Friday, 20 July 2018

South Bend Dramaturgy: Ben Harrison @ Edfringe 2018

South Bend 
By Martin McCormick
Directed by Ben Harrison
Foley Artistry by David Pollock
Video Design by Lewis den Hertog
Set & Costume Design by Claire Halleran
Cast: Martin McCormick and Jess Chanliau

South Bend
By Martin McCormick
Presented by Grid Iron in association with Platform
Directed by Ben Harrison
Foley Artistry by David Pollock
Video Design by Lewis den Hertog
Set & Costume Design by Claire Halleran
Cast: Martin McCormick and Jess Chanliau

In 2006 Martin McCormick flew across the Atlantic to be reunited with a woman he had fallen passionately in love with. But in the four months of their absence she had changed. Changed her hair colour. Her body shape, her address. And almost as soon as he’s arrived he’s on the road again, penniless and hallucinating.
South Bend muses on journeys, on the dusty road, on long-distance love dissolving into the pixilated blur of Skype, on the vast distances of the Atlantic Ocean and the American continent and of men and women separated by a common language.
 “Strangers would buy you drinks in bars because, ‘Hey, are you Scottish?  This guy’s Scottish!  Everyone!  EVERYONE! LISTEN UP!  This guy is Scottish.  That’s awesome, man. Lemme buy you a drink dude.  My last name is McDonnell!!”
“That’s actually Irish, but I’ll have a bottle of Corona thanks…”
Performed by Martin McCormick and Jess Chanliau, who plays all the other parts, and underscored by the live foley artist David Pollock, South Bend is a road movie for the stage - of hope, of love, of Eddie Izzard and an AIDS blanket. Of a small country and a vast one…of a good Samaritan and a relationship gone bad…

What was the inspiration for this performance?

The inspiration was Martin McCormick's own true story of falling in love with an American, and with America, when he was a drama student from Glasgow on an exchange programme with California Institute of the Arts in LA in 2006. I first worked with Martin ten years ago when he was in the Grid Iron/Dundee Rep co-production Yarn. We went for a drink at the end of the first week and he told me his incredible story.

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

Live performance is more important than ever. It is the best means for disseminating truth, which we need now more than before in this era of fake news. You can't edit a performer who is standing in front of you, you can't exaggerate the numbers in the audience, or create a different impression from what is actually happening with a zoom or a top shot.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I thought I was the best actor in the country when I was 16. I was going to be the new Kenneth Branagh. I didn't like the idea of directors so I formed an ensemble of actors including myself when I was 17. But I became the director by default. I kept trying to get into Central and Bristol Old Vic theatre schools as an actor and eventually Maggie Kinloch, who ran the postgraduate programme at Central, suggested that I apply the following year as a director. 

I got in immediately and have been working as a professional theatre director ever since. On July 21st I will have been directing for 30 years. 

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

I always approach rehearsals in the same spirit: to be open, to be playful, to create a safe space for the actors to take risks, make mistakes and be foolish if they need to be. I take a strongly physical approach, with a yoga style warm up each morning and a notorious exercise where we all throw sticks at each other. The particularity of this show is that we have the author performing in it so that's an amazing resource. The content of the show also chimes with my recent personal history so that's a bonus. I have an additional insight into the subject matter.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

Grid Iron are best known for our site-based work. When we began in 1995 we were the only Scottish site-based theatre company and were regarded as pioneers in the form. Now, with site work being much more ubiquitous, it is just as interesting for us to work in theatres, as we are with South Bend

The recipe is always the same for us, to find the perfect match of site and subject. And sometimes that site is a theatre. At the Gilded Balloon we are in a lecture theatre-style space which fits with our grungy TED talk aesthetic for this show.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

I hope they will laugh, reflect on the differences between the States and Scotland, revel in the exoticism of foreign travel and experience the glory and pain of young love.

Martin McCormick has previously worked with Grid Iron as an actor, first in 2008 in Yarn, its co-production with Dundee Rep and again in 2010 when his performance in its 10th anniversary remount of Decky Does a Bronco gained him a Best Actor nomination in The Stage awards. He has since become one of Scotland’s most exciting emerging playwrights and winner of Best New Play (CATS 2015 for Squash).
Grid Iron has a long track record of producing excellent and popular work at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and is excited about performing in an actual venue for only the second time in its twenty-year Fringe history. While the script does not demand a site-specific presentation, the production style will resemble a TED talk, making the most of the lecture theatre feel of the Auditorium in the Museum and keeping a gentle sense of site-response while being very adaptable to other venues
Following its preview in Platform and run at the Fringe, South Bend will tour to The Byre, St Andrews; Paisley Arts Centre; Eden Court, Inverness; The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen finishing up in The Tron, Glasgow at the end of September. 
Previews      27 & 28 July  Platform, Easterhouse
1 – 27 Aug               Gilded Balloon at the Museum -
31 Aug & 1 Sept     Byre Theatre, St Andrews –
4 Sept                       Paisley Arts Centre –
7 – 8 Sept                Eden Court Theatre, Inverness –
11 – 12 Sept             Lemon Tree, Aberdeen –
14 – 15 Sept            Cumbernauld Theatre –
19 – 22 Sept            Tron Theatre, Glasgow –

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