Forget Minnelli - a new musical performing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015, exposes the real star behind Cabaret.
MUSE takes us back to the 1930s to reveal the inspiration for Christopher Isherwood’s Sally Bowles and Jugé Productions’ new work uncovers a far more complex and talented woman.
With her green-painted nails and a string of lovers, Jean Ross (who roomed in the same house as Isherwood) was indeed 'divinely decadent', but far from the air-headed floozy in the stories. Born in Egypt, RADA-trained and allergic to conventionality, Ross became a respected political journalist who filed reports from the siege of Madrid in the Spanish Civil War and brought up (as a single mother) a daughter who herself overturned convention.
Along the way she was also the muse for a German pianist on his way to Hollywood, and of the lyricist Eric Maschwitz – his song These Foolish Things, written about Ross after their affair ended, is among the authentic songs featured in the production.
SpaceTriplex, Venue 38, The Prince Phillip Building, 19 Hill Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9DP
10-29 August at 17:15 (dark Sundays)
What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
An idea – that the real story of Jean Ross (the inspiration for Isherwood's Sally Bowles) was far too interesting to ignore.
Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
Sophie Juge: EdFringe provides the opportunity for a month-long run which allows new works to gain feedback and develop, build a brand and take part in the world’s largest arts festival.There can’t be a better platform to bring new work to the public on a rather modest budget, but on a grand scale.
We can’t wait to leave our audiences delighted with their choice of ticket purchase and feeling enthusiastic to recommend our show! If we can also collect lots of review stars with which to decorate our posters and flyers, the Jugé Productions team will be overjoyed! Where else would you go in August?!
What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
They will see a woman watching her younger self growing up, making mistakes and realizing that she has to learn to fend for herself. They'll hear some great songs (including a couple of rarities that deserve far greater recognition). They'll learn how a little known woman had a remarkable effect on creative men– Jean Ross wasn't only an inspiration to Isherwood.
Her lovers included the Hollywood actor, Peter von Eyck, the lyricist Eric Maschwitz (who wrote These Foolish Things about her) and the left-wing journalist Claud Cockburn, whose reports from the Spanish Civil War were in fact written by Jean Ross. They will get plenty to think about.
The Dramaturgy Questions
(answered by Gez Kahan, who wrote MUSE)
How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
Right from the beginning the concept was for a one-woman show. This of itself forces the writer to think dramaturgically – there can be apostrophization but no true dialogue, for instance.
The device of portraying the character as her older self looking back at her younger self was a result of the need to convey perspective. Although such a device also works in novels (think of Rebecca, for instance) in order to provide dramatic pace, it can't be a simple introduction followed by a retrospective narrative – it needs to move between the two viewpoints in order to keep the audience engaged.
So dramaturgical considerations were central to the writing process. It was also, of course, central to the suggestions for revisions from the director, all of which were based on the need to turn a draft script into a performable play.
What particular traditions and influences would you acknowledge on your work - have any particular artists, or genres inspired you and do you see yourself within their tradition?
That's for others to assess. It may sound facile, but I simple wrote it as I felt it. My influences were doubtless there, but I was never conscious of any artist or genre directly affecting me as I wrote.
Do you have a particular process of making that you could describe - where it begins, how you develop it, and whether there is any collaboration in the process?
It started with collaboration – Sophie Jugé (producer and actor) discussed the concept and its potential with me before a line had been written. I then treated the process as working to a brief ('write a script about Jean Ross, with plenty of music accompanying the story'), and produced a draft. The songs included in the work were chosen in collaboration with Sophie, and the script was then refined in collaboration both with Sophie and (especially) with the director, Alexandra Karathodorou.
What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
There would be no point in staging a play without an audience, and audience response is required when you perform songs or seek to invoke laughter, surprise et c. And though one hopes that meaning will be conveyed by the words and actions themselves, the true goal of any writer is to have sparked interest, conversation, debate and thoughtfulness among the audience as they leave and reflect on what they've seen.
Jugé Productions makes its Edinburgh Festival Fringe debut with MUSE. This new one woman musical is the first in a series of new shows about inspiring women of the 1930s. For writer and Musical Director Gez Kahan, the varied lifestyles and nationalities of the characters provide an opportunity to create witty and entertaining works infused with multi-linguistic delights which perfectly suit this European company.
Producer and performer Sophie Jugé is taking on the challenge of playing the formidable Jean Ross, contrasting her free-spirited youth, diverse experiences and later on more private personal life. “Jean Ross is a fantastic role to play. I feel the responsibility to pique the audience’s interest in this lady accented by the great songs in our new show.”
Production Company: Jugé Productions
Producer & Performer: Sophie Jugé
Writer & Musical Director: Gez Kahan
Director: Alexandra Karathodorou