Friday, 15 September 2017

Unseasonal Thoughts on Foucault's preface to Anti-Oedipus (after Wild Bore)

In 1977, Foucault wrote a preface to the American edition of Anti-Oedipus. Seeing it as an expression of the spirit of the 1960s, he identifies Deleuze and Guattari as writers on ethics, and suggests a manifesto for political action based on a resistance to the joylessness of politics, both in the establishment and its antagonists. 

This manifesto follow, with the crucial shift from political to theatrical activity made by swapping out 'political' for 'theatrical' action.

Free theatrical action from all unitary and totalizing paranoia.

Develop action, thought, and desires by proliferation, juxtaposition, and disjunction, and not by subdivision and pyramidal hierarchization.

Withdraw allegiance from the old categories of the Negative (law, limit, castration, lack, lacuna), which Western thought has so long held sacred as a form of power and an access to reality. Prefer what is positive and multiple, difference over uniformity, flows over unities, mobile arrangements over systems. Believe that what is productive is not sedentary but nomadic.

Do not think that one has to be sad in order to be militant, even though the thing one is fighting is abominable. It is the connection of desire to reality (and not its retreat into the forms of representation) that possesses revolutionary force.

Do not use thought to ground a theatrical practice in Truth; nor theatrical action to discredit, as mere speculation, a line of thought. Use theatrical practice as an intensifier of thought, and analysis as a multiplier of the forms and domains for the intervention of theatrical action.

Do not demand of theatre that it restore the “rights” of the individual, as philosophy has defined them. The individual is the product of power. What is needed is to “de-individualize” by means of multiplication and displacement, diverse combinations. The group must not be the organic bond uniting hierarchized individuals, but a constant generator of de-individualization.

Do not become enamored of power.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Three Panels and types of drama

Some unseasonable thoughts on genre

So, after all the fun of the dramaturgy database,
Blanche & Butch. Credit Birds of Paradise 
here's one of those posts in which I give my big opinion on an important issue. 

And by important issue I mean, of course, something that no-one needs to give too much attention, unless they are a critic trying to work out what their job is supposed to mean.

Genre isn't something most theatre-makers worry about too much: Diderot points out that the artist tends to find a way to express whatever they want, and leave it to theorists to explain how they did it. Academics, and critics, on the other hand, have exhausted themselves in attempts to define the genres of theatre and performance, often following their own pet ideas until they collapse under the pressure of their own contradictions.

Gary Day's The Story of Drama is a case in point. Beginning with Athenian drama, he tries to prove that both comedy and tragedy are founded in ritual sacrifice, and becomes increasingly frustrated by theatre's refusal to express the process of death and rebirth in various historical periods. He blames Christianity for introducing the notion of lineal time, capitalism for financial obsessions and science... and the nuclear bomb for encouraging the absurdists to describe a hostile landscape that no sacrifice can save. He draws on Freud, and pagan religious practice, to give performance a spiritual and social purpose, but becomes frustrated by theatre-makers' refusal to follow the script.

Back in the day - that is, when Aristotle kicked off theatre criticism with his Poetics, there were only two genres: tragedy and comedy. Despite the debates that have lasted for two millennia, the division between them is pretty easy to mark: one's sad, the other is funny. Unfortunately, there are art works that aren't playing for laughs or tears. So other genres had to be invented. Diderot came up with one during the Enlightenment, and called it (with his usual modesty) le drame. It's a bourgeois dramaturgy that can have a happy ending, but it is not full of chuckles. In fact, it is sometimes known as 'the crying theatre', because the characters are always in tears.

Anyway, I think I'll have a crack at defining some genres. Since I'm all about the comic books, I am going to distill them into three panel descriptions. Let's see how that works out for me.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Blanche and Butch Dramaturgy: Robert Softley Gale @ BOP

Award-winning theatre company Birds of Paradise team up with Tron Theatre to present dazzling new drag show, Blanche & Butch.

Birds of Paradise and Tron Theatre present brand new co-production, Blanche & Butch; a dazzling new drag show that tells the witty and poignant story of three disabled drag queens.

As a trio, they used to be part of the sensational Heelz n Wheelz. Now there's not much sensation left. The glitz, glamour and sparkles have faded and, instead, they find themselves backstage at a down at heel production of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Inspired by Noel Greig's original production Heelz n Wheelz, Blanche & Butch pulls back the curtain and tells the deeply touching story of three men and their lives, loves and losses.

