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Tag Archive | "Technology"

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Review: I’m With the Band

Posted on 31 August 2013 by Phoebe Eclair-Powell

I'm with the BandI’m With the Band by Tim Price is an entertaining and interesting idea – the United Kingdom represented by the individual members of a once indestructible indie rock band, ‘The Union’ – you gettit? Ok, so my politics is rusty, limited to Guardian blogs and reading the Metro, so I didn’t want to get anything wrong, and yet I think my ignorance is the point. I, like Damien, the frontman of the band who represents England (the brilliantly Sting-like James Hiller), am ignorant to the potential consequences of an independent Scotland, to the feelings of the slightly ignored Wales, and to the real continuing horrors of Ireland’s uneasy status quo. For me, then, this could have been a huge wake up call, and there were moments of real clarity of thought, but then there were simply moments where the idea outran itself.

The cast are multi-talented, likeable, and there is true comic genius in Matthew Bulgo the ‘Welsh, I am a dragon hear me roar, bassist’. But they can’t make up for the fact that they are allegories, not real people – as such there is little emotional depth and no real reason to care about the splitting up of this band of faded rockers from all corners of this increasingly fractured isle. It’s a shame because in a way we only ever then scratch the surface of both the emotional and political issues at hand – the ideas of betrayal, political manoeuvring, oppression, domination and independence are somewhat drowned out. Particularly drowned out by the constant shouting over one another (yes, yes I get that Scotland and Ireland are both yearning to be heard – but hardly any of the dialogue was audible, let alone digestible). All the indie rock and angry macho aggression culminated towards the end in a bit of a mess where the whole thing threatened to fall apart. It was a shame, but at this point things really didn’t seem to be able to resolve or come together, and instead it became like a really bad piece of performance art/stag night punch up.

And yet there are nuggets of gold in there – ideas of old age and performance, the premise of being an artist who doesn’t sell out being impossible in today’s climate, the redundancy of real musicians in an world of technology, an unknown future with a potentially independent Scotland and, most of all, the idea that “some people would die to be part of our band”. The very fact that whilst we fight amongst ourselves, there are people out there who see the UK as a prospective safe haven, a sanctuary and the show begins to wonder how can we keep that prospect alive.

This is nearly a great piece of theatre, but its instability in certain areas means it falls short of being brilliant. Then again, I am a smug English bastard who probably hasn’t realised the true meaning of it all.

I’m With The Band is playing at St James Theatre at from 28 August to 7 September. For more information and tickets see the St James Theatre website.

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TheatreCraft: Exploring the fly tower

Posted on 30 November 2012 by Abigail Adeoti

Often, attending a beautiful show, people forget how much work actually goes into creating something so visually elaborate and exciting. I have discovered that working backstage in theatre and is just as important as any role on stage.

TheatreCraft’s tour of the Royal Opera House fly tower focused on lighting, staging and what goes on behind the scenes of a performance. The tour offered insight into how much technology has made our lives so much easier. The fantastic tour guides showed us the ropes (literally) and gave participants the opportunity to get their hands on the complicated technology.

A technician briefly shared his expertise knowledge on the hundreds of metal bars, that pull up the curtains, move the lights, change the sets and more – including a bit about health and safety! We were taken high up into the exclusive parts of the building and at one point, all the lights went out backstage and we caught a glimpse of the beautiful stage below us, as lighting technicians rehearsed for the various shows this week. I can only imagine how fast paced the backstage atmosphere would be when a show is actually going on!

It’s truly astonishing that so much goes into making a show as amazing as it is. Technological advances have helped the artistic industry go beyond its previous limitation.

Image by paulmmay

Abigail Adeoti

Abigail Adeoti

Abigail is part of the A Younger Theatre live blogging team for TheatreCraft 2012.

