Monday, 20 July 2015

Dramaturgical Tension: Elizabeth Benbow @ Edfringe 2015

Conceived in an Edinburgh woolshop, Sue Fowkes and Chameleon Productions’ thought-provoking play premieres at the Fringe:

TENSION SQUARE explores domestic abuse and dying with dignity, in the unlikely setting of knit and natter, accompanied by a touch of twerking!

A story of relationships and courage, Tension Square explores weighty issues in unexpected circumstances – the abuse of a young man and the terminal illness of a vibrant young woman.  But, as Actor/Director Elizabeth Benbow points out;

‘This isn’t a Requiem, no way! The show mimics life and Britishness – when the chips are down, resort to irony, have some fun.’

Set in hospital gardens, Tension Square is about young knitwear designer, Marigold, struggling with terminal illness, stressing over her obvious demise and leaving her younger brother alone.  Marigold stumbles across sad, secretive Alex, with injuries that aren’t quite what they first seem.  Nor is Alex’s sweet girlfriend Livvy.  Marigold is compelled to uncover the truth and help him. Using knitting as a therapy tool, they start to sort out this particular tangle of life.
Tension Square - theSpace on the Mile (venue 39) 
24th – 29th August 2015, 16,10 (45 mins) 
The show carries a 14+ age restriction (moderate bad language and violence). 

The Fringe

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Elizabeth BenbowWell our writer was actually in Edinburgh in a wool shop, where she spotted a poster about domestic abuse, but the twist being the female was the abuser. 

She did a bit or research and was quite horrified at the statistics about male abuse and the help (or lack of), and was inspired to explore the subject further. The other theme we explore is cancer and the idea of dying with dignity, this is inspired by people in here life and some of their experiences with battling it.

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
Because it is one of the best platforms in the world to discover and perform new pieces of writing. It will be all of our first times as performers and audience members at the fringe, and of course the idea for it was born in Edinburgh, so we couldn't think of a better place to debut our show.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
Overall we want our audience to experience and see real people in real life situations. We hope there will be moments that they don't expect, they might cry, they most defiantly laugh (we hope). We hope it is a thought provoking piece as we are exploring subjects that are considered taboo, and we want people to feel more comfortable to discuss these topics as they are in our day to day lives. 

The Dramaturgy Questions

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?
We were pitched our story by our writer, who then went away and tailored it specifically to us. We then worked together with the writer (who is also in the play) to edit and adapt several drafts until we came to a finished play. Putting the play on it's feet we did a lot of personal character work, building their lives and making them real people. 

Then we put them in the scenes and discovered how they walked and talked and conversed with each other. We blocked all the scene and then went back and played with them, discovering new ways and ideas to help develop them and allow them to flow. I directed the piece, as well as being in it, and helped to guide the piece to a finished play, with the help of all the actors, and the writer, involved. 

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making
the meaning of your work? 
We feel it is their job whilst in the theatre to sit and watch, and hopefully enjoy the play and be touched by the thoughts and themes explored within it. And then when leaving to reflect on what they've seen and to hopefully become more open about what they've witnessed, we want to help encourage people to discuss and be aware of the issues we display. 

We feel our piece is relevant to all ages, as most people will have been affected or find themselves relating to the themes within our piece. 

Quite deliberately, Sue Fowkes’ writing career has always been issue-driven. She has helped raise millions of pounds for charities, but this is her first play.  

Tension Square started in Edinburgh three years ago.  Recuperating, needing something to do, Sue found a charming wool shop in town.  
Sitting in a nearby café, contemplating her new wool, she was drawn to a harrowing notice about domestic violence in young relationships, and the first draft of the show took shape.  Sue says,

“If just one young person sees the show and identifies that their relationship is turning ‘toxic’ and they need to seek help, then my job is done.  It’s right that this play debuts where it started.  And by the way, all the cast can knit!“

Relate CEO, Sue Frankfort, attended the previews and thanked the company on Facebook for ‘tackling difficult issues in a brilliant way’.  Ms Frankfort’s charity and Relationships Scotland will benefit from Tension Square, as new theatre company, Chameleon Productions, are donating from their Fringe income to provide bursarial support to young people, so they can access vital counselling. The company are proud that the show has been selected as part of Death on the Fringe 2015.

Chameleon Productions were formed especially to perform at the Fringe.  It brings together a group of actors from the Arts University, Bournemouth - Elizabeth Benbow, Aimee Kember and Gavin Thomas, model and new actor Kyle McNamara and writer Sue Fowkes (studying MA Scriptwriting at Media City Campus,Salford University.

Chameleon Productions’ focus is to encourage new work, by new talent and to perform issue-driven work.

Chameleon Productions hope to tour Tension Square in 2016, currently they are in discussion about venues.

10% of domestic abuse cases are female on male (in reality, this figure is probably much higher as few men report their abuse).

Alcohol abuse, reaction to porn and a difficult childhood are key drivers for a woman abusing her partner. According to the Relationships Foundation, relationship breakdowns cost the UK economy £46 billion each year.

Dignitas had 828 members from Great Britain at the end of 2014.

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