Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Gut Dramaturgy: Frances Poet @ Traverse

· A taut psychological thriller exploring who we can trust with our children, written by award-winning playwright Frances Poet

· Shortlisted for the 2016 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting

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

Absolutely. This is where theatre is king. It’s not just the conversations in the bar at the interval and post-show, it’s the fact that when we watch together, the feeling of our communal response is palpable. 

Those gasp moments in the theatre where we feel a collective shock about what we are witnessing is how we gauge how our reactions tally with those around us. It’s a visceral shared experience that can unlock an idea with more force than any debate. And it’s an experience you just can’t get watching a movie at home alone.    

How did you become interested in making performance?

I have worked in theatre my whole career. I was a script reader then a Literary Manager and dramaturg for just short of a decade before I had my children. Pausing for a year of maternity leave with my son, awoke an impulse to write that I hadn’t allowed to flourish before. I left my job as Literary Manager at the National Theatre of Scotland shortly after returning from maternity leave six years ago and have been writing ever since.      

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

I’ll be better placed to answer this when we start rehearsals next month. But early conversations with the director, Zinnie Harris, about how she plans to realise the ideas of the play have been very exciting.  

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

The work I’ve had in production since my One Act debut play, Faith Fall, has been mostly adaptations of classics; free adaptations of Molière, Strindberg and Racine. Even Adam, which was my highest profile project to date and which won a number of awards at the Edinburgh Festival last year was an adaptation of sorts, in that I was serving both Cora Bisset’s stage concept as well as the biographical details of the extraordinary man it was based on and who starred in it. So in some ways Gut feels like my first full length play as it serves no other master but my own ideas. 

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

Gut is a psychological thriller. First and foremost, I hope an audience will be engaged and excited by it. I think it could provoke strong reactions. When it comes to how we raise our children, people tend to have a strong emotional response and I can’t wait to hear the discussions coming out of the theatre.        

Written by Fringe First award-winning playwright Frances Poet (Adam), and directed by Traverse Associate Director Zinnie Harris – herself Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland’s ‘Best Director’ 2016-17, and winner of a Herald Angel for her trio of productions at Edinburgh Festival 2017 (Meet Me at Dawn, Rhinoceros and This Restless House).

Gut centres on Maddy and Rory, devoted parents committed to keeping their three-year-old son happy and safe. But when an everyday visit to a supermarket café turns into a far more troubling incident, their trust even in those closest to them is shattered.

A taut psychological thriller exploring our instincts when it comes to who we can trust with our children, Gut ultimately asks the question of whether it is perhaps more dangerous not to trust at all.

Gut was shortlisted for the 2016 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting.

Frances Poet, Writer, says:

‘I wrote the first draft of Gut when my kids were two and four. I was in the eye of the parenting storm: exhausted, fire-fighting and looking at the world with new eyes. My daily stimulus was fellow parents with one topic of conversation – how to keep our children not just happy and well, but safe. Was it OK to leave the kids in the car while we paid for our petrol? Or to fall asleep while our children were playing? Could we trust other people with our kids? There appeared to be no rule book and everybody’s gut instinct led them to form different judgements. Out of these funny and impassioned conversations, Gut was born. It’s a thriller that asks big questions about the world in which we live and with that I hope it will challenge and excite parents and non-parents alike.’

Zinnie Harris, Director, says:

‘I am delighted to be working with the wonderful Frances Poet on her new play. Frances has a strong dramatic imagination and knows how to tell a compelling story; Gut explores vital themes about parenthood and how we raise our children safely within a culture of fear. It puts a woman at the centre of the play – exploring in a theatrical and thought-provoking way her responses, and the fine line between what is rational and what is irrational.’

Orla O’Loughlin, Traverse Artistic Director, says:

‘I am thrilled that Gut by the brilliant Frances Poet will be the centrepiece of our Spring/Summer 2018 programme and part of Jackie Wylie’s inaugural programme for National Theatre of Scotland. This is a very timely play – a razor sharp thriller that explores the challenges of contemporary family life. Gut asks big, pertinent questions about trust and responsibility and at its heart is a study of how far we should go to keep those we love safe. It is great to be working with National Theatre of Scotland on this bold and contemporary world premiere, and also celebrating their reimagining of Midsummer – a former Traverse premiere – which they will restage at Edinburgh International Festival next August.’

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Tuesday 24 April-Saturday 12 May (previews 20 & 21 April)

Box Office: 0131 228 1404 

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