Friday, 30 June 2017

No excuse at all

It would be silly to announce that 'theatre is dead' (although it is fair to note that it is far from the dominant artistic medium in 2017). I have seen work - David Leddy's Coriolanus Vanishes springs to mind - that affirm the dynamism of theatre, and while I can't say that I enjoy everything at Buzzcut, the festival has an admirable vibrancy as well as some exciting performances.

It would probably be equally silly to say criticism is dead, but after reading the reviews of Jane Eyre, I am not willing to say it is healthy. Produced by the National Theatre, this adaptation was a lazy chronological romp through a well-beloved novel that failed to deal with the problem of a romantic hero locking his wife up in the attic.

I don't want to be joyless about this, but having the abused wife wander about singing Cee Lo Green's Crazy isn't just a breach of taste: it is an abdication of moral responsibility. A love song about mutual dependency lacks the gravitas to accompany a house fire that ends in suicide.

Perhaps because I am in a minority about this, I am raging about the National Theatre's Jane Eyre. It is one of the most tedious experiences that I have had in a theatre, and its version of 'the English Touring style' barely hides the witless dramaturgy that takes a romantic novel and converts it into a three hour long exploration of how thoughtless contemporary theatre can be.

Let's start with the easy targets. Jane Eyre is about a romance between a governess - abused as a child by a vicious aunt and a religious schooling - and an aristocrat who has some dark secrets. One of these secrets is that he has locked his wife in the attic. 

When the wife eventually escapes the attic, burns down the house and jumps off the roof, singing Cee Lo Green's Crazy is not a bold dramatical choice. It's a fucking insult, and an instance of how this adaptation repeatedly fails to think before it acts. For those not paying attention, being exotic and darkly sensual is not an excuse for locking away women.

Second easy target: the ensemble came up with a
neat choreography to represent a ride in a carriage. So they repeat it. Three times. Yes, it was cool the first time, the way they all jogged about, pretending to be both passengers and the horses. But your production is three hours long. Couldn't you have just assumed the journey?

And the length itself... the purpose of adaptation might be to reinterpret. Certainly, with a familiar text like Jayne Eyre, there are certain scenes they could be removed. A teaching scene, for example, doesn't need to followed by a conversation about the experience of teaching. I've got a train to catch, and I don't need a reminder of the protagonist's most recent action.

The desire to round out Jane's character causes problems - having seen her at home, at school, teaching and travelling, her personality's development is fully explicable. Never mind it takes ages for her to meet Rochester (and, yes, the novel is centred around that romance): when he does turn up, his awkwardness and mystery is attractive because there is some dramatic tension about him. What has he been doing? Why is he so odd? Jane, meanwhile, is so clearly a product of all the activity the audience has spent an hour watching that she lacks any interest. 

Oh - and just because a man pretending to be a dog gets a laugh, don't put it in every scene. Yes, we get it. Hilarious. 

But my rage is not directed at the company. It's directed at the critics who can't tell the difference between bog-standard theatricality and an imaginative direction. The show has received four and five star reviews for rolling out an over familiar bunch of tricks (abstract set like a 'climbing frame', characters pretending to be Jane's interior monologue). 

One duff production is no evidence that theatre is dead, but poverty of criticism is a worry: if this kind of performance is accepted without caveats, then what motivation do companies have to think carefully about the reasons for staging a play? 

Or it is possible that I demand certain thongs from a play, and this fails to provide them, making my opinion a valid one, but not quite as important as I am making out...

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Facts about Dramaturgy: Rosie Houlton @ Edfringe 2017

Introducing the newest blonde bombshell to hit Edinburgh Fringe this summer with a mouth full of sass, song and risky stories!
Rosie Sings: Facts About Me!