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Going Digital at the fringe

Posted on 24 August 2012 by Nadia Newstead

On average people spend more than 22% of their time online using social media, checking their smart phone, Facebook, Twitter, email, pager, landline, postbox, carrier pigeon et al over 34 times a day. People will be at live gigs, recording and therefore watching through the screen of their camera. I’ve seen a person walk through the Louvre in Paris looking at all the treasures only through the screen on their video camera without actually looking at anything for real, despite the fact that it was right in front of their face.

In an age where one can always be in digital communication with the rest of the world at all times, it would seem having person-to-person contact and experience is on the decline, but what if you create a person-to-person contact about the digital world in which we live? Step forward Red Chair Players and Hidden Stories Theatre, two groups of young performers at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival who have done just that: created live theatrical pieces that focus on our need for technology and the consequences that it has on our lives.

Hidden Stories Theatre is a homegrown Edinburgh company made up of recent graduates from Edinburgh Napier and Queen Margaret University, the first class to graduate from the new BA Acting for Stage and Screen course. Their show Tagged focuses on our generation’s relationship with Facebook and the people we meet through it, both on and offline. “I think that Facebook has a massive part to play in our younger generation, but there are different degrees of impact depending on where you are in your life,” says Craig Macdonald, one of the performers and writer of the piece. “Tagged came around after I spent some time thinking about how well we know the people we talk to online…I wanted to explore [the] idea of connection, or what active choices people make on social networking sites.”

As with any social media, there are pros and cons to Facebook, and the image you create online can be very different to the one sat in front of the computer screen, Macdonald observes. “We base our connection on how much information we can read from what people post online, without ever truly seeking that real connection with that person…we don’t attempt to find anything more than we can read on a day to day basis. There is a danger that we reveal too much about ourselves, too much about our day to day lives, our routines, our relationships and friendships which, to a certain degree, could all be used against us.”

The three person cast drives this dramatic and funny piece which uses multimedia to help tell the story – rather than abandoning and condemning digital media, Hidden Stories is actively making it part of their piece to convey the feeling of being on Facebook whilst watching live theatre. Macdonald and his cast are strong believers in the theatrical experience: “I firmly believe that in theatre, you feel as if you are part of it, as things that happen in the audience affect the production. Any laughter and unexpected emotional reactions you have can influence the actors telling of the story.”

Red Chair Players hail from the States and are all students at Greenwich Academy. They have been bringing shows to Edinburgh for ten years, which Dawn Fuller, the producer and director, believes is “the best acting class one can hope for”. Again, their piece Dead Man’s Cell Phone focuses on the idea of connection and engaging in relationships with strangers. “This idea of needing to be connected every minute of every day was a perfect starting point for character discussions at the beginning of our rehearsal process,” says Fuller. “On some level, we are de-sensitised to that ringing phone, the glow of the lap top screen… a single touch and the world is at our fingertips. It is our hope that [our audiences] will connect with others face to face – share something with one another.”

The play is written by American female playwright Sarah Ruhl. Fuller was conscious of putting on a female playwright’s work as she works at an all-female school. Whenever a show is from a different country – even an English speaking one – there will always be the challenge of seeing whether it works on an international stage: “a leap of faith in the translation of what two different cultures find funny or compelling. The first cell phone ring that interrupts a monologue in our show always gets a chuckle…it’s a universal truth.”

By giving her students the opportunity to come to Edinburgh and experience another culture and way of working (i.e. solidly for a month without much sleep) Fuller is allowing her young performers “to witness artists commit to their work with passion every day that they are at the festival. They have an opportunity to understand that there might not be a ‘pay off’ at then end… That is an invaluable lesson.” She sets the same challenge to each new group of young people that she brings to Edinburgh – rehearsals start in June, five weeks later they do an off-Broadway run in New York, and then the following week they fly to Scotland, buy their furniture and props when they arrive as they cannot travel with them, do a jet-lagged tech run and open the following day. That’s how intense the Edinburgh process can be, but thoroughly worthwhile if the piece can make us laugh and give us an hour to think about whether we actually need to keep checking our phone – surely one purpose of technology is that we have a choice of thousands of sounds to alert us to the fact that someone is trying to contact us?

