Our second Edinburgh feature this year sees us talk to Director, Roberta Zuric about her show, The Burning which places a firm, critical commentary on Western society.
Roberta Zuric is certainly busy. With Edinburgh Fringe just around the corner, I catch her after a tech rehearsal for The Burning, the piece that Incognito Theatre Company is taking to the Festival and that she is directing.
Her journey into directing is an exciting and diverse one: “I went to university and joined the National Youth theatre,” Zuric tells me, “I got involved and started working on projects there – it was a good place to make contacts.” From there, Zuric directed plays in all sort of venues, pubs and young people ensembles. “I built up the network with the people I wanted to work with and the stories I wanted to tell. I’m still on a journey but I’m working on it.”
The stories that Zuric wants to tell scream passion and energy with the trailer for The Burning acting as a mass montage of news reports and disasters. “The Burning was born out of the book, Caliban and the Witch, where it claims that witch hunts arise from shifts in society. It’s mainly about the rise of capitalism and how it affects women’s history.” Asking her to condense this rich play into a single sentence, she gives it a good go, “It’s an epic romp through European witch hunts and capitalism – it has a lot of strands.”
The trailer on Incognito’s website is full to the brim with social and political commentary, clips of angry white, male fox news presenters shouting not very nice words at female commentators. It situates The Burning in a certain political field. “The theatre I am into opens up and comments on society both politically and socially,” Zuric explains, “it engages audiences and makes them question what they see every day.” She continues speaking of theatre’s unique position to open up the past to modern day audiences, “we are able to jump through time and reflect on how much we have changed as a society. We want to highlight moments in history and allude to the present and how far we have actually come and what we are going to do about it.”
Looking back through Incognito’s work, ideas of the body and physical theatre take dominance over traditional, more spoken word-based theatre. “Physical theatre allows for space to become a metaphor and playing with images speak louder than words,” she says, explaining the company’s unique methods of theatre. The Burning, however, seems to be a blend of the two forms with Zuric telling me that “there’s lots of text, which is supported by physical storytelling, creating different moods and atmosphere.” Zuric seems a fan of physical theatre which has influenced the storytelling of The Burning and suggests that it is “a bit more immersive” for those watching the piece. She also praises the “highly skilled actors who take on roles and worlds without much support” instead having to rely on their own talents and physicality to convey a deeply complex and moving story such as The Burning.
The Burning is off to Edinburgh this summer and I am intrigued to find out she finds so special about the festival. “There is nothing like it in the world.” Zuric reveals, “it is a gathering of a creative hub, where incredible storytellers all come together.” This I agree with, as not many places have a drag show, a stand-up comic and a play about witch-hunters all on the same street. But it’s not just the shows that create the cultural whirlwind that is the Fringe, it appears that the very festival itself reveals more about our society than the art that is produced there. “It’s really interesting to see what pops up and which issues are most prominent. Again, Zuric returns to the important of using theatre as a way of investigating the world we live in, regardless of it being set in the modern or the past. “it’s a reflection of the world and what we want to talk about.”
Amongst the hundreds of artists set to descend upon the Scottish City, there are new and upcoming performers who will be experiencing the fringe for the first time. “Take it easy.” Is Zuric’s simple answer when I ask her if she has any advice for those first-timers. “It is so easy to get swept up in the unending energy of the fringe but your own mental health and sanity.. just to take it easy.” She emphasises the importance of “taking breaks, getting sleep,” and the near impossible task of “trying not to see everything and go find something normal to do like go to the cinema.” Despite all the craziness and the importance of artists looking after themselves, Zuric encourages people to “soak it up and find your own way to enjoy it.”
Even after the fringe has ended Zuric is showing no signs of slowing down. “I’ve directed a show (The Wave), so that’s two shows and after that I’m going to recover!” Zuric and I finish the interview with both in different ways preparing for Fringe, as I try and scrap together whatever change I have to get up there. Chatting to Zuric has only made me more excited for what will be a completely unforgettable month.
The Burning is playing Edinburgh until 26 August. For more information and tickets, visit the Pleasance website.