This summer Rosie Houlton will bring the world premiere of her solo show to the Edinburgh Fringe festival. “Rosie Sings: Facts About Me” is an afternoon of song and banter, featuring classics from musical theatre, cabaret and pop. Get to know Rosie as she shares stories about her journey to Scotland at Fingers Piano Bar, one of Edinburgh’s best-loved jazz and cabaret venues. Enjoy some great songs and risky jokes. You’ll even get to find out why things feel good in her mouth.
“I’m always being told that people don’t know where to place me and that I don’t fit in a box and… darlings I’m fine with that!”

What was the inspiration for this performance?
After having slots in other Cabaret evenings, Ive fallen in love with the intimacy from the crowd and how we share the experience together. I am new to doing my own solo shows and Im so excited to be finding myself and how I fit into this exciting scene plus, any excuse to wear lashes and buy more diamonds! 

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 
Oh definitely! Performance can be whatever you choose it to be and the best thing about it is you can express and explore subjects to an audience and in return find those select few who feel the same way and build on that. If you’re open to being vulnerable, it can be the safest way to finding support for discussion, which is truly special. 

How did you become interested in making performance?
Well Daddy Houlton is a Circus Clown (Cousin Timoni is his stage name) and so I grew up touring with Zippos Circus. My dad also did Panto when I was a child, which is where I met all the Princesses… I knew I was a Princess to (hair flick). As a teen I was lured into being the Magician’s assistant before heading off to explore my own adventures.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
For this show I’ve chosen ‘Facts About Me’ since I feel (I should) know enough about that subject.  I’ve found songs I connect with and that compliment my stories. I’ve structured the show in a way I enjoy and find fun, which is what’s most important I feel when trying to create a vibe for your audience. They just want to see you performing with purpose and enjoying yourself.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?
I’m from a Musical Theatre background and so I’m used to being told what to sing and say. With this I am my own boss but have bought my influences with me from music and performance and in this way it is very similar to my other productions... the sassy improvised chat is what's very different.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
Saucy stories (of course) … a few laughs and some good sounds from my mouth. 

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
Fundamentally I think by being true to myself and enjoying myself the audience will see that and join me on the journey. Being open to spontaneity from your crowd in the moment is important because the show is for them. Respecting them by being fully rehearsed and giving them all of yourself is enough to allow the shape of the show to fall into place.

Sassy soprano and comedy vocalist Rosie Houlton is originally from Milton Keynes. She has toured the UK and Europe as a vocalist and actress in musicals, plays, cabaret and concerts.Growing up with her family in the circus Rosie has always had a passion for performing. It all started when she was lured in to being the magician’s assistant for tours all over the UK.

Douglas Price is a Music Director, Composer and Teacher.  He has his Masters Degree in Music Direction from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and is currently the Head of Music at the National Theatre School of Canada.  His compositions have been heard across Canada and the UK and select Music Directing credits include Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Last Five Years, Legally Blond and Light in the Piazza.

“Voice of an angel, mouth of a sailor” Jamie Anderson, Cabaret Confidential

Rosie Sings: Facts About Me!
Venue: Fingers Piano Bar (Venue 221)
Tickets: Free, non-ticketed
Time: 3:10pm (1hr)
Dates: August 5 - 27 (excluding 7,14,21)

Dramaturgy for Aleppo: David Cazalet @ Edfringe 2017

Pleasance at EICC, Venue 150
Wednesday 16th August

Aleppo is no longer - all that is left are its stories”
Anonymous, Citizen of Aleppo

  • Following a sold-out evening at Sadler’s Wells in April, this very special, one-off event REQUIEM FOR ALEPPO takes place at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre on 16 August as part of the Pleasance’s Fringe programme.
  • Conceived by composer David Cazalet with choreography by Jason Mabana, REQUIEM FOR ALEPPO aims to raise awareness of the Syrian humanitarian crisis and funds to combat it.
  • All proceeds from ticket sales go to the charity Syria Relief.