Written by Robert Softley Gale, who will star alongside Garry Robson and Kinny Gardner, Blanche & Butch is an outrageous new show that challenges the boundaries of PC, through high quality camp and original storytelling.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
There was a show that Garry - my fellow AD at BOP - and I were in around twelve years ago called Heels and Wheels. It was about disabled drag queens and written by Noel Greig, who was part of Gay Sweatshop in the 1970s. 

Heels was a dark and macabre piece - Blanche & Butch takes some of the same
characters and shows them now, as they're touring a production of the iconic film/play 'Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?'. This play is more in the style of Torch Song Trilogy or Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert.

Is performance still a good space for

the public discussion of ideas?
I really hope so - otherwise I'm in the wrong field! Theatre allows us to put ideas out in to the world without necessarily giving answers or conclusions, which makes it unlike a lot of other forms. I still hold on to the idea that theatre allows us to present a version of the world that we want to live in.

How did you become interested in making performance?
In my childhood and teens I'd been involved in amateur theatre, but only ever backstage - designing lights or directing. The idea of a physically disabled person in stage in that context would've been very strange. 

When I was at university - business management - I was approached by a company in Edinburgh that had a troupe of resident disabled actors. I thought my chances of getting the job were very slim but I did - and now 15 years on I'm still going!

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
The main job so far has been pulling together the best possible team - director/designer Kenny Miller is renowned in the UK for his 'camp aesthetic', dramaturg Philip Osment was a friend of Noel's and brings a wealth of knowledge. 

We've got the best possible performers for the show (but I would say that as I'm in it!) and every other member of the team are the perfect people to be making the show that I've been imagining for many years.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?
It probably does, in that we're again pushing at boundaries while making a show that will be very entertaining. This is the first play with music that I've helped create for BOP, so in that we're going in new directions. But we're still embedding access - audio description, BSL and captions - in interesting ways and telling new and engaging stories.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
They're going to laugh - a lot. We're pushing things with Blanche & Butch in terms of what we're allowed to say on stage so I imagine some people will be pretty shocked by the way these characters talk to one another but the audience are also going to be touched by the glimpse they get in to their lives.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
We're using some familiar forms in this show - it's a backstage show with three actors bitching to one another and telling their stories. Some of the songs will be very familiar. So it making a show that'll really challenge the audience we also want to give them an experience that feels friendly and welcoming.

Directed and designed by Kenny Miller, Blanche & Butch will include original songs by Akintayo Akinbode, with live music played by Amelia Cavallo.

Talking about Blanche & ButchWriter Robert Softley Gale said:
'As a disabled, queer man I look to different camps to work out where I fit in to the world. Drag queens have always intrigued me.

Blanche & Butch is a personal and political production that surrounds three disabled drag queens. It has taken over a decade to write and looks to explore gender, identity, equality and disability through cabaret, camp songs and frocks.'

Commenting on the co-production Andy Arnold, Artistic Director of Tron Theatre, said:
We’re delighted to be co-producing Blanche & Butch with Birds of Paradise this autumn and to be associated with a team whose track record in producing original, challenging and hilarious new work is second to none’.

Blanche & Butch Company

Written by:        Robert Softley Gale
Directed & Designed by:  Kenny Miller
Dramaturgy by:        Philip Osmond
Lighting Design by:   Grant Anderson
Live Music by:        Amelia Cavallo
Music Directed by:    Akintayo Akinbode
Starring:        Robert Softley Gale, Garry Robson and Kinny Gardner

Writer Robert Softley Gale is an

established figure in the Scottish arts scenes with over sixteen years of experience as a writer, director, actor, performer and advocate. 

He is Artistic Director of Birds of Paradise Theatre Company and alongside writing, has directed smash-hit sex comedy ‘Wendy Hoose’ and ‘Purposeless Movements’, for which he was nominated for Best Director at the CATS awards. 

Director and Designer Kenny Miller
 works as a freelance director and designer, after undertaking the roles of Associate Director and Head of Design at the Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow. 

He has worked in Theatre and Opera both nationally and internationally, in designing and directing, and has won three Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland (CATS) for his work.

