Lost Sock Company
What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Isley Lynn: At the same time that I was glued to the TV watching the 2012 Paralympics, I was dealing with a personal question of my own: "What if I'm not good enough?". My dad blogs about Embracing Failure and watching the coverage I couldn't help but think two things: How do the people I'm watching get to where they are? And what happens to those that don't make it? That was the start of Tether, which looks at the unique relationship between a blind runner and her guide.
Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
With the Rio Paralympics/Olympics on the horizon and the influx of artists and audiences from all across the world coming to the Fringe, it just seemed like the perfect fit. We wanted to put the work in front of people who have seen a lot of theatre but want something new, as well as new audiences drawn to the theatre by the subject matter and electrifying pace of our show (pun intended, sorry...)
What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
Sweat, mostly. But also the thrill of competition, the private challenges of altruism, the buzz of marathon crowds and the intensity of training alone. It's fun and funny and hard to swallow, and will leave you not only with new insight into the world of these athletes, but perhaps into your own hopes and dreams as well. We've also worked very hard to ensure the show is fully accessible for visually impaired audiences without the use of audio description et c, so that - as much as possible - they'll experience the show in exactly the same detail as everyone else.
The Dramaturgy Questions
How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
In my experience people have mixed views on Dramaturgy, but they're always very strong views. I think partly that's because it's a weird, scary, German word, and no one really know what to do with it. I personally consider myself to be constantly working with many Dramaturgs throughout the process of writing and staging a play - all of whom are people I trust creatively, even though they might not officially carry the title Dramaturg. But that's what it is at its best, for me: someone you trust chipping in with the play's best interests at heart.
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?
I haven't thought about this before, but in trying to answer this question, I realise that the artists I most admire don't bear too much resemblance to my own work. Perhaps that's because I appreciate their work as the perfect expression of something specific, so to try and emulate them would be pointless. Or maybe I particularly appreciate their work because it's not something I feel like I could or would want to achieve myself.
When writing I draw on many influences, all in relation to what would serve the piece I'm working on, so my references for my first play Lean are totally different to the ones for Tether, even though I consider them both to have something of my personal "voice" at their core. What I can say, however, is that working as a life model and performing spoken word have broadened my appreciation of the many ways to communicate with a "viewer". My conversations with painters in particular have heavily influenced my writing practice, if not necessarily the writing itself.
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?
I usually start with a dilemma, often an abstract one. For Tether, it was "what do you do when your dreams don't come true?". Then from that central question or problem, characters which inhabit different attempts at an answer emerge. I prefer drama without any clear Goodies and Baddies (because I don't really believe they exist in real life) so if things start becoming too clear cut I try to muddy things up a bit.
All of this takes place on scraps of paper, phone notes, backs of envelopes, napkins et c, which I collate in a folder dedicated to the project. When the folder starts bulging I know I have the start of a play, so I open it up and start reading back on my notes, putting events in order, creating the skeleton of it. From then on it's a case of connecting the dots... I tend to leave a long time before bringing in collaborators; I want to be clear about what I'm trying to achieve and how, before reaching out to people who want to achieve the same thing.
What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
I try to be as specific as possible in terms of everything on-stage, because it all informs an understanding you're trying to instil in the audience. However, I fully recognise that the audience will bring a totally different set of experiences, references, tastes, et c to their viewing of your work, so ultimately it's out of your hands. Their interpretation of the characters will be unavoidably connected to their own opinions and background.
That said, I also believe that theatre is an empathy machine, and has the power - by simply giving space and time for people to share oxygen with characters they wouldn't otherwise encounter - to change hearts and minds. All of these contradictions exist on top of one another in the theatre, which is what makes it so exciting for me.