Following a sold-out world premiere of Requiem for Aleppo at Sadler’s Wells in April, this very special event takes place in Edinburgh on 16th August as part of the Pleasance’s programme for Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017.
In response to the human tragedy of Aleppo composer David Cazalet has written Requiem for Aleppo, a personal lament in music which fuses Christian liturgy with early Arabic poetry, mixing the beautiful voices of Juliana Yazbeck and Abdul Salam Kheir with more formal choral composition and counterpoint.

What was the inspiration for this performance? 

The despair of the people of Aleppo. The sheer inability of being able to sit in front of the TV each night to watch the horror of the war. In the middle of last year I decided to go to bed early each night, wake at 4 am and write a requiem piece combing the lyrics of the Requiem mass as used by Mozart, Verdi etc., interweaving into it 12 century Arabic poetry – also setting this to music, leaving space throughout for contemporary voices to speak about their lives so that they might be heard. From a musical perspective I wanted to honour the rich musical heritage of Aleppo. I then thought dance would be a good way to bring this together as a performance piece as the abstractness of contemporary dance would be the best medium to get to a universal message beyond the politics.

My inspiration continues as, following its premiere at Sadler’s Wells in April, it will tour the Middle East and beyond, continuing to raise awareness and money.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

Yes – if it has integrity and passion it is the best space for the public discussion of ideas. And this matters more than ever now in an increasingly fragmenting world. This is what Art is for.

How did you go about gathering the team for it? 

I found all the musicians/singers through different networks in London. When Jason Mabana put his name to the dance element we put out a call for auditions across many different dance sites. We had responses from over 600 dancers from all over the world. After many auditions convened at the Rambert School of Dance we chose 12.

How did you become interested in making performance? 

Because, as suggested above, performance is probably the best space for the public discussion of ideas. And the content and intent of this piece is specifically geared to this.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

To find people whose passion and integrity shine through in every part of the show, to make it all and iterative process, to ensure that the environment is right for experimentation. To ensure that whatever is portrayed, sung, played is done with utmost respect and reverence for the subject matter.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

This is my first such production. As an artist I am a singer songwriter who sings under a different name.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

Empathy, compassion for the people of Syria, and understanding that behind the catch-all word ‘refugee’ there is a person, a sense of the futility of war, an understanding of the fragility of life, a momentary unity through art to the lives lost, a realisation that those who lost their lives were just like you and me – with the same aspirations and loves, a sense that the loss of  Aleppo, a place of great history, tolerance and sophistication, is humanity’s loss.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience? 

To be truthful, to allow for the live spoken testament to carry much of the non-abstract impact, to create big and then intimate pieces of music to move people, to allow for the right light changes to create different moods and most important, to allow freedom for the choreography to explore as best it can the subject matter.

Choreographer Jason Mabana has set the 'big, evocative score' (The Times) to dance, bringing together a ‘crack team of international dancers’ (The Stage) to emphasise the truly international element of this piece. The result is a uniquely moving performance interwoven with powerful real life testimony of former residents of Aleppo. Following the sell-out world premiere of Requiem for Aleppo at Sadler's Wells last April, this powerful collaboration between musicians, dancers and those affected by war is already creating waves and is coming to Edinburgh on 16th August before a planned international tour. Now is the chance to see this exceptional collaboration, a collective expression of solidarity with the people of Syria, and a way of donating money to those suffering in Syria as all profits from ticket sales go to the internationally renowned charity Syria Relief.

Fringe audiences will see a slightly reworked version of Requiem for Aleppo with a couple new pieces added to the show.

Anthony Alderson, Pleasance Director said: “In the year of 70th anniversary of Edinburgh’s Festivals, festivals created to reunite Europe and the world through art and creativity following war, this piece is not only an expression of our unity and support for the people of Aleppo in a period of conflict but also a poignant reminder of why our festivals were founded and what they celebrate.” 