Blanche & Butch Tour Dates
14 – 16 Sept, 7.45pm: Tron Theatre, Glasgow    
19 Sept, 7.30pm: Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock 
21 Sept, 7.30pm: Lochgelly Centre, Lochgelly  
23 Sept, 7.30pm: Macrobert, Stirling 
27 Sept, 7.30pm: The Byre, St Andrews     
28 Sept, 7.30pm: Woodend Barn, Banchory 

2 Oct, 7.30pm:  Eden Court, Inverness
4 Oct, 7.30pm:  Dundee Rep, Dundee
5 Oct, 7.00pm:  Platform, Glasgow
7 Oct, 7.30pm:  Eastwood Park Theatre
10 Oct, 8.00pm: The Gaiety, Ayr 
11 Oct, 7.30pm: Cat Strand, Castle Douglas
13 – 14 Oct: Summerhall, Edinburgh
Closing as part of Luminate with International Cabaret to end tour.

About Birds of Paradise Theatre Company

Birds of Paradise Theatre is a Scottish-based touring theatre company. It employs disabled and non-disabled actors and theatre professionals, commissions new work, and works in partnership with other organisations to create positive images of inclusion, and encourage participation in the arts.

The Tron Theatre Company is currently under the artistic leadership of Andy Arnold, who took up the position of Artistic Director and Chief Executive in 2008. The Tron Theatre presents the people of Glasgow and the West of Scotland with outstanding professional productions of the finest new writing, with an emphasis on world, UK and Scottish premieres. 

Further Information
Birds of Paradise Theatre Company is a Regularly Funded Organisation (RFO), is awarded Projects and Programmes funding from Creative Scotland, and is supported by Glasgow City Council.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Dramaturgy Abort: Therese Ramstedt @ Edfringe 2017

By Therese Ramstedt
directed by Claire Stone


Venue:    Gilded Balloon –
Rose Theatre Studio (Venue 76)
Dates:    2nd to 28th August 2017 (not 14th)
Time:     5.45pm (6.45pm)
Box office:  0131 622 6552

Therese Ramstedt is proud to make her debut at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe with the world premiere of her latest play Mission Abort – a humorous, honest and heartbreakingly human monologue about a woman’s experience of having an abortion.
Strong opinions on the legislative side of women’s reproductive rights are voiced on a daily basis, yet rarely do we hear the perspective from the women who have had to terminate unwanted pregnancies. Mission Abort confronts our taboos by telling the story of one woman’s journey – from discovering she’s pregnant, to making the decision, following it through and getting on with life afterwards. This explosive tragicomedy brings its audience on a laugh-cry rollercoaster featuring questionable life-modelling skills, the looming voice of Donald Trump and leg-dancing to Kate Bush.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
As with many creative ventures, this play started in personal experiences. Before I myself had an abortion, I had absolutely no clue what the implications would be on me and the impact it would have on me physically and emotionally, or the effect it would have on my relationship (both with my partner at the time and with friends). I came to realise women's (and men's) personal experiences of terminating pregnancies is a part of the discussion on female reproductive rights that is missing. We talk a lot about the legislation side of things, but hardly ever about the human beings behind this decision. And when abortion as a topic is addressed in arts and the media (which is rarely!) it is still very marginal, and often portrayed as something fairly shameful that women either regret or simply - in superhuman fashion - forget about.
So I wanted to create a piece that in an upfront, honest and accessible (which for me often means humorous!) way talked about this experience that one in three women in the UK have gone through at some point in their lives. And a piece where the woman who chooses to terminate a pregnancy is neither a victim nor a robot - but a strong person who makes the right decision for herself, but still allows herself to feel and to take this big decision seriously.
For a woman, the life-changing moment comes when there are two purple lines on a pregnancy test - and contrary to what Hollywood rom-coms would have us believe, there are alternative choices that we have a right to make. And with this work, I wanted to be completely free of judgement either way but just shed some light on a relatively unheard perspective. Because I believe human beings empathise with and find understanding for other humans - so if we don't humanise the choice to have an abortion, and actually talk about the experiences, how can we expect other people to understand that choice? 
Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 
I really would like to think so! I think one thing that performance does (or can do) which is unique to other forms of communication is to create an immersive narrative where the audience really can have the opportunity to put themselves in the character's shoes and perhaps understand their path and motivations. This, at least for me, I don't think happens to the same extent in lectures or talks - we might get to understand someone intellectually, but perhaps not laugh and cry with them in the same manner. What I really appreciate about live performance in particular is that there is no escape (cruel, I know!) - once the audience is in the space with you, they can't just hit the pause button if they feel too challenged. Of course, there is always the option to walk out but that is often much more of a statement than people are willing to make...  
How did you become interested in making performance?
I actually can't even remember a time when I haven't been making up stories for performance. It was always something that I knew I wanted to do, but I suppose if we are going way way back (as in, to nursery school!) it was often a way for me to create small worlds that were closer to the kind I wanted to live in. One where little girls could wear pretty dresses AND fight with swords saving villages from evil dragons (I didn't know it at the time, but I basically just wanted to be Daenerys Targaryen). And performance-making for me since has just become a way for me to say my piece, but without lecturing or in any way judging other people - I am generally much more interested in raising questions than I am in providing answers (even if I do take a great deal of pleasure in being right when it comes to quizzes and anything grammatical...)
Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
A really important thing for me was to incorporate a lot of humour, as I think it is our responsibility when creating work on a "serious" or "difficult" topic to make it as accessible and enjoyable for an audience as possible - to make it a conversation people want to have basically! Also, without laughter there can be no tears and I find it very difficult to connect with any work that doesn't have both sides of the comedy/tragedy coin.
Another thing was to not shy away from my own personal experience, and exploring parts of myself that were at times quite difficult. While the play did very quickly become a separate entity to me and my story, even if the events have ended up being nearly exactly what went on in my own life, having my personal experience behind me made me perhaps more daring in how far I could take it and how much I could address in the piece.
And this, I think, is what has turned into what I now hope is a very overall "human" piece - the woman in the play is me, but she could really have been any woman who'd found herself in the same situation.
Does the show fit with your usual productions?
Exploring big human topics through humour and music is what I did with my Swedish theatre company, Annan Teater, so I think it does follow on quite naturally! Previous work I have made have dealt with topics like depression, suicide and sexism in the workplace - so it's probably in there. However, this is the most personal work I have made, and definitely the work that digs the deepest into one individual human's experience - it is also the first full-length work I am producing and performing in English.
What do you hope that the audience will experience?
I hope that they will perhaps understand a little bit more about something they may not have thought of before, and to feel encouraged to openly talk about the experience of terminating a pregnancy. Or at the very least, maybe empathise with and understand the woman who wants to make this choice for herself.
(Of course, I would love for audiences to also experience a connection with the piece, to laugh and be moved - so far people are responding beautifully to it and hopefully there will be more of the same!) 
What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

