Saturday, 28 July 2018

Unsung Dramaturgy: Valentijn Dhaenens @ Edfringe 2018

UNSUNG - Valentijn Dhaenens

Valentijn Dhaenens returns to Edinburgh following sell-out performances of BigMouth and SMallWaR at the Edinburgh Fringe and throughout the world.

The creators of BigMouth return with a thrilling and timely new show. Delving deeply into the politician’s life, exposing those juicy backstage scenes we all look for and asking why anyone seeks recognition in a job that is known to be the most unpopular ever. Valentijn Dhaenens’ performance unravels the DNA of the politician – including attendant nastiness – creating a personage that mesmerises and repulses. 


While the world’s asleep, follow this political animal as he pulls into yet another hotel, peels off yet another white shirt, peps himself up for yet another speech. Today, we give you the all-time politician: the power junkie, rogue, strategist, but also the husband, father, and in the end, the very lonely human. 


Unsung                           
4 - 26 August, (previews 1, 2, 3 August)

12:00-13:15 Main Hall (not 6, 13, 20 August)

Ticket prices - £12 (£10 concessions)


How would you define the political content of your work?
Hard to say much about this without giving the story away. Above all, Unsung is about the game of politics and the people who love to play it: the way they play it, their talent for it, the sheer fun of politics, which outsiders don't usually 'get'. 
So in a sense it is devoid of all content, on purpose: this is a story of the positioning for power, which is a natural and necessary part of any democratic debate and decision making. 
But it does lead to questions of what happens when the game become the only thing politics is about: if only pose and posturing remain, what happens when issues can no longer be ignored? 
Robert Caro, the great Lyndon Johnson biographer, wrote that 'though the cliché says that power always corrupts, it is also true that power always reveals.' The closer to the top you get, the more real you are allowed to be. But will you still be credible? it's one of the things we hope people will take away from Unsung.
Are there ways in which your work can engage the audience beyond the immediate emotional rush of the content, and move forward towards positive action?
It's not a call to action – more political psychoanalysis: the answer mainly lies in asking the right questions: what are people in politics for, and what do we want from our politicians? 
In part for practical reasons, I have to say. Political content on stage very easily becomes preachy and mushy. Either you go all the way for one positive cause, or you strip it entirely. We chose the latter.
But the theme in itself, politicians' characters, does seem to resonate. One because it is hardly ever touched upon- except for outliers like Trump - and because these are political times. With the financial crisis and climate change and migration and Brexit and Trump, I believe a lot of people care about politics again. They realise that, like it or not, it's important. But they don't care for politicians – that's where the contradiction is. You can't have one without the other.
How do you balance the political and theatrical elements of your work?
As I said: it's a very difficult combination. As a result, Unsung may even have become just a hint more sceptical than we had originally intended. Simply because fun and failure do better on stage than ideas and ideals. But judging from reactions I think we have found a realistic and engaging way to do it - it's certainly not a cynical play, and there's no easy answers or judgments about people in politics. But you'll have to come and see for yourself. 


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