The work brings together 12 dancers from across the world. Cazalet’s original music is a combination of Requiem Mass lyrics set to choral music, linked by Arabic poetry from the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries, also set to music, and interwoven throughout with the voices of people from Aleppo telling their real-life stories - stories gathered from recent interviews and which have fed into the development of the work.

Syria Relief is the largest Syria focused charity registered in the UK. With a solid network of committed management and logistics staff on the ground inside Syria, Syria Relief operate in some of the most hard to reach areas of Syria, including besieged areas.

With this level of expertise on the ground, Syria Relief implements humanitarian projects inside Syria in a number of different sectors from education, healthcare, livelihood, protection to food security and sponsoring orphans in the most desperate areas. Syria Relief is directly supporting civilians and displaced communities while providing the tools and training to help them become self-sufficient in their altered circumstances. Since their work started in 2011, they have touched the lives of 2 million people distributing more than 75 million dollars worth of aid.

Composer David Cazalet said: “I want Requiem for Aleppo to be a reminder, now and ongoing, of the suffering of a people and what the world has lost. It is an appeal to our common humanity - an expression of grief articulated in movement, song and design. It is a refusal to pay silent witness to a humanitarian crisis". Requiem for Aleppo is written in memoriam for the lives that have been lost, destroyed, dislocated and displaced, it is a lament for the destruction of a city of great sophistication, history and tolerance whose loss is humanity’s loss.”

Further info on creative team can be found at

"Requiem for Aleppo is more powerful than the biggest bomb" - Dr Elie Elhadj, former resident of Aleppo
"Requiem for Aleppo is a brilliant act of love, remembrance and empathy... a celebration of our common humanity, values and hope." Fardous Bahbouh, Journalist & Oscar-winning documentary translator

Venue: Pleasance at EICC, Lennox Theatre

Edinburgh International Conference Centre

The Exchange Edinburgh, 150 Morrison St, Edinburgh EH3 8EE

Date: Wednesday August 16th at 7:30pm

Tickets: £15 Standard


Pleasance Ticket Office: 0131 556 6550

Trashed Dramaturgy: David William Bryan and Sascha Moore @ Edfringe 2017

Underbelly Cowgate (Belly Dancer), 66 Cowgate, Edinburgh, EH1 1JX
Thursday 3rd – Sunday 27th August 2017, 13:40
Nineteen years working the bins and Goody's about to crack. Trashed is a grimy, booze-fuelled sucker punch of a play, bound to make you laugh until you cry. Expect love, loss, loneliness and lots of cider!

LAB RATS make their Edinburgh debut with the world premiere of a hilariously touching one- man show written by Sascha Moore and performed by David William Bryan. Trashed transforms Belly Dancer into a rancid Yorkshire fly-tipping site for a whirlwind account from Keith ‘Goody’ Goodman - a mid-thirties bin man struggling to deal with the death of his daughter whilst battling his uncontrollable thirst for booze.

Unapologetically working
class, funny and dark, Trashed is a highly physical, powerhouse of a play that will leave you breathless.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

The character was originally inspired by a real life bin man and wondering what his life was like away from his work. As the character developed, the plot took on a life of its own and began to cover many topics organically. Ultimately, the main driver behind writing the piece was a desire to put a non-traditional character centre stage and to get audiences to engage and invest in him.

·         Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas?

Yes of course. Unlike film, TV etc., it remains the purest, most unedited and immediate medium. It can be an incredibly visceral and evocative experience to see issues played out within touching distance, unseparated by a screen.

How did you become interested in making performance?

We have both worked on individual projects for years before deciding to collaborate on this piece. Our backgrounds are different (a trained actor and an untrained writer), but we share a passion for telling exciting and engaging stories with depth, and producing them to a very high standard.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
We worked hard to find the point at which character and performer met which involved multiple rewrites and workshop sessions. The script evolved constantly over time, right up until the day of the first performance at our work-in-progress run. We also wanted to produce a sensory show – once which made people feel a certain way, rather than just telling them what happens.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?
This is our first production as a company, but it epitomises what we want to achieve with our work going forward. It is a deeply moving story about a three-dimensional and deeply flawed character which addresses themes universal to us all; nostalgia, grief and self-sabotage.

