Monday, 18 July 2016

A Swansong for [Music] Dramaturgy @ Edfringe 2016 [Part 2]

Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)
Aug 3-15, 17-29 5.00pm

Ever heard the one about the birth at a funeral? Or the one with the monkey? How about the one with the end of the world? Three men are in a pedalo. They're going to save humanity. After acclaimed Fringe hits Fade, Inheritance Blues and The Sunset Five, DugOut Theatre return to examine how lies become stories and stories become legend.

The Vile Blog has already interviewed Swansong's director George Chilcott here, but here are some additional thoughts about music in theatre performance.  

The idea of the performance as a gig: what qualities do you think make this the case? 
I think there's no magic moment when you can suddenly call your performance a gig. There are no scales that get tipped when you have used just the right amount of live music for your theatre show to be called a gig. Gigs are also very much performances and moments of theatre themselves. Some can even be said to contain a narrative thread. What's more, the term gig can be applied to performances with no music in them whatsoever - comedians often talk of the fact that they have been 'gigging', for example. 

That said, plays that are said to have been performed as gigs, by critics and punters, often contain the following qualities;

1. They contain live music

2. They contain a noteworthy amount of live music and that portion of live music may be greater than the amount of dialogue/spoken word in the play. 

3. The instruments and actors on the stage are configured like they would be in a gig. 

4. There are pieces of music that do not serve to develop the narrative. 

What do they share?
Theatre and live music gigs share a great deal. Both share the element of liveness - in that they are both performed live to a watching audience. More often than not, there is story involved. Even if the gig is rarely knitted together as a narrative, there are stories in the lyrics of songs, there is the story of the band, and the story of the tour, etc. The musicians perform - adopt personas, postures, speak to the audience and amongst themselves - as actors do. Often both are structured and performed to affect audiences in specific ways - to shock, to excite, to make us laugh and cry at specific moments. 

Are there any musicians you'd point to as an influence - or a pleasure that may not influence but gives some sense of your approach to music?
Part of the company play in a band. They play old style rock and roll and rhythm and blues. We also listen to film scores a great deal and are influenced by those. Although not musicians, the way companies like Kneehigh, Rashdash, BearTrap and Complicite integrate music and sound into their work, in a live, playful and inventive way, has been a big influence on our work.

What is gained by live musicians on stage?
Having live musicians on stage is enormously exciting for an audience and this is because it plays into the hands of what makes good theatre and what makes theatre unique as an art form. Theatre is where you can see things conjured in front of your eyes - be that a character, a puppet or a melody. Also, live music in theatre adds to the danger of the performance - will the musician mess up, will they forget the chord sequence - and this, in turn, adds to the exhilaration of the viewing experience. 

And is anything lost?
With recorded sound you can hear some of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the most complicated pieces of music to perfection; you can hear The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The London Symphony Orchestra and know that, failing a technical fault in the theatre, the track will play without fault; and you can hear soundscapes and atmospheres, created with complicated electronic equipment, that would be impossible to replicate live. Also, live music on stage cannot guarantee perfection. It cannot always match recorded sound for its power and magnitude. Both done well can be very effective in theatre. However, I believe that because live music is imperfect; because it is conjured in front of your eyes; because it is different every night; is exactly the reason that I see it as profoundly more theatrical and exciting and believe that, when done well, it rarely loses out to pre-recorded sound. 

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