Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Freckled Dramaturgy: Ali Anderson-Dyer @ Dumfries

World Premier Drama and New Poetry Explore the Limits of Love
Bunbury Banter and Dumfries Theatre Royal are gearing up for Freckle, the third groundbreaking Play, Poet & Pastry event.

A Perthshire playwright and Dumfries poet are joining forces for a groundbreaking performing arts initiative at Scotland’s oldest working theatre.

Giles Conisbee, from Pitlochry, and police officer turned poet JoAnne McKay have been selected for the third of four Play, Poet and Pastry (PPP) evenings that offer world premier drama, brand new poetry and a live post-performance discussion.
Taking place for one night only at the Theatre Royal, on Friday 26 January, the event will centre on Giles’ newly written play called Freckle which explores the limits of love.
A Play, A Poet and A Pastry has been devised by Dumfries and Galloway-based Bunbury Banter Theatre Company to bring high quality theatre and poetry to audiences in south-west Scotland.
It’s also designed to generate a genuine sense of spontaneity throughout. The poet’s task is to respond to the play – and have a strictly limited time in which to work.
The two-person cast faces an even stricter challenge, having just a fortnight and two rehearsals before going on stage.
Freckle introduces the audience to Stevie and Aoife, a couple whose lives are engulfed by a horror from their past.
Married, mortgaged, model parents – they were just like the rest of their suburban neighbourhood. They are now back together after an enforced separation and trying to put their lives back together in a world awash with guilt, pain and regret; recriminations as much a part of the household as taking the bins out and making the school run.
As the gulf between them widens, reaching out to each other and bridging the chasm seems harder than simply slipping into the abyss.
The performances will be followed by a discussion involving the cast, playwright and poet in the theatre’s studio over pastries.
Bunbury Banter are specialists in new and experimental theatre and have recently produced Blackout to much acclaim, worked with the National Theatre of Scotland on the Five-Minute Festival, and a web-based audio production called Mortar which starred Timothy West, Prunella Scales and Nichola McAuliffe.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

It’s a play in development called ‘Freckle’ which follows the story of a couple’s struggle to live with the ramifications of a past mistake made my one of them, and how they both attempt to prevent this destroying their future. Freckle questions whether there is a limit to love and if there should be. Although not his own, our playwright tells me the script is inspired by a true story. 
The concept of our performance comes from the question of how we might visualise the psychological response to trauma from an emotive point of view and if we can find a way of commenting on this, allowing our audience to be immersed in the world, whilst keeping them safe. 

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

Absolutely. I believe that live performance can touch us perhaps more than any other medium, as it’s living, breathing and unfolding right in front of you. You experience the story with all of your senses, and being within the action (often literally) encourages a response which is first immediate and then allows us time for this to develop, and perhaps even change, whilst discussing with others.

How did you become interested in making performance?
I always wanted to act, ever since I was little but after drama school I discovered, alongside a healthy dose of stage fright, that my passion actually lay in the collaborative creation and subsequent staging, of stories and worlds, rather than just being in them. When working as an actor, whilst many of the productions I was in utilised this, I quickly realised that those which didn’t left me unfulfilled and frustrated… leading to one friend of mine (who was also a director whom I’d worked with many times) asking me whether I had considered directing theatre. 

As these things go, for some reason in that moment and at that precise time in my life, I heard his suggestion and it truly resonated with me. It resulted in my embarking on an MA and immediately (after 24 years of acting, this was within days!) realising where my love of theatre really came from and that it was the creation of what I was imagining - the experience an audience might have and the pictures I could see on the stage - which really excited me. Since then I have been making theatre of all kinds. Although I might venture onto the stage again for the right project, becoming a director has allowed me to use all my talent, experience and even my oddities, for something which I love so much more.

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

As a director I am like a magpie; picking and choosing different elements and processes depending on the project we are working on; a site specific piece’s needs are different from a classical piece of theatre, for example. However, all my work comes from the understanding that we are storytellers and that each story/play we create lives for only a brief second and then can never be recreated the same again; similar but not completely the same. This means we always spend time working together to generate an ensemble within the company, researching and learning about themes and/or subjects relevant to the play and then, move onto analysing the script, exploring the structure of the play and sharing our own responses and relevant experience. This brings us all onto the same page, ensuring we are telling the same story, with the same shared knowledge -  together. All this happens before or alongside the ‘usual’ areas of rehearsal such as blocking and working through sections of the play.

There are other things which we might also explore, these could include improvisation and physicality and movement, music and voice work, stage combat and circus skills (to name a few!) but of course, all these are completely production dependent. 

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

In a way it does, since every show I make comes through the same structural process and all our work is focused on encouraging the audience to think and question themselves in some way. Plus, it has the same detailed aesthetic, strong use of audio and rigorous approach to creating character and worlds authentic to the creatives involved.

It is of course different in its being a semi-staged reading and having come from a script which works within this platform (the evening teams a play with poetry and is rounded off by pastry eating!) rather than the company’s wider artistic aims or ambitions. That is not to say we might not have looked to work on something similar, it’s just the structure of the event demands very different things from our usual creation/production process. 

All that said, and with reflection, I tend to think that we are continually evolving as people and creatives - and the company is no different. I hope that none of our future projects will be classed as ‘usual’ and that we always find ways of developing the direction we are taking. Plus, as a company our aim is always to present high quality work for our audiences and because they (like the world around us) are forever changing, the need and type of work, in my opinion, should reflect this and remain fluid and flexible to the climate around us.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

It is a moving play suggesting that everything in our lives can change in an instant; how one decision or mistake often has a ripple effect which reaches far beyond that moment or the people immediately involved. I hope it encourages the audience to reflect on this as an idea and perhaps pause before making future decisions in their own lives, such as those featured in the play.

The story also encourages all of us to ask what we might do or how we might react personally in such a situation; reminding us that no one is untouchable by trauma and maybe even challenging us to imagine the worst. Perhaps by doing so, it also gives us the freedom to reinvestigate the blessings we have in our own lives, offering us the chance to value the important bits just that little bit more.

Philip Anderson-Dyer, Producer and co-founder of Bunbury Banter, said: “Live art is always challenging, but we have designed PPP to push this much further in order to get the freshest possible performances – and it’s proving a great success.
“The first two events went down a storm with the audiences and Freckle will hopefully build on this as it involves another exciting playwright, and a highly accomplished poet, and focuses on compelling emotional themes.”

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