What do you hope that the audience will
We hope the audience will feel a range of emotions: joy, shock, sadness, amusement. Most of all, though, we hope they are entertained. Sometimes theatre can be an ordeal to watch, especially when tackling some of the heavier subjects matters. However, we feel theatre’s primary purpose is to entertain and it is important to us that people go away from the show having enjoyed themselves.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
Absolutely everything you do as a performer, writer, director, producer or designer will shape the audience experience. It was important to us that all of these aligned to create a cohesive experience, and we worked hard with a small team to ensure every aspect compliment the overall tone of the play.

Goody is a raucous anti-hero whose life is, quite literally, rubbish. Unable to talk about his feelings and just about ready to explode, he has a dark secret; one of many things he’s hiding in this ominous rubbish dump. For one hour only, Trashed lets us see the world through the eyes of a man learning to express himself but realising it’s way too late in the game. He’s overconfident, insecure, brash, bitter, playful, downtrodden and very, very drunk. But when does it stop being funny and just become tragic?
Writer Sascha Moore comments, Trashed is, at its core, a story about loss: of loved ones, opportunity and of oneself. Emotions associated with grief are universal and easily recognisable, but our coping strategies are widely varied, in both method and effectiveness. I wanted to explore what happens when our ability to self-soothe fails and our pain manifests itself in disastrous ways. Is tragedy ever a justifiable excuse for bad behaviour? Is the distinction
between villain and victim really as explicit as we assume it to be? Or is it just too abhorrent to consider that we are all on the verge of doing something unthinkable?

David William Bryan and Sascha Moore met at a writer’s group at the Bush Theatre in 2012. They formed LAB RATS in 2016, out of a mutual desire to produce affordable, high quality and engaging fringe theatre which is as accessible and entertaining to first time theatre goers as it is to regular audiences and those in the industry.

Found in Dramaturgy: Carl Gough and Tony Evans @ More Than Words

Not Just Saying - Carl Gough and Tony Evans, they are presenting  Found in Translation at the festival on 6th July as part of the More Than Words day.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

Beyond the Border International Storytelling festival has always committed to having BSL interpreters at many of the storytelling performances. In the past this commitment has extended to providing storytelling performances that were delivered by BSL alone, but attendance from the Deaf community has remained at a low level. In order to grow attendance at the festival, Beyond the Border secured some funding to deliver storytelling activities with the Deaf community and promote attendance at the festival.

Previous projects that created Deaf led performances delivered purely through BSL failed to engage hearing audiences, and so Beyond the Border was interested in exploring if a storytelling performance could be developed that would appeal to both hearing and Deaf audiences. The performance could then be used as an introduction to storytelling workshops with Deaf groups with the hope of featuring some of the participants at the festival.

The challenge issued to us (Tony and Carl) was to create something that would attempt to bridge the gap between hearing and Deaf audiences. In its development, we recognised that in traditionally signed storytelling performances, the experience of Deaf audiences was different to that of the hearing audience - that is to say that the experience for Deaf audiences was determined by the BSL interpreter and the experience for hearing audiences was determined by the storyteller. 

We wanted to develop something that brought these two dimensions of the performance together so that both hearing and Deaf audiences could have the same experience. In doing this, we had opportunity to take an audience on a journey, starting with the traditionally separate roles of storyteller and signer until both roles became dependent on each other. We want to be clear that the emphasis of the performance is not necessarily to showcase BSL storytelling - it is instead focussed on equalities, attempting to unify an audience and to encourage participation and understanding of BSL and a wider consideration of communication.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas?

