Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Butterfly Dramaturgy: Ramesh Meyyappan @ Edfringe 2015

The Fringe
What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?

Ramesh: Puccini’s opera wasn't entirely the inspiration for Butterfly – although there is tragedy in Butterfly. Butterfly has however, been inspired by the short story Madame Butterfly by John Luther Long and I suppose my desire to explore and present some of the themes related to loss and grief. Like many people I have experienced grief and loss – an emotion that is so intense that it can overwhelm us - an emotion that cannot, in my view be adequately described in words. I wanted to explore how grief manifests itself both emotionally and physically. 

I wasn’t just interested in the most powerful image created when
reading the story - how her child was taken from her – evoking much emotion based on her loss, but also I felt that Luther Long presented some other themes and ideas that were worth considering – thoughts from this included; cultural differences and the different expectations between men and women, the trust from a woman and her betrayal and disappointment. All of these I felt would allow me to create something with real ‘drama’ and tell a very human story.

While writing and creating Butterfly, I took a genuine interest in butterflies themselves and I do think that we created some interesting some theatrical motifs that are inspired by these and help us tell the story. I was struck by their colours, movement and the very delicate nature of butterflies, this led me to become interested in Lepidoptery and Vladimir Nabokov (although known for his writing including the modern classic Lolita). Nabokov influenced the creation of one of the male characters – he had a love of butterflies entirely appreciated their beauty, but he also captured these which ultimately meant killing them – this dichotomy was also an idea I wanted to explore. 

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?The Edinburgh Fringe is a massive opportunity and challenge for all artists. The Fringe – in my view at least – is one of the biggest festivals of its kind and is a top 10 in a performers bucket list…it’s something that all performers (I'm assuming) want to experience. 

It’s an opportunity to share to a potentially very wide and diverse audience – who won’t always necessarily be kind or generous – this ensures that performers give their absolute all – no complacency. Indeed, much of the challenge is getting ‘punters’
through the door – no audience – not even one person is guaranteed to purchase a ticket.

The Fringe has a great energy about it – a hard slog BUT at the same time it can be quite exhilarating – just being part of the ‘buzz’.    I think amongst performers there’s a shared understanding of what it is all about and how tough it is…this keeps you going.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?A beautiful piece of visual theatre that has been complimented with a sensitive and stirring soundscape composed by David Paul Jones (Scottish Composer). I’ve performed in Edinburgh before – but these have been solo, with Butterfly I’m delighted to be joined on stage by two actors who have engaged with and indeed helped find the visual theatrical vocabulary used throughout the piece. 

Butterfly has a clear narrative told by combining an eclectic mix of visual elements including some choreography and puppetry.

The Dramaturgy Questions
I’ve used different processes when creating work – I hope you don’t mind if when answering these I refer to just Butterfly, it is the most current and much was learned in the process and it is therefore the most relevant.

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work? 
Generally their role when engaging is to – I would hope – feel some empathy with the character of Butterfly, as I feel loss (although not the loss of a child) has been understood and experienced by most of us.

I’d hope they’d get a sense of working out for themselves how the use of puppets and ‘rewind’ represent Butterfly’s thoughts – her state of mind after the trauma she suffered.

There is – I hope – opportunities to appreciate the use of the butterfly motif, it’s connections with the character, how it perhaps symbolises perceptions about her. 

There isn’t any spoken word within this performance – and for many this style of storytelling, that is not dance is challenging – the audience do have to work to decipher for themselves some of the aspects of the visual language / vocabulary, they will have to watch closely and even intensely to pick up all the subtle nuances expressed by the actors to feel they’ve satisfactorily understood the character. The story itself is very clear but to engage with, have empathy, understanding et c requires some close watching – nothing is spoon fed!


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