Monday, 3 August 2015

Dramaturgy on a Bike: Chris Wilson @ Edfringe 2015



18-29 AUGUST, 20:45 (21:40), THE VOODOO ROOMS (VENUE 68)

JC’s in trouble. With only 12 Twitter followers to his name, he is taking time away from the great call centre in the sky to tout for new disciples the only way he knows how: with the power of love … and wind  machines. 
In true biblical fashion and sweat repellent robe, he  sets the record straight about the lost years of his life, his death – and his glorious comeback. 

Be part of the congregation as JC regales you with the parables of his past: from the angsty song-writing teenager, through spin class instructing graduate, to his miraculous resurrection as the immortal disco-dancing lifestyle guru who saved mankind. 
Prepare for miracles, revelations  and Febreeze in this unique and interactive satirical comedy. 
And remember - JC loves you. Yes, he does.

The Fringe
What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
This production started with a boylesque routine I have been doing as Jesus for the past two years.  The routine is a 6 minute non-verbal comedy 80s dance tribute to the big JC called 'Eternal Fame' and the success of the act has been such that I was asked by my show's producer Julie-Ann Laidlaw, to make an hour long cabaret inspired by it. 

Since this offer back in February, the character has evolved to become something of an all talking, dancing (and dare-I-say-it) singing character and because of my extensive experience in musical theatre, I knew I wanted this cabaret to have a slightly more theatrical feel - i.e. a small ensemble that would play supporting characters to JC for the duration of the show rather than guest acts that would 'do a turn'.

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
One of my biggest challenges was giving a reason as to why the son-of-God would come to Edinburgh to do a show and then an epiphany happened - he's got a problem - he's only got 12 followers on Twitter and is needing to reach out to the people to increase his fanbase.  That's JC's reason for coming to Edinburgh. My reason is that I respect the Edinburgh Festival as a great showcase for (new) work.  

Having appeared for many years as a guest act, I have become aware of what works in the cabaret scene in Edinburgh and what perhaps is missing from it.  There is no doubt that the fringe is the best place to try out material of this nature - you know that when you find yourself walking down the Royal Mile dressed in a robe and sandals and nobody bats an eyelid because they know its 'the fringe'.   Aside from that, it is place that unlike JC, I do have a good network of supporters who will hopefully come and enjoy the spectacle.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
I'd like to think they'll feel on the whole uplifted.  It is first and foremost a comedy satire - with a name like Christ On A Bike what else would it be? Indeed I'm sure the religious nature of the piece will divide the audience - some may love and some may hate my representation of JC and what his message/story is. 

I'm happy with that - as long as they don't think he's 'ok' - 'ok' means I haven't done my job well. Despite being a comedy, this isn't a character or subject I have taken lightly- I have spent months doing research to create this show - and the result aims to be a high energy, interactive, song and dance journey through JC's life and after-life that will appeal to regular attendees of theatre and cabaret alike. 

The Dramaturgy Questions

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?
As mentioned above, I have employed both theatrical and cabaret-style processes to this piece. The recent production of John Cameron Mitchell's Hedwig and the Angry Inch that I saw in Broadway last year was a big inspiration to the format of my show and to be honest there are so many other references that have inspired the style and content - an eclectic mix including 80s pop, Broadway musical theatre, 90s chick flicks, carnival Rio, keep-fit videos, grunge bands... And then some! 

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?
In writing, I start with ideas (in this case drawn from various bible stories) which then become vignettes which then link up to become a narrative. Usually this is a fairly non-collaborative effort. In the rehearsal room however, I like to 'play' with ideas - a concept is in place beforehand but I like to work with my performers to come up with the best product so choreography/blocking isn't often 'dictated'.  

With new work, I sometimes welcome some people into the rehearsal room to offer feedback. During the fringe it is rare you get a preview, so it is useful to try the material out before if possible.

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work? 
Their response is critical in giving a life to the work but I've always said that, whether a project is a hit or not, it is the creative process that ultimately validates me as a creative person. 

JC is the creation of award-winning cabaret performer Chris JS Wilson (@chrisjswilson on Twitter)

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. 

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