMD) to study Contemporary Theatre Practice and I joined a community in Glasgow that made sense to me and felt exciting and progressive. It was there met my collaborator Tashi Gore and we formed Glas(s) Performance. Everything since then has been a practice made out of our shared love of people and stories.

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

We always work within a devising process where we collaborate with the performers involved to explore the personal stories and moments that will help us unlock the universal themes of the work.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

So much of the work we make as Glas(s) Performance is about love and about what we mean to each other as human beings. This means that we often have to tread the careful path of not simply creating a chocolate box image of how things are. We have to try find ways to explore the complexity and the challenge of relationships – to examine the context that led to things being the way they are – to try and touch on the joy and the pain of things in equal but careful measure in our larger attempt to look at what is most human in all of us.

OLD BOY is no different. 

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

A sense of connection to those men and boys on stage and an appreciation of their stories and the ideas and experiences they are sharing. 

To recognise something of their own lives and the relationships and social histories that have/do impact them.

To reflect on the nature of male familial love and legacy and the larger ideas of masculinity and what is passed down between generations of men from the west of Scotland.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

We thought about who goes to the theatre and who doesn't and why. We tried to make connections with new people and have a new set of conversations we hadn't had before. 

We have been quite active in making relationships with older communities in Easterhouse and providing access points for people from across the community to be able to come and see the show. That feels important to us.

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