By using the media that is available to us in this mass digital age, Red Chair Players and Hidden Stories Theatre are able to both harness and analyse the effect that technology has on our lives. Perhaps it is time for us to reassess our relationship with technology, switch off our phones and computers and head to the theatre for some good ol’ fashioned human experience.

Red Chair Players presented Dead Man’s Cell Phone at C Venues on 11 August. For more information about the company, visit www.greenwichacademy.org.

Tagged is a co-production between New Celts and Hidden Stories Theatre and is at C Venues – C Eca – until 27 August. For tickets and more information, visit www.edfringe.com or www.Cthefestival.com.

Image 1: Tagged by New Celts and Hidden Stories

Image 2: Dead Man’s Cell Phone by Red Chair Players

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Spotlight On: Negative Capability

Posted on 15 August 2012 by Lauren Powell

At the tender age of 24, Freddy Syborn appears to be full of both philosophical intellect and curiosity. It’s fitting, then, that the name of his theatre company, Negative Capability, is derived from world-renowned psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion’s theory. Syborn explains Bion’s hypothesis: “We the listeners, have no way of telling whether what we’re being told is true or not, nor whether the intention of the storyteller is to help or hurt us or themselves. It’s essentially about being able to live in uncertainty, to improvise with an eye on understanding what’s not said.”

This uncertainty is the model for Crypted (one half of Negative Capability’s double bill), Syborn tells. Crypted explores the life of computer science prodigy, Sherlock Holmes counterpart to the German Enigma code, life saver, hero and OBE recipient Alan Turing. His death in 1954 has been the topic of debate: his cleaner found him dead with a half-eaten apple by his bedside, which is believed to have been coated in cyanide but never tested. His mother, protesting at the suicide verdict, believed consumption of cyanide would have been accidental, due to his careless way of working. Speculation over the true cause is still very much present. Is this something that Syborn explores?

“To a degree […] I have my own theory, and the play may leave you with a certain impression, but I wanted to focus on his life, not his death. Ambiguity is more interesting than certainty. Numbers have secret lives. A mathematician called Kurt Gödel proved beyond doubt that a number can be true but not provable. I took this as the model for the play. We know the result (Turing’s death) but we can never prove why or how Turing died or what his death ‘means’.”

This exploration of a man so influential couldn’t be more apt, as technologists across the world commemorate his 100th anniversary since birth. Syborn, however, was oblivious to this milestone: “I started writing about him for two reasons […] I felt that Alan Turing’s ideas could only have been dreamt up by a mind forced to exist on the margins of society. He lived secretly; he sought hidden gestures. And while he was unique and uniquely brilliant, what struck me was his universality. He was unhappy in love. He had to wear disguises. He was alone.” Turing, who was a homosexual and sexually active (therefore breaking the law at the time), was publicly humiliated and forced to undertake hormone treatments intended to make him asexual.

Crypted is, then, a dedication for Turin’s hero status, but also more poignantly for two of Syborn’s friends, who tragically took their own lives. Syborn asserts that he will “remember them as they were and not as they ended […] Crypted is for both of them”. Syborn continues with his second reason for writing about a man with such a torturous and celebrated past: “I love reading maths and physics – two subjects I flunked at school – because they expose me to systems of thought entirely different to my own. It is this point of vulnerability that I choose to write from,” He expands on this: “If I have a trade (which is debatable), it’s words. So I love things that don’t employ them. I enjoy clowning. Or sculpture. Or music, even,” affirming his inability to hold a tune.

“You learn so much more from otherness than you can from similarity” is perhaps a fine way of thinking for all human beings, particularly writers. “When I read quantum physics, say, the thrill is me absolutely knowing I won’t understand the subject matter. I can only respond to it imaginatively.” There is clearly success in this approach for Syborn, as 2008 saw him winning the coveted RSC The Other Prize, exclusive to Cambridge University.

