TRANSFORMER – JONNY WOO
7-16 AUGUST, 20:45 (21:40), THE VOODOO ROOMS (VENUE 68)
Relax after a perfect day at the Fringe this year and let Jonny Woo transport you back to the 1970s New York City (velvet) underground.
Backed by a full rock band, Woo transforms himself into the iconic rock ‘n’ roll legend Lou Reed and plays his solo album, Transformer, including such unforgettable songs as Walk on the Wild Side, Perfect Day and Vicious.
Audiences can expect guest appearances from fellow superstars David Bowie, Andy Warhol and Candy Darling. This is your ticket into the backroom of Max’s Kansas City, where rock stars and drag queens drink and get high.
What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
I was prompted by Lou Reed's passing a few years back actually and felt inspired to do my live version of his album Transformer, the only one I know actually, but which I've had since my teens and one which I always loved for it's theatricality and easy rock tunes.
It was just going to be 'Jonny does Transformer' but my research into his life led me to a book all about Max's Kansas city, a nightspot in NYC in the 70s which seemed to be an inspiration for the album, or much of it, so has become the glue in between the amazing songs
Where does your piece at the fringe fit with your usual work?
This is totally new for me, to work with a band. I was tired of creating pieces on my own essentially about myself and wanted to do something that came from an external inspiration. Most of my stuff has either used cabaret style or dance orientated music, this one is pure rock.
Also channeling a character throughout is totally different for me and liberating in that I am confined by the character and don't need to call up 'Jonny' tricks to get reactions on stage.
What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
I hope people are thrilled and lifted by the music. I think it will shock them a bit as our take on the album is actually a bit more punk than the original and is more like Lou's own Rock'n'Roll Animal version.
I want people to be surprised at how amazing his music is and how enjoyable and how alive and contemporary his songs feel. I want people and hope people get a real sense of the time which concerns the show, 70s' NYC, the characters, the wildness and abandon and leave with this sense and maybe for one night feel they have permission to go a little bit crazy and be truly rock'n'roll. I want new audiences to to discover great songwriting, the old way!
The Dramaturgy Questions
How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
First of all let me understand what you mean by dramaturgy, I am taking it to mean how all the components come together to tell the story within the show.
I worked early on in my career with a company who employed a dramaturg who kept and eye on how the narrative hung together in the show we were working on and how the cast as a whle work together at telling the story. I always actually try and keep and eye on this myself even if working in a more surreal or random way, i think it is important to let the audience feel they are on a journey and involved in some kind of narrative and even if seemingly disparate the parts of the production serve the greater whole.
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 suppose sometimes I can be a bit Brechtian in that I like the audience to see the workings of the theatricality and I like to present ideas in unusual ways so the audience can see an idea from a different viewpoint. to stop the audience becoming emotionally involved so they can consider the idea being presented.
I get inspired by dance a lot actually and will quote choreographers when creating big drag routines, no-one else may know who I am quoting or see a 'Forsythe' or 'Bausch' idea but I know it's there.
Justin Bond is one of my earliest career inspirations and if you can call it a new tradition i think there is a lot of crossover in the alt/drag movement if you can call it that across the world.
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?
My process varies a lot. I have recently done a show with a direct Douglas Rintoul which had a very clear process of using interview as the starting point of cresting a script and then we looked at different ways of presenting something in the verbatim style to inform the narrative. doug worked very much as drmaturge here looking at how the scritp and the choices I made as the performer both informed the narrative and subject matter.
What do you feel the role of the critic is?
In Edinburgh the critic gets you people into the theatre! It's not really a time where you can look at press criticisms and see them as objective point of views and consider whether to let them inform the development of the work. once you are on a roll in Edinburgh it's a risk to change your work.
So get ready to take a walk on the wild side and lose yourself in Reed’s dark take on glam rock, performed by a truly innovative talent of the cabaret scene.
The Voodoo Rooms is an award-winning bar & restaurant located in central Edinburgh which opened in November 2007 with the aim of further boosting the city's vibrant bar, restaurant entertainment scene.
The Voodoo Rooms,19a West Register Street, Edinburgh EH2 2AA.