Familia de la Noche
The Very Grey Matter of Edward Blank
Upstairs / 6th to 31st August 2015 (not 18th)
Edward Blank is extraordinary.
An exceptional literary talent and ghost writer, Edward Blank has the ability to change Mills and Boon into James Joyce before breakfast. His radical rewrites and astounding editing means that demand for his work is so great his letterbox clatters non-stop with tapes for transcription and Edward never leaves the solitude of his tiny magnolia flat.
But Edward is far from alone. Emerging from his fractured conscience is an anarchic family of imagined characters, each with a hook in Edward's life that pulls him deeper into fantasy.
What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Rebecca Cox: We always begin with an idea. The script follows later (sometimes much later!). We like to be free to explore every aspect of the emerging story before committing the narrative to paper. In The Very Grey Matter of Edward Blank we began thinking about our experiences of mental illness, loneliness and imagination – what allows our creativity to flourish and what happens when you are not mentally able to contain it.
What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
The show is about an audiotypist, Edward Blank, who is not able to function in the real world and never leaves his studio flat. He is surrounded by a flamboyant family of imaginary friends who help him unleash his creative genius and create instant best-sellers from the dreary transcripts he receives through the post.
We contrast the heady excitement of his extraordinary, colourful imaginary life with the grey reality that Edward lives in – he is not able to function in the world. We want the audience to experience the intense joy and extreme distress of someone living with mental illness.
The Dramaturgy Questions
How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
We are a company with 2 core members and a team of actors, designers and choreographers that we work with. During the devising process the dramaturgy role isn’t assigned, but rather flips between different members of the team depending on who has the best vision at the time. Our focus when devising is strongly on narrative clarity and we will explore the best possible way to tell each bit of the story.
As a core company of two (Conrad Sharp and Becca Cox), at least one of us will be performing in the piece with the other either performing or directing. We usually share the directing responsibilities with one of us giving initial direction and the other following up with tweaks and edits to improve the structure of the narrative.
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?
We work a lot with clown, commedia and traditional storytelling. In this show we are also using elements of corporeal mime and multimedia theatre to add extra colour to the story. We are theatre magpies, we like to steal all the shiny bits from theatre tradition.
3. 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 start with an idea and all the possible permutations of that idea and go into workshops to experiment with those ideas. Our process is very collaborative – we like to work with people who are experts at what they do but who can also share and teach their skills to everyone else – this goes for performers to designers and everyone in between. Once we have explored all the areas around our initial idea we begin to distil them into a narrative. We tend to make a lot of material and only a fraction of it will end up in the final show.
What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
Our audience is an integral part of our shows. We use a lot of traditional storytelling techniques and direct address to involve them in what they are seeing – they are not witnesses but rather participants in the story. We are very strict about narrative clarity – we want the audience to come with us through the story and have a taste of what it is like to be in Edwards shoes.
His raucous companions use their tall tales and bawdy talents to charm and entertain him but also to cultivate his fear and disconnect him from the outside world. Edwards mind is broken. Each day the circus begins anew and Edward seems happy in his ordinary-extraordinary existence until, one day, a voice on an audio tape changes everything. Visions of his forgotten life and love begin to creep in, challenging how far he will go to protect his fragile insulated existence.
In a time before our lives became saturated with social media and virtual interactions The Very Grey Matter of Edward Blank explores our perceptions of reality, relationships and the line we tread between the imaginary than the tangible. Using their signature style of dark comedy, clowning, live music and storytelling Familia de la Noche tell this tale of a shattered lonely life, contrasting devastating truth, vivid imagination and their mischievous sense of humour.
About the Company: A Pandoras box of actors, clowns, puppeteers and musicians. Making shows that are funny, affecting, devastating, charming and raucously entertaining. Featuring Sam Redway as Edward Blank (Broadway Bobby Winner 2013), Jean Bono, Becca Cox, Malik Ibheis and Melissa Sirol as his imaginary entourage and Sarah Beck Mather (The Royal, World Without End) as Memory. Directed by Conrad Sharp, Design by Lily Knight. The Very Grey Matter of Edward Blank is Familia de la Noche’s second production following the 5 star rated The Greatest Liar in all the World. They were awarded the Wales Millennium Centre Blysh Commission in 2014 and shortlisted for the Les Enfants Terribles Award 2013.
“What it would be like to stroll through the inside of Tim Burton’s and Terry Gilliam’s minds.”
Such Small Portions
Supported by: Arts Council Wales, Pontardawe Arts Centre and Finger in the Pie
Venue: Assembly Roxy, Upstairs, 2 Roxburgh Place, EH8 9SU
Time: 17:35 Running Time: 55mins Dates: eg: 06-31 August. Previews 6 & 7 August. Not Tue 18 August.
Tickets: Previews 6 & 7 £6, 12-13, 17-20, 24-27 & 31 August £10(£8); 8-11, 14-16, 21-23, 28-30 August £12(£10)
Bookings: assemblyfestival.com, 0131 623 3030 or Assembly box offices at Assembly Hall and Assembly Roxy, Assembly George Square and Assembly Checkpoint