The performance provides an opportunity for dialogue on a number of issues and seems to open doors that allow consideration of issues associated with deafness from a different perspective. It should be noted that the performance was only one aspect of the original project -

The workshop element used storytelling approaches to help cultivate confidence in communication between children and their parents. The approach used in this performance is experimental but seems to touch upon something that inspires the people who see it; to date the performance has proved a useful way of triggering discussion, debate and interest. We are keen that such discussion continues for it is through shared perspectives that new opportunities can become known.

How did you become interested in making performance?

Tony has been interpreting (inc performances) for over 25 years, and can often be heard to say, “I’m not an actor.” or “I’m not a performer.”. Through this project, he has nervously added ‘storyteller’ to his CV. Through his experience supporting Beyond The Border to reach a Deaf audience, Tony first viewed this project as a stepping stone. Something to bridge the gap between traditionally interpreted performances and Deaf led performances. 

Little did he know that the workshops would reveal a much bigger purpose for the project.
Carl has been a professional storyteller since 2012. His storytelling path began many years before that with community events and informal education, he just didn’t realise at the time that ‘Storyteller’ was a legitimate job title. Since then he has been involved in many storytelling projects including working with refugees and asylum seekers using storytelling as a tool to help teach English. 

The work with refugees and asylum seekers was certainly a useful foundation for Carl in developing this performance because it encouraged broader consideration of how to communicate a story when language is a potential barrier. Carl’s interest in performance goes beyond entertainment, and is driven by the ability of storytelling to connect people – to each other, to place, to heritage, to culture, and even to self.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

As stated above, the driving principal was about unifying a mixed audience (Deaf and hearing). As there wasn’t a way of enabling a Deaf audience to hear spoken word, the only solution to create a unified experience was to find a way for a hearing audience to better understand signed elements. We believed that sign could convey sufficient meaning so long as hearing audiences were provided with reassurance that their understanding was correct. Once this was established, it could enable an increasingly greater reliance on sign as part of the performance.
We weren’t sure if it was going to work as envisaged but to date, hearing audiences seem very receptive. By the end of the performance we have transitioned sufficiently that the story is ended using sign alone.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

In a word, no. Although the material has been drawn from Carl’s existing repertoire, it required adaptation to be delivered in this performance. The level of interaction between Tony and Carl is central to the performance and could not be achieved alone. As the performance relies on both Tony and Carl working together (and because of the positive and enthusiastic reactions), Carl and Tony have established ‘Not Just Saying’ to provide a more formal basis upon which to further explore the application of storytelling and BSL (

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
Enjoyment and a good dose of laughter are the starting point. From there we’d hope that people will maybe consider the different ways that we communicate. For hearing audiences we hope they will be surprised at just how much they have come to understand. For Deaf audiences we hope they will come to appreciate that communication is much more than language and we hope everyone finds improved confidence in their interactions.
What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

We were not aware of any previous work of this nature, so we didn’t draw upon any pre-conceived ideas. We broke down what was required in order to achieve the final vision and then set to work to build something that would achieve each step. The synergy between Carl and Tony played a significant role as both were able to hold a shared vision and draw upon their relative areas of expertise (and learn a great deal from each other in the process).

Manual Dramaturgy: Julia Miller @ Edfringe 2017

Lula del Ray by Manual Cinema Presented by Underbelly and Manual Cinema
Underbelly Med Quad (Cow Barn), Teviot Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9AG Wednesday 2nd – Monday 28th August 2017 (not 14th), 16:30

After wowing all of Edinburgh with Ada/Ava in 2016, Manual Cinema return to the Fringe with another exciting UK premiere - Lula del Ray.

In their customary magical style, Lula del Ray is performed with overhead projectors, shadow puppets, actors in silhouette, and live music. Told almost entirely without dialogue, Lula del Ray is the story of a lonely adolescent girl who lives with her mother on the outskirts of a vast satellite field in the middle of the desert. 

