Thursday, 28 July 2016

Vauxhall Dramaturgy: Desmond O’Conner @ Edfringe 2016

Aug 3-14, 16-21, 23-29 10.10pm

It's 1988 and London is partying hard under the spectre of AIDS, the scrutiny of the press and the promise of a summer of love. When Princess Diana dreams of a wild night out away from relentless paparazzi and ruthless royals, Freddie Mercury and Kenny Everett know there is only one place to take her... Their night at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern is the stuff of legend. This irreverent yet insightful new musical reveals that what they learnt about themselves and each other would shock and propel them through the final years of their tragically shortened lives.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
I fell in love with the story when I read it in the press; so deliciously improbable that it HAD to be true. Then in early 2015 we lost a swathe of iconic venues around the capital and around the country and the idea to create a show suddenly became compelling as property development companies rode roughshod over our need for cultural identity and the right to enjoy freedom and privacy in an ever judgemental world.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
It felt like an impossible task to cast the part of Freddie, but after several gruelling rounds of auditions we stumbled upon the epic talent of Tom Giles. I've been looking for an excuse to work with the brilliant Matthew (Frisky and Mannish) Jones for as long as I've known him, and the part of Kenny Everett was the perfect opportunity. There is, to my mind, only one person on the planet who could play Princess Di in an absurdist, satirical, big, gay musical. We're thrilled and honoured to have the Cabaret Whore herself, Miss Sarah-Louise Young.

How did you become interested in making performance?
My professional creative life began with the Cambridge Footlights teaching Mitchell and Webb to sing. My desire to create and perform began as a babe in arms at Catholic Church every Sunday; heavenly music, heady incense, flanked by naked saints whilst being ranted at in Latin by a man in a dress. What little boy could resist such a perfect fusion of the dramatic and the divine?

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
Like all of my work, I willed it into being with positive energy, force of will and sheer hard work. I had the idea last May and immediately set about writing it and staging it week by week in serial format at Bar Wotever in the RVT itself. One year later we presented a first scratch of the final piece and the fully formed show premiered at Latitude Festival this July.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
I expect the audience to be uplifted, outraged, moved and, above all, entertained. I'm not aware of a human emotion that isn't prodded by this piece; it's sexy, funny, sad and beautiful; the perfect Edinburgh show.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
I like to think that there isn't a world that can't be created through the magic of musical theatre. Without giving too much away, the perfect combination of stagecraft and song are used to transport the audience from the heights of global fame to the depths and despair of illness and addiction. Rollercoaster ride doesn't begin to describe it.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition? 
My work falls bang in the middle of musical theatre and cabaret with a hefty pinch of Brechtian bite for flavour and heat. No other genre could provide the intensity and intimacy for the emotional path I like to lead my audiences along.

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