I did debate a bit back and forth about how to best get the audience on the character's side, and one important aspect of this is the audience interaction I have in the piece - throughout it, I (try to) give them the opportunity to support the character and be directly involved in her choices and experiences (cheering for her when she finds out she is pregnant, hold her hand through the procedure etc)

But another important element was to not be too "in-yer-face" and to let the audience make up their own mind - this piece doesn't preach or judge, it is simply showing a woman at her most vulnerable but also at her strongest and most empowered.

I also want the audience to come out of the show with a positive, empowered feeling in them - so choosing to also share the positive elements of both pregnancy and being able to make the choice to terminate was always really important for me. 

Having previously touched upon the subject of abortion in one of her earliest plays with Swedish theatre company Annan Teater (which she co-founded and ran between 2012-2015), when Therese had to make the decision herself, she discovered that there is a side of the story that nearly always seems to be missing. What is having an abortion actually like for the woman who goes through one? Obviously deeply personal experience that is individual to all women, but with one common factor: not something that we talk about.
Mission Abort crushes the taboo around abortion and explores the ups as well as the downs, offering a truthful and direct account of a topic that is acutely current – and what better year to do it than the 50th anniversary of the UK’s legalisation of abortion?
Therese is a versatile writer, singer and performer who has worked across a myriad of art forms including film, theatre and music - as a performer, producer and PR - with venues including Barbican Centre, Royal Albert Hall and also at the Edinburgh Fringe and in her native Sweden. Humour and song are at the heart of her performance-making, and alongside her own creative work Therese performs extensively as a singer with ensemble London Contemporary Voices. With LCV, Therese has collaborated with artists including Laura Mvula, Nitin Sawhney and Imogen Heap, and features on the soundtrack to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Mission Abort is developed with the support of Soho Theatre, where Therese has been a Young Artist on the Comedy- and Writers’ Lab schemes since 2015, and is directed by Claire Stone from feminist duo Feral Foxy Ladies (I Got Dressed in Front of my Nephew Today and Balancing Acts).