After a chance encounter over the radio, Lula becomes obsessed with a soulful country music duo, the Baden Brothers. Inspired by their music, she runs away from home and into a world of danger, deception, and disappointment.

Julia Miller, Co-Artistic Director of Manual Cinema for Lula del Ray.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

I wanted to create a narrative about a strong female protagonist. I was interested in a journey quest from the perspective of a young girl. I sent my friend Brendan Hill, who is a writer based in NYC, a bunch of images and the idea of this girl who hears a song and goes on a big adventure. I was in Chicago so we emailed back and forth. He would send me writing and I would send him notes, more inspirational images, and also music by Roy Orbison and Hank Williams that felt like the type of music Lula, the main character, would listen to. 

Brendan ended up writing this giant epic story, pages and pages. And then I would take sections of it and sort of rearrange and add to them in a way that made sense for shadow puppetry. This was the first project we made before we called ourselves Manual Cinema. It’s the show that got the group together. Since then we have remade it quite a few times, adding a mother character, and rewriting the ending quite a few times. Lula del Ray has been through many iterations. I think we might actually be at Lula del Ray 4.0.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

I think so. I mean the whole idea of getting a group of people together in a space to experience something in real time is a basic feature of live performance. And when that happens people are usually going to talk about what they saw. So a natural discourse starts to happen around the topics in the show as you process it.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I was in school shows starting at a very young age.  I was doing Macbeth in elementary school with a very ambitious art teacher. She just made it seem like this really fun thing that you get to wear costumes and be silly. It was just a fun thing to do at school, but  when I got older I started taking it more seriously. I ended studying performance in college and moving to Chicago where I started doing puppetry and met the other folks from Manual Cinema.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

Our process combines animation, film and theatre. We start with a written outline of the show that gets turned into a storyboard. We take the storyboards and use them as a blueprint to design the show, build the puppets, and stage the scenes. We shoot a rough demo of the storyboards and edit it together to see how it is working. Since it’s a visual medium we need to see it on its feet to know what works and what doesn’t. 

The video demo then goes to the sound team for scoring and sound design. The puppet team then takes the demo and we try to stage it in real time putting together the puppetry and live action scenes and how to transition from one shot to the next. During each stage the show changes and gets tighter.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

All of our shows use a similar combination of overhead projectors, puppets, live actors and live music. All Manual Cinema shows have a shared aesthetic in that we are working with silhouettes in shadow puppetry. 

But some of our shows also experiment with other live media on stage, like a GoPro camera that acts as another puppetry sight, or an actor that moves through different sets around the audience.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

I hope they go away feeling like they experienced a well told story in a format that kept them engaged and asking questions. Everyone experiences our shows differently so you can't always know how someone will be affected by the story you're telling. 

I do think the format of our shows are a less passive experience for the audience because there is so much technical stuff happening on stage you are watching the final image and also at the same time can see how it is made. So I hope the audience is brought in by the technique and not distanced by it.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

A well-crafted story is always at the centre of what we make. We want to create a space for the audience where they feel like they can follow the story and go on a journey with our characters. We also use music and sound design to create a strong environment for our shows that we hope also transports the audience into the world of the show.
Set in the mid-century American Southwest and inspired by the music of Hank Williams, Roy Orbison, and Patsy Cline, Lula del Ray is a mythic reinvention of the classic coming-of-age story.

Manual Cinema co-artistic director Julia Miller comments, The original inspiration for this show came from my desire to make a narrative from the perspective of a strong female protagonist. It was also the first project that brought the artistic directors together and resulted in us forming Manual Cinema. Lula has been through many iterations and has grown up with us as we grew up as a company. It's a coming of age story from the female perspective and we are thrilled to bring it to the Edinburgh Fringe for its UK premiere.

Lula del Ray was developed at the University of Chicago in the Theater and Performance Studies Program where Manual Cinema served as Ensemble-in-Residence in the Summer and Fall of 2012.