Accomplishing The Other Prize did not come easily to Syborn, ironically after securing its £500 winnings. “The main theatre at Cambridge was obliged to stage the winning play. However, when I won it, the theatre declined to stage my play for reasons that its committee chose not to explain.” The play was called Father/Son and, interestingly, is not listed below ‘Recent Winners’ on Cambridge’s Marlowe Society website. Syborn continues, proudly proclaiming his ability to see through obstacles, “I staged it at another, smaller space. […] So the university certainly provided the prize and the space, but without self-belief I’d have been left with nothing.”

Syborn has achieved an impressive amount so far, having written comedy gold for numerous television shows. His long list of credits include: 8 out of 10 Cats, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Mock the Week, Have I got News for You and most recently Sky’s Little Cracker. He writes these with best friend Jack Whitehall, whom he regards as “kind and loyal enough to bring him along” having succeeded in gaining paid work. Though fortunate to have Whitehall’s connections in writing, Syborn clearly works hard, having written an impressive 16 plays to date (according to www.freddysyborn.com), which he also acts in and directs. He has worked on shows for the Edinburgh Fringe for “six years straight”, so it is not surprising that he remarks on “a change in the way it operates”.

Clearly impassioned regarding the festival that has been so instrumental to his work, he tells how this is the first Fringe where venues prohibit flyering around them. Listen up Edinburgh Fringe committee: “It’s becoming very corporate and segregated. If Edinburgh becomes even more institutionalised, the people who’ll suffer first are the artists, and the people who’ll suffer second are the audiences, when the whole thing becomes too expensive and too fucking annoying to bother with. Ultimately, the Fringe exists for artists to experiment. It does not exist to supplement the coffers of Magners. We’re in danger of forgetting that.”

For now however, while Negative Capability still have the willpower to fight through this change and expense, their six strong cast will be performing at C nova venue from 14 to 26 August. Excess, a comedy, forms the other half of its double bill and is a completely different kettle of fish to Crypted, as Syborn wears a dress or a gimp mask. Excess addresses the body, whereas Crypted addresses the mind, Syborn informs, making it a difficult decision if funds only permitted one: “I like Crypted because it satisfies an intellectual curiosity; I like Excess because it works violently against the characters and their audience.”

Excess is about boy, Joe, who tells his sister he is getting a sex change, and her strong reaction to this. Asked, curiously, what his inspiration was behind a play concerning drag queens and sexual identity, Syborn discloses “a great night out” he had in Manchester with his writing partner. “We went clubbing with a drag queen and his boyfriend, then went back to their flat. We asked the drag queen about why he performs, and the gap between his female persona and male reality. While he talked, the drag queen took off his wig and changed from a very culturally-specific type (outrageous, sexually confident, reckless) to a quiet bloke in his late thirties. Excess, I suppose, is about that difference between what we are and what we present of that self to the world,” Syborn demonstrates: “This interview is a performance. What I wear is a performance. Everything I am is conditioned by what came before me and my reaction to it. The definition of a self against its history – that’s what interests me.”

He talks with great aplomb with regards to what he enjoys writing about and certainly seems to have a niche within this dog eat dog world, though he proclaims, with apt calmness and comfortableness, “I am at the earliest possible stage of my career, and haven’t been at all successful to date” (depending on how you define successful). “I’ve never been paid to write a play, or to stage one, so I’m an amateur. And the word ‘amateur’ has some positive connotations. For me, it implies that you’re working for love, not money.”

“All I can say is that I believe in my shows, I believe in my actors, and I believe that some people may enjoy watching us improve together.” And there it is: believe and you will succeed. Freddy Syborn knows so.

Excess and Crypted play at C Venues – C nova – until 27 August. For more information or to book tickets, visit www.edfringe.com or www.Cthefestival.com.

Image credit